Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Sunday March 16 2008
Rams take it to the Red Devils
What a difference three day`s make. The Rams inept performance at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday gave their fans cause for concern against Manchester United in this afternoons Premier League clash at Pride Park, but what they saw would have gladden the hearts of even the most pessimistic supporters.
A performance full of grit and determination saw the Rams take the game to United, but a solitary Cristiano Ronaldo goal 15 minutes from time gave Sir Alex Ferguson`s side victory.
Paul Jewell rang the changes after the 6-1 loss against Chelsea, David Jones returned to the starting line up after his goal at Chelsea in midweek - and there was also a recall for striker Robert Earnshaw alongside Kenny Miller. Dean Leacock was back in at centre-half with Alan Stubbs ruled out by a calf.
The visitors opened the better and three minutes in they should have opened the scoring, Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney combined to send Cristiano Ronaldo away but the Portuguese star blazed wide.
Then it was the turn of Ryan Giggs to threaten moments later, his goal bound shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Darren Moore. United were dominating and the Rams were working overtime, and on 11 minutes the Red Devils went within inches of the lead.
Ronaldo`s low shot rebounding of the base of the post with Carroll beaten, the rebound cleared by Mark Edworthy, and from the resulting corner Anderson fired narrowly wide.
Derby weathered the early storm and began to get into the game, with skipper Robbie Savage and David Jones outstanding in the middle of the park, their first shot came on 20 minutes Robert Earnshaw`s long-range shot lacked power and Ben Foster easily saved.
Carroll then came to the Rams rescue on the half-hour with a stunning save to deny Ronaldo, after he was sent clear by a superb Wayne Rooney ball.
The Rams fans were singing in the rain as their team began to find holes in the United`s backline, and Foster became the hero with two superb saves in a matter of minutes.
Eddie Lewis made ground down the left on 37 minutes and pulled a cross back into the box and Mile Sterjovski met it on the volley and Foster reacted well to palm away the Australian international`s shot.
Seconds later Miller had the best chance of the match for the Rams, he was sent clear by Earnshaw and after outpacing Wes Brown, Foster came to the rescue once more with another tremendous stop low down to left.
It was the Rams who were enjoying their best spell of the game and urged on by another sell out crowd, they pressed for the opening goal. Earnshaw was the next to set his sights on goal, though he couldn't quite stretch far enough to reach Sterjovski's cross from the right.
United went close two minutes before the interval through Rooney, who easily beat Moore to a long ball but fired his shot into the side-netting.
Half-time arrived and the Rams faithful gave their side a standing ovation as they left the field, happy with what they had seen so far.
Ronaldo had the first effort in the second half, a long-range free kick which was only parried by Carroll and McEveley cleared the rebound, from the resulting corner the Portuguese star headed against Carroll's legs.
Ronaldo then spurned yet another opportunity from close-range, as it looked like it wasn`t going to be their day, and the Rams almost made them pay for their missed chances.
Miller picked up the ball on the left and fed Jones, who in turn slipped it through to Sterjovski on the right, the Australian cut on to his left foot but his shot was deflected and Foster had to be alert to tip the ball over the crossbar.
There were chances at both ends as the game was there for the taking. First Jones's powerful effort was blocked well by Patrice Evra, while United broke quickly and Ronaldo fired wide again from the edge of the box, much to his displeasure.
But the Rams brave resistants was broken on 75 minutes as United hit the front. Rooney was found down the left, and there was a suspicion of offside as Rooney and his marker Sterjovski looked across to the referee`s assistant, but the flag stayed down. The England international striker chipped the ball back into the box, where Ronaldo was on hand to finish clinically past Carroll.
It was hard on the Rams but on the balance of play United deserved their lead, but the Rams faithful continued to cheer on their side.
The biggest cheer of the day came when referee Phil Dowd, who had earlier received treatment, hobbled off with what looked like a hamstring injury and was replaced by fourth official Trevor Kettle.
Buoyed by his goal Ronaldo tried his luck again from long-range, but Carroll was equal to the free kick with another fine save to his right.
It was Carroll again late on who denied Ronaldo a second saving low, and with time running out the Rams pushed everyone forward, including keeper Carroll up for a stoppage-time corner.
Lewis`s corner was headed out to Carroll on the edge of the box. The Irishman, who will be celebrating St Patrick`s Day on Monday, controlled the ball and hoped to celebrate a goal for the Rams. But his 20-yard shot was blocked and that was the final action of a pulsating clash. It wasn't Derby's day in terms of a result but it was certainly Derby's day in terms of a performance, to wipe away the demons from Stamford Bridge.
Derby County: Carroll, Edworthy (Todd 55), Leacock, Moore, McEveley, Sterjovski (Robert 83), Savage, Jones, Lewis, Miller, Earnshaw (Villa 77).
Subs Not Used: Price, Ghaly.
Booked: Moore, Jones, Savage, McEveley.
Manchester United: Foster, O'Shea, Brown, Vidic, Evra, Park (Saha 62), Scholes (Carrick 62), Anderson (Fletcher 74), Giggs, Ronaldo, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Hargreaves.
Goals: Ronaldo 76.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).
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Date:Sunday March 16 2008
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