Thursday, December 9, 2021

Joy in Manchester, riot in London after cliffhanger (SN)

Manchester United fans prepared Thursday to welcome home their heroes after a dramatic Champions League victory in Moscow, as bitterly disappointed Chelsea fans began arriving back in London.

While thousands of United fans celebrated through Wednesday night in the northwest of England after the thrilling penalty shootout victory, furious Chelsea supporters clashed with police near the club's stadium in an upmarket district of London.

After a match that finished 1-1, Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar dived to save the decisive penalty from Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka and the title of European champions was United's for the third time.

Poignantly, the victory came 50 years after a Manchester United team was decimated when eight players were killed in an air crash in snowy Munich.

Thousands of fans who had packed pubs and bars to watch the match poured into the streets of Manchester and red-shirted strangers hugged and performed a victory jig.

“It's absolutely fantastic and a fitting tribute. I will be celebrating with a bottle of champagne if I can find one,” Wendy Andrews, 52, told reporters in the city.

But for Chelsea the disappointment was deep, as they were denied a first Champions League crown which would have justified the hundreds of millions of pounds invested by billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

The club's emotions were summed up by the distraught reaction of captain John Terry, who had to be consoled by coach Avram Grant after he missed a decisive penalty when he slipped on the rain-soaked turf.

Back in Britain, hundreds of Chelsea supporters who had been drinking heavily in bars near the club's west London stadium reacted badly to the defeat late Wednesday.

Police sprayed tear gas to quell rioting and arrested 12 people after fans pelted officers with chairs and beer glasses.

“Shortly after the match ended, some people became noisy and abusive and bottles and street furniture were thrown,” a spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police said.

In contrast, the majority of fans from both teams behaved well in Moscow after a day mingling in Red Square.

But there was no disguising the sadness of Chelsea's followers as they touched down in Britain.

“I just burst into tears when Terry missed that penalty,” said 18-year-old student Andrew Whelton after his flight arrived at Stansted airport.

The victorious United team were due back home late Thursday, but the traditional victory parade through the city's streets will not take place immediately.

City councillors decided last week to postpone any parade for several weeks after riots flared in the city during and following the UEFA Cup final between Scottish club Rangers and Russia's Zenit St Petersburg.

Newspapers handed the accolades to goalkeeper Van der Sar, with The Sun tabloid dubbing him “Van der Tsar,” while the Mirror said his performance was “From Russia with Glove”.

The Daily Telegraph's main football writer, Henry Winter, said the victory was “a beautiful way for United to mark the 50th anniversary of Munich, but what a brutal way for such an honest pro as John Terry to be treated by the sporting gods.”

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