Published: 12:48 | 26/8/19

Doc of the Week: Rain in Moscow

This is the inside story of Manchester United’s remarkable victory over Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final which was played in a torrential downpour in Moscow. eir sport 1, Thur, October 24th 9am

It was the biggest match ever played between two English clubs – Manchester United v Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 21st 2008. They were bitter rivals vying for supremacy in the Premier League, both with squads full of household names.

United had Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and others, while Chelsea had Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, John Terry, Frank Lampard etc. etc. They had finished in the top two in each of the previous three seasons, with United crowned champions in 2007 and again just a couple of weeks before the Moscow meeting.

United had beaten Barcelona in the semi-final, while Chelsea had seen off Liverpool after a titanic battle which helped to generate huge anticipation around the fixture which was seen as indicative of the growing strength of English clubs in Europe. The venue was the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the principal site for the 1980 Olympics.


The game was played in a torrential downpour which merely added to an already-tense atmosphere as two teams who knew each other so well joined battle once again. United enjoyed the better of the early exchanges and went ahead on 26 minutes when Ronaldo headed in Wes Brown’s pin-point cross.

The Reds pushed for a second before the break, with Peter Cech forced to save from both Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick. But it was Chelsea who struck as Frank Lampard was ideally positioned to slot home just a minute before half-time after Jon Obi Mikel’s long range effort had taken a couple of deflections.

Chelsea looked the stronger side in the second period but, although Drogba struck the post from distance, there were no more goals and the game went into extra-time. Both sides had chances to win it after that. First, Lampard hit the underside of the bar after a getting on the end of a sublime Ballack through ball, then Terry was forced to head a Giggs effort off the line.

But there was more drama to come as, four minutes from time, Tevez put the ball out for a throw deep in the Chelsea half following a break as players from both sides received treatment for cramp. The Argentinian signalled to his team-mates to put pressure on the re-start which drew an angry response from Terry and other Chelsea players. Soon a melee involving all 22 players had broken out during which Drogba was seen to strike United defender Nemanja Vidic. He received a straight red card for his actions – it was a rush of blood for which Chelsea would pay dearly later on!


With the score tied at 1-1 after 120 minutes, penalties were required. With the rain still teeming down Chelsea drew first blood as Ronaldo, normally so composed under pressure, saw his effort saved by Cech. Lampard put Chelsea 3-2 up before Owen Hargreaves, Ashley Cole and Nani all converted to leave it 4-4 with one kick remaining. Up stepped Terry in place of Drogba with the task of winning the trophy for Chelsea, but he slipped as he struck the ball and his effort hit the outside of the post and flew wide. It was a cruel blow for a player who had long been a rock in defence for the London club.

United had been handed a lifeline. Anderson and Salomon Kalou then exchanged kicks before Giggs converted to leave Nicolas Anelka needing to score to keep Chelsea in it. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, playing in his third final, pointed to his right as an indication of where he thought the ball might be going after the previous six kicks had all gone to his left.

Whether that unnerved the Frenchman, who can say, but he duly sent the ball to the right and the big Dutch international goalkeeper was on hand to make the match-winning save. It was almost midnight in a rain-soaked Russian capital and United had claimed the trophy for the third time in their history.  

Inside story

Rain in Moscow is the inside story of that night told by the people who took part including Ronaldo, Rooney, Van der Sar, Ferdinand and Carrick. Gary Neville, who missed out on selection after being injured for much of the season, also contributes.

Ronaldo explains how potentially the worst night of his life following his penalty miss was redeemed by Van der Sar’s save to become “the best night of my life”. Ferdinand tells of his joy when the Dutchman made the crucial save. "I was next after Anelka,” he says. “That is why I was going crazy even more, because I didn’t want to take a penalty."

Well worth a watch.

Images: Getty

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