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Friday, August 29, 2008

Zenit win as Scholes sees red

Saturday 30th August 2008

Zenit St Petersburg romped to a surprise 2-1 UEFA Super Cup victory over Manchester United at Monaco's Stade Louis II.
Pavel Pogrebnyak opened the scoring and Danny, who cost an astonishing US$48 million, extended the UEFA Cup winners' lead before Nemanja Vidic pulled a goal back.
United's misery was completed late on when Paul Scholes was sent off for a second bookable offence after committing a deliberate handball in the area with United looking to draw level.
While there will be bigger prizes to win than the Super Cup and more competitive games, it is clear the Champions League holders are thin on numbers in attack.
Cristiano Ronaldo helped lighten their load in spectacular fashion last season with 42 goals. But he is currently sidelined through injury and United, not surprisingly, miss his cunning and eye for goal.
Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez worked hard but could not break down the Russian side, who sealed a memorable victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson had spoken on the eve of the match of his admiration for managerial counterpart Dick Advocaat - and United found themselves chasing the game.
Former Rangers boss Advocaat has won widespread acclaim for the way he has transformed Zenit and turned them into winners.
The Russians chalked up a notable double last season securing the UEFA Cup and their domestic title.
It was obvious from the start their confidence was high and they took the game to United.
United were anxious to make up for the disappointment of losing to Lazio the last time they appeared in the Super Cup nine years ago.
However Pogrebnyak was quickly into the action and peeled away from his marker before spooning his effort over the top.
United responded and Tevez sent a shot into the body of Vyacheslav Maleev after 19 minutes.
Zenit carried a threat for set-pieces, though, and a superb free kick from Alejandro Dominguez went narrowly wide of the post five minutes later .
Rooney almost put United ahead in the 35th minute after a surging run by Tevez only for the goalkeeper to make a marvellous block.
Zenit hit back immediately and Ivica Krizanac came close after another good free kick from Dominguez.
Danny then headed wide in the 42nd minute before Pogrebnyak made the breakthrough. He headed in at the back post after Igor Denisov had flicked on a corner from Dominguez to leave United rattled.
The unsettled Andrei Arshavin, who has been linked with a move to Tottenham, came on for Zenit at the start of the second half but Rooney gave them a scare in the 56th minute, getting clear on the edge of area only to see his effort go narrowly wide of the post.
Tempers flared a minute later when Vidic and Pogrebnyak were left on the floor in a nasty clash of heads.
Anderson, in particular took exception to the challenge and was booked for his troubles.
Zenit stunned United again in the 60th minute by extending their lead with a magnificent effort from Danny.
He ran from deep, shrugged off Rio Ferdinand and cut inside before rifling a shot beyond Edwin Van der Sar.
United were stung but pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute when Vidic scored from close range after Tevez had cut the ball back from the by line.
Substitute John O'Shea almost pulled United level in the 86th minute, only to see his header tipped away by the goalkeeper.
Zenit then launched a swift counter attack and Danny chipped Van der Sar but his effort went over the bar.
United's irritation at playing second fiddle to Zenit was emphasised at the death with Scholes dismissed for palming the ball into the net and he will now be suspended for the home Champions League game against Villarreal.

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