Chelsea 2 United 1
United`s hopes of extending their lead at the top of the Premier League were hit when Chelsea came from a goal behind to become only the second team to beat Manchester United in the Premier League this season.
But the debate will last long into the night about the inept refereeing performance of a certain Martin Atkinson who appeared to be a little blinkered when it came to certain decisions. His performance so enraged Sir Alex Ferguson that the boss could now face FA charges after a post match rant told it exactly how it was.
For the first time in 165 games Sir Alex chose to field the same side he`d selected in the previous game meaning our top-scorer, Dimitar Berbaotv, was on the bench.
Tipped to be something of a tactical battle the game started at a hectic pace and, following a corner, United were grateful that Atkinson had spotted some shirt-pulling, by David Luiz, in the box thereby disallowing an early strike from Fernando Torres that hit the back of the net.
United didn`t settle too well early on and were grateful that Edwin Van der Sar was easily able to scoop up Florent Malouda`s shot after an incisive Chelsea break. But gradually United began to gain control with much of our best work involving Evra and Nani down the left flank. One interchange of passes resulting in an Evra ball into the six yard box scuttling in front of everyone.
The United spell of pressure finally paid off when Rooney latched on to a ball some twenty-two yards out and hit an unstoppable low drive past Petr Cech to give United the lead. The goal rattled Chelsea and their fluent passing game dissolved. But, despite more pressure, United couldn`t get that second goal and as half time approached there were some awkward moments as Chelsea were awarded a free kick in a dangerous place that Ashley Cole hit over the bar.
Prior to that Edwin Van der Sar had performed heroics between the sticks to first beat away a vicious Frank Lampard free kick and then somehow get his hands, not once but twice, to the ball to deny Branislav Ivanovic.
Half time and all was well in the United camp.
The second half started in a similar vein with United pushing forward but the home side were soon to equalize. A corner had been cleared and when it was worked back into the box by Michael Essien, Branislav Ivanovic got a flick on and lurking in the box, somewhere adjacent tot the far post was David Luiz. The Brazilian, despite a desperate lunge from Patrice Evra delivered the perfect volley to give Edwin Van der Sar no chance at his near post.
The game was evenly poised but United were to capitulate when Yuri Zhirkov, on as a substitute, was tripped, in the area, by Chris Smalling, Frank Lampard took the spot kick and smashed the ball straight down the middle to give our hosts a 2-1 lead.
With ten minutes, plus stoppage time left, there should have been time for United to mount a comeback but the gods conspired to leave us without any reward for our previous endeavour. Instead, in stoppage time, we could only watch as Nemanja Vidic committed two fouls in quick succession, after having already received a yellow card, to take the dreaded walk for an early bath.
Strangely enough David Luiz, who had also already been booked seemed to get away with everything including crude challenges on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney, hence the previously mentioned verbal tirade from Sir Alex in his post match interview.
The defeat doesn`t exactly give Chelsea that much of a chance of catching us but with Arsenal lurking, on our shoulders, and with a difficult trip to Anfield this Sunday, plus a visit to Arsenal soon to follow, this title race is anything but over.
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