Glory, glory Van der Sar
Manchester United's Dutch international goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar tasted Champions League glory again after a 13-year wait when he made the decisive penalty save against Chelsea in the early hours of the morning on Thursday. By RNW Internet
"The feeling of saving the last penalty is immense,"
the Dutchman, who won the European Cup in 1995 with Ajax, said after being named Man of the Match at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
"Winning here by saving the last ball, I don't have any words for it,"
said the player who solved one of Alex Ferguson's biggest problems at Manchester United when he arrived.
It took manager Ferguson six years to find a worthy successor to the outstanding Peter Schmeichel, who played his final game for United in the 1999 Champions League final. In 37-year-old Van der Sar he finally found his man.
In Moscow, he pulled off a stunning one-handed save to prevent an own-goal from Rio Ferdinand in the first half before winning the match in the shootout, diving to his right to save the 14th and final penalty from Nicolas Anelka.
He seemed to know a fraction of second in advance that he was about to save it, as his mouth broke into a smile.
"I knew which way he was going. I felt it."
Van der Sar (photo right Edwin van der Sar (c) Erwin Olaf) was 24 when he played in his first Champions League final, helping Ajax beat Juventus 1-0 in Vienna. He experienced defeat in a penalty shootout the following year, as Juventus turned the tables on them.
The Dutchman later joined the Italian side but after a loss of form moved to the decidedly unfashionable west London team Fulham before Ferguson recognised his qualities of concentration, dedication and consistency and took him to United in 2005.
"One of the most difficult jobs we had was replacing Schmeichel and three years ago when we did that with Edwin you saw the marked improve in our defending,"
Ferguson said after the match.
"Great credit to him. When it comes to the last penalty it takes experience and patience. You have to wait that fraction. Well done to him."
The cruelty of football
It was a cruel way for Chelsea to lose their first Champions League final. The script had fallen perfectly for their hugely popular captain John Terry as he strode up to take his team's fifth penalty of the shootout.
Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole had all scored and, with Petr Cech saving from United's Cristiano Ronaldo, Terry merely had to score from 12 yards to win the ultimate prize for the London club for the first time.
However, the centre back, playing with a protective strapping on his damaged shoulder, slipped on the wet grass in the driving rain as he made contact with the ball, and watched in despair as his penalty clipped the outside of Edwin van der Sar's left post and flew wide.
(Sources: Reuters, ANP)
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]