Dudek the difference as Liverpool beat Manchester United in Cardiff
Poland international Jerzy Dudek was the hero of Liverpool's 2 goals to nil victory in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday Afternoon. Following the two teams meeting in December when Dudeks mistakes gifted the game to United, he felt he had a point to prove. And what a way to prove it. He was described by Sky Sports commentator Rob Hawthorne as 'looking nervous and edgy' early in the second half. Well if that was nervous, I'm looking forward to him playing confidently.
The game itself started slowly with a lot of the play in the midfield area, where the attacking flair of Manchester United's Beckham, Scholes and Giggs was matched by the tenacity of Liverpool's Gerrard and Hamann. The first real chance of the game was created about 25 minutes in when United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy slid in to get on the end of a Ryan Giggs cross, only to see it go agonisingly wide of the post. Then, about five minutes later came the breakthrough. A long,crossfield ball by a Liverpool defender was well controlled by John Arne Riise to the left of the United penalty area. He cut inside one man and rolled the ball inside to Steven Gerrard. The England midfielder steadied himself and then hit a powerful shot which deflected off David Beckham and looped over Fabian Barthez to give Liverpool the lead. The deflection was probably important in the ball ending up in the goal but it would take a brave man to tell Gerrard that it was not his goal.
This forced United to become more attacking and on a counter attack from a Liverpool set piece came their next real chance. A long ball towards Ryan Giggs on the United left was well controlled and Steven Gerrards tackle did not dispossess the Welshman. He gave the ball to Juan Sebastian Veron whose first time shot brought a flying save from Dudek. The rebound fell to Scholes whose shot was somehow turned over the bar by Liverpool defender Stephane Henchoz. This was the final chance of an entertaining first half which ended Liverpool 1 Manchester United 0
The second half started with United trying everything to break down a magnificent Liverpool defence. When they did get through they found Dudek in superb form. In the second half he made three fine saves from Van Nistelrooy as well as saving from a Paul Scholes effort that was bound for the bottom corner. Liverpool brought on Milan Baros to replace Emile Heskey after 61 minutes and the Czech International created a brilliant chance for Steven Gerrard on 75 minutes. He picked up the ball just inside his own half and ran at the United defence. He saw Gerrard's run to his right and played the ball into the midfielders path, only for Barthez to make a good save low to his left from the resulting shot. Following this was another 6 minutes of United pressure and determined Liverpool resistance before Liverpool cleared a ball from the edge of their area high up to half way. A mistake from United defender Silvestre was leapt upon by Liverpool midfielder Hamann.
He played a perfectly timed ball into the path of the onrushing Michael Owen who ran 30 yards before calmly beating Barthez to put the result beyond doubt. Celebrations ensued amongst the Liverpool fans who now knew that their team had won the cup. Vladimir Smicer,who came on to replace earlier substitute Baros on 89 minutes had a great chance to make it three nil after some great work from Danny Murphy down the Liverpool right but he failed to turn the ball into the net from about a yard out. El-Hadji Diouf was then replaced by Igor Biscan as time ran out and then the referee blew the final whistle to begin ecstatic scenes among the Liverpool players and dejection in the United camp. Shortly before captain Sami Hyypia collected the trophy,the man of the match was announced and the award presented. Several players had a good game but their was only one winner of this award. Jerzy Dudek - Liverpool hero.
Liverpool Team -
Dudek,Riise,Henchoz,Hyypia,Carragher,Murphy,Gerrard,Hamann,Diouf(Biscan 90),Owen,Heskey(Baros 61(Smicer 89)).
Manchester United Team -
Barthez,Silvestre,Ferdinand,Brown(Solskjaer 70), G. Neville, Giggs,Veron,Keane,Beckham,Scholes,Van Nistelrooy.