Today is the day. The day the least-fancied European trophy gets decided. FC Zenit, the one in Saint Petersburg, takes on Manchester United for that fine trophy pictured above. Unless my eyes deceive me, the bottom of the trophy reads "Super Competition", which is a bit of a misnomer considering how the game is usually played. Sir Alex has put in a pledge to really try this year, remembering how much fun he had in winning the trophy in 1991 and 1983.
What can you say about a trophy that has been won by Mechelen? Wait, who? What does it say about the Super Cup that twice the competition was not held? In 1981, Liverpool did not even bother to find two dates to play Dinamo Tbilisi, and in 1974 East and West German clubs refused to play each other. Today will likely see both teams mixing up first and second team players in an attempt to not embarrass themselves.
But we soldier on for you. We'll cover it because, dammit, someone might want to know about it. Also, it's a weekday, and you might want to kill some time before leaving work for the weekend. So, here it is. After the jump, lineups and all of the action.
FC Zenit (3-5-2): Malafeev; Križanac, Anyukov, Puygrenier; Shirl, Zurianov, Tymoshchuk (captain), Denisov, Danny; Pogrebnyak, Dominguez
Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Neville (captain), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Anderson, Scholes, Nani; Rooney, Tevez.
My prediction (which I get from last night's vivid dream): Manchester United 4-0. Bet the shack.
Also, I may not be able to do the entire match, but use the comments to your own comedic effect anyway.
-20.00 No Hargreaves or Giggs for United.
-15.00 If we have Satellite problems like Germany-Turkey, I may cut my own head off. That sucked.
-11.00 Teams up, FSC up. Countdown on.
-8.00 No Arshavin for Zenit, he's on the bench. Strong squad from United. 4-0 here we come!
-3.00 Will Zenit be able to carve up the competition like they did in their UEFA Cup run, or will their form resemble what they have done in league this season? My bet--league play.
-1.00 Zenit out in a different blue shirt than usual. Much closer to UNC than Duke. Man U in their normal red.
0.00 Here we go.
3.00 Zenit break through on right. Cross cleared easily
4.00 Stade Louis II, in Monaco, holds 18,000 people. Should tell you all you need to know about how this competition is viewed.
6.00 Slow pace from United to start. Content to hold in midfield.
7.00 Progrebniak way over from 10 yards out, while unmarked.
9.00 Danny lucky that his messing around with the ball in the box doesn't get punished. Evra steals from him, then lays off for Rooney, but the ball was intercepted.
13.00 Zenit trying to put some flair in the game. United trying not to.
15.00 Whistles already coming from the crowd for the play on the pitch. United have possession advantage, but are trying nothing with it.
17.00 Zenit get to the byline on the right for the third time, bypassing Nani. United clear for a corner. Van der Sar plucks it out of the air.
19.00 Tevez from 25, short hops the keeper. Malafeev deals with it easily.
21.00 Tymoschuk, who has the best hair in the game, well over from 30. Got the ball after Nani and Evra went for the same ball at the top of the box and canceled each other out.
23.00 I might have to lock the comments if you boys don't quiet down.
24.00 Dominguez just misses the top left corner on a free kick from 25 yards away. Van der Sar wasn't quite there, but the ball inched wide.
25.00 Nani and Evra must really like each other. They are usually no more than five yards apart.
27.00 United are doing better to get wide, but those lofted crosses are not going to do anything with Tevez and Rooney in the middle against Zenit's relative giants.
29.00 When Darren Fletcher and Anderson look to be your two best players on the pitch, you are doing something wrong.
33.00 Anderson, with everyone in front of him after a corner, shoots over from 35.
34.00 Ferdinand manhandles Pogrebniak as he turns at the six-yard box, but no call. Ball out for a corner, cleared.
35.00 Tevez magically pulls the ball out of the right corner, passes to an unmarked Rooney at the six. Rooney can't get it from between his legs before he is covered and smothered (mmm, Waffle House)
37.00 Dominguez free kick from 35, passed to the back post. Hit cleanly by Krizinak, but van der Sar saves.
38.00 Pogrebniak down. Hit by Ferdianand while challenging for a header. Not dirty, just hard. Walks off grimacing.
40.00 To paraphrase the announcers, Nani sucks balls at shooting.
42.00 Danny breaks behind the defense, ball moves to Pogrebniak who dances in the box. He finds Dominguez on the back post, who puts his header over.
