48,263 fans filed into Busch Stadium on Thursday night. According to the @Cardinals, it was the largest ever crowd at a Busch sporting event. We all knew there was extreme interest in the game when it reportedly sold out in less than 20 minutes, but witnessing the sea of blue shirts (the color of both Manchester City and Chelsea) flood the stadium was truly a spectacle.
Even though the match was a mere friendly, the atmosphere was still electric. American fans were pumped to finally support their favorite EPL (English Premier League) teams firsthand. It was such a phenomenal turnout that star players like Chelsea’s Mata and Manchester City’s Richards described the atmosphere as “amazing” and “brilliant” on their Twitter accounts after the game.
The teams followed through as well and provided the crowd with excitement from start to finish. Throughout pre-game warmups, during player introductions, and throughout the game, the players did a great job at acknowledging the crowd. These gestures made the crowd feel more into the game–resulting in the majority of the crowd standing throughout the game to keep up with the back-and-forth action.
From the start, it was apparent that this game was a friendly. The play was wide open because this is what provides the entertainment factor for the fans–not the defense-dominated, possession-oriented 1-0 matches that occur regularly in the Barclays Premier League.
Manchester City controlled the game from the opening whistle. Yet, at halftime, the scoreboard did not show it–they were losing 2-0. Chelsea got a header goal from Demba Ba in the 22nd minute on a cross from Mata and a PK goal from Cesar Azpilicueta late in the 1st half. Early in the 2nd half, Chelsea looked like they put the game out of reach with another goal to make it 3-0.
However, when Chelsea took out star goalkeeper, Petr Cech, to a large ovation with just under 30 minutes left, Man City finally starting scoring. They scored 2 goals within 2 minutes of Cech leaving the game. Back-and-forth action ensued and Man City netted the equalizer in the 85th minute.
Thus, it was 3-3, and if the game ended there, the fans would have had nothing to complain about. Manchester City had other ideas, though. The clock struck 90 minutes and with just 2 minutes of stoppage time, they pushed the ball forward looking to complete the epic comeback with a victory. On a beautiful flick from a teammate’s head, Micah Richards buried the game-winning goal.
Manchester City 4: Chelsea 3. Thus, the makeshift home team, Chelsea, blew a 3-0 lead, but the crowd did not mind because the two teams provided entertainment worth the price of admission.
It was a tremendous event, and St. Louis shined on the worldwide soccer stage. Events like this has to make you wonder how long it will be until St. Louis gets an MLS team of its own. Well done, St. Louis. Well done.
Until next time…