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Everyone a winner in Yokohama goal fest

22 Dec 2008(Mon)

December 20, 2008: No wonder the neutrals loved it -- eight goals and some of the world's most famous players in action in a competitive match in Japan.

No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson was content, having watched his Manchester United team put five past Gamba Osaka to book their place in the FIFA Club World Cup final, while entertaining the crowd, too.

And no wonder Akira Nishino was disappointed, not simply because Gamba lost 5-3, but because of the manner in which they lost: two straightforward headers from corners in the first half, the second of those coming in the only minute of stoppage time; and then conceding a third goal immediately after Yamazaki had given them hope with his smart finish past Van der Sar. That third goal was the killer blow, as Rooney got in behind Nakazawa and made it 3-1 as easy as you like. Game over, for the second time.

When Fletcher and Rooney, with his second of the night, extended the lead to 5-1, United looked capable of scoring seven or eight to really put Gamba to the sword, but two late goals by the Asian champions meant everyone could go home happy, especially FIFA. Not only had the game attracted almost 68,000 to the stadium and millions around the world in the 211 countries and territories taking it live on TV, it had helped to justify the existence of the tournament itself, which is still scoffed at far too often. A 7-1 or 8-1 win for United would have been no help at all.

Nishino, though, would have been very frustrated at half time, going in 2-0 down to headers from Vidic and Ronaldo, both from inswinging corners from the left foot of Giggs.

Those goals are about as English as you can get, supplied by a Welshman and scored by a Serb and a Portuguese. Vidic rose above Yamaguchi and headed home as easily as reaching up and picking an apple off a tree, while Ronaldo demonstrated again what a masterful header of a ball he is, a fact often overlooked because of his other, more extravagant skills on the ground.

At times the match resembled a friendly because of the gulf in class between the two teams, and United contributed to this environment with some casual play you would never see in the English Premier League, especially from Giggs in his attempts to please the Japanese crowd.

United will have to raise their game considerably in the final against Ecuador's "All Blacks" of Liga de Quito, while Gamba have the chance to prove their quality on a more level playing field, against Pachuca of Mexico, in the third-place playoff.


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