Chelsea inexplicably failed to see out a 3-0 lead to allow Manchester United a share of the spoils in what was a Premier League classic. Chelsea, who could not field the likes of Terry, Lampard, Ramires or Ashley Cole due to a mixture of injuries and suspensions, hit the self-destruct button from a seemingly-safe position. Johnny Evans scored an own goal for Chelsea ten minutes before the break, and a quick flurry after the break rattled Manchester United, with Mata and Luiz scoring within five minutes of the restart. But Manchester United regrouped and rallied, two penalties from Rooney and a header from Hernandez left the home support numb to the very core. A case of what might have been for Chelsea.
Both sides started as they meant to go on. Rooney tested Cech early on, before Chelsea decided to try De Gea’s nerves with good work from Meireles and co. The pulsating start was a taster of what was to come. Rafael challenged Fernando Torres strongly but Howard Webb, who had a poor game, waved play on. A similar situation ensued at the other end, Welbeck was through only for Cahill to bring him down. Howard Webb again did not react, making Sir Alex Ferguson livid. Replays however do seem to suggest Cahill did get a fine touch on the ball, but regardless, the tackle was outside of the box.
Chelsea have so often been criticised for not being able to score this season, even though the opportunities have been there. Who cares when you have Johnny Evans in your opponent’s defence? Daniel Sturridge continued his excellent work down the right, fooling Evra, and crossed the ball in. No-one was there but Johnny Evans, who managed to chest it past De Gea.
The first half fizzed out with Chelsea leading, but the second half was where it really kicked off. Within 30 seconds, Juan Mata scored a contender for goal of the season, and Fernando Torres crossed a contender for assist of the season. A beautifully-flighted ball was met on the volley by the Spaniard, sensationally walloped into De Gea’s goal. 2-0, and some breathing space.
Just five minutes past before our next goal. Juan Mata turned provider this time, with a delicious free-kick, headed in by David Luiz. The crowd were in dreamland: 3-0 and some room for error.
Or so they thought. The deficit was cut to two just seven minutes later, Daniel Sturridge was adjudged to have tripped Patrice Evra, and Wayne Rooney blasted a perfect penalty into the top corner: 3-1.
The game was beginning to open up and so were Chelsea. Just eleven minutes later and Howard Webb, perhaps atoning for earlier ‘errors’, awarded the away side another penalty, which Rooney again dispatched with ease.
AVB decided it was time to shut up shop, changing the fabulous 4-2-3-1 formation with Sturridge going off. Romeu came on in his place, but with Meireles and Essien already holding, you could question the Portuguese’s aims.
If it was to stuff the midfield, it did not work. Rooney once again weaved in and out, and got enough space to try one from 25 yards. Cech, who had a good game, parried it out, but when Ryan Giggs sent it back in, no-one was there to mark Hernandez, who headed in from little over 3 yards. Comeback complete.
By now Chelsea fans were fearing the worst. The Manchester United comeback train was still full of steam, but Chelsea had one last chance. Juan Mata’s outstanding free-kick, destined for the top corner, was plucked away by David De Gea, a keeper who had been much-criticised in the lead up to this match.
If you had offered Chelsea fans a point before kick-off, bearing in mind the absentees, they would have taken it. Yet somehow, they will still feel like they lost a match which was theirs. Football, a funny ol’ game.
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Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech ; Ivanovic , David Luiz , Cahill , Bosingwa ; Essien , Meireles ; Sturridge  (Romeu 70 ), MATA , Malouda ; Torres .