43.00 Looked like a handball in the box against Ferdinand, but the ref wasn't buying it. Shortly thereafter, Neville, under no pressure, puts the ball out for a corner.
44.00 GOAL! Pogrebniak puts that corner kick in the net off of a near post Denisov flick. 1-0 Zenit
45.00+1 Yellow Card Paul Scholes gets bitchy, takes out his man from behind.
45.00+1 TWEET TWEET Half time.
Half Time Guess I was wrong about the appeal of this match. Aberdeen-Bayern drew more interest. Oh well, I'll soldier on.
Zenit are playing counterattacking football, while United's attack looks poor and unfocused. They will break through, but it's a question of if they can keep Zenit out while pressing forward. That's where Zenit punished teams in the UEFA Cup last season.
45.01 Second half kicks off. Arshavin in for Dominguez.
46.00 Zenit look to have reformed into a 4-5-1. Arshavin pwns Vidic in the box, but nothing comes of it.
48.00 Scholes puts in another hard foul, but no extra attention paid from the ref.
50.00 Pitch looks to be rough. Ball bobbles up on Tevez as he goes to cross.
Minor- you are welcome. Come back any time.
52.00 Rooney finds a little space to the right. His low shot goes well wide, though.
53.00 Vidic goes in elbow first on a head ball challenge with Pogrebniak. Both players go down. No card.
54.00 Yellow Card Anderson picks up a yellow for getting into the affray after the Vidic foul. Tymoschuk shoots from 30, forces a van der Sar punch.
57.00 Tevez outmuscles Arshavin in the middle of the pitch. Arshavin not happy.
58.00 Tevez over from the corner of the box. Did Chav United hit the slots too hard last night?
59.00 GOAL! Danny, who just cost Zenit 30 million Euros, takes on all comers on a single run, and beats van der Sar near post. Ferdinand undressed at the end. 2-0 Zenit
60.00 Anderson and Fletcher off, Park and O'Shea on. O'Shea? Two goals down? Really?
62.00 Russian Champs >>>>>> England's champs
63.00 Change for Zenit. Defender for defender. Both unspellable.
64.00 Stepping away for a few. Entertain yourselves.
72.00 Another Defensive switch for Zenit. That's all three subs.
73.00 Goal! Vidic puts in off a feed from Tevez. Short corner taken to Rooney who puts it back post for Tevez. Tevez settles to Vidic who powers in from 6 yards out 2-1 Zenit
74.00 Yellow Card Tevez with a two-foot challenge on Tymoschuk after the ball had gone.
76.00 United fans actually heard singing for the first time tonight.
76.00 Substitution. Brown on for Neville. That's all of the subs.
77.00 United looked interested for about two minutes after the goal, but that's gone again.
78.00 That said, Rooney just misses finding Park in the box alone. Malafeev cleans up the mess.
81.00 I still want Advocaat for USA manager.
82.00 Denisov is down. Before he went down he called for a sub. Are there more than three allowed?
84.00 Denisov getting some magic spray on the sideline.
Park challenges Malafeev, gets called for a foul. Rooney giving good service.
85.00 Nani tries to go it alone at the top of the box. After dancing for a few seconds, he shoots wide.
86.00 O'Shea saved well by Malafeev. A little direction on the header, and it's 2-2. Denisov back on, looks hurt and wandering in the middle of the pitch.
87.00 Danny misses a one on one from six yards out.
88.00 United pressing hard now. Ferdinanad (!) called for offside in the box.
89.00 RED CARD Scholes punches a ball into the net. Second yellow. He's gone. He was at full reach for that one. Too obvious.
90.00+3 Nani is horrible at all facets of his game tonight. One (likely) last free kick is wasted.
90.00+4 Last minute of added time.
90.00+4 TWEET TWEET TWEEEEET Full time 2-1 Zenit.
Zenit played well, got a two goal lead and then held on. United looked disinterested for most of the match and the result is indicative of that.
Shots 14-12 United
Fouls 16-12 United
Possession 54-46 Zenit
All cards to United. No idea if the red carries over.
Final update: Goals and red card now have a link to 101 Great Goal's videos.
Friday, August 29, 2008