Sunday, January 28, 2007

FA Cup 4th Round: Manchester United 2 - 1 Portsmouth

Mike Riley and his assistant referees should be very grateful to Wayne Rooney today, because his two goals saved them from having a couple of bad decisions subjected to quite as much scrutiny as they would otherwise be receiving.

The first one was the header from Nemanja Vidic, which Pedro Mendes hooked clear -- albeit only after it was clearly across the line. You could argue, of course, that this was simply a example of karma in action. But nevertheless, it's going to revive the endless debate about the use of goal-line technology.

The second was Henrik Larsson's volley, which was disallowed for offside. This one was a much closer call, but I think the referees got it one wrong as well. It looks to me like he's onside -- or if there's any part of his body that's ahead of the defender, it's his arm, which doesn't count (and yes, I looked that up in the rules, because I'm a dork like that).

So Manchester United had already scored two perfectly good goals but had nothing to show for their efforts when Rooney came on for the last half-hour of the match. Maybe he was invigorated by having a bit of a rest -- or, more likely, he was annoyed at having started on the bench -- but whatever the reason, he went out and scored twice in the space of about five minutes. The first goal came from a pass from Ryan Giggs -- who'd seemed to spend the whole game dribbling down the wing and then crossing the ball into the exact wrong spot. But he finally got it right in this case, squaring it perfectly for Rooney.

The second goal was even better: chipped over the keeper from about 20 yards out. (Yeah, I know, it's another Youtube link. But this one you really have to see -- watch how he winds up like he's going to blast it, and instead just places it into the far corner. David James never even moved.)

Now, Portsmouth did have a questionable claim for a penalty in the first half. But I think we can safely ignore that, because they never really looked all that threatening (yes, despite the consolation goal), and regardless United are through to the draw for the fifth round tomorrow.

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