Chelsea 5 United 4
Our interest in the Capital One Cup, for this season, ended in a dramatic nine-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge last night.
With memories still fresh in the mind of the tempestuous encounter on Sunday, whereby our hosts were reduced to nine men as they suffered their first Premier League defeat of the season, it was good to see that the game was played with the correct spirit, on the pitch.
Sir Alex Ferguson made ten changes to the starting eleven from Sunday`s fixture with only Rafael retaining his place. The boss took something of a gamble by starting with a young centre back partnership of Wootton and Keane whilst Anderson, Fletcher and Giggs returned to the midfield. Up front Hernandez was partnered by Welbeck.
In an interesting first forty-five minutes, United were to twice take the lead. With matters fairly equal for the first twenty-one minutes an error by Romeu, with the young Spanish midfielder dwelling too long on the ball, saw Anderson get a crucial touch to free Giggs who beat Cech with a low shot from the edge of the area.
The home side drew level just past the half hour mark when Buttner, in for Evra, was adjudged to have tripped Victor Moses. David Luiz stepped up and although Lindegaard got a hand to his low shot it had enough power to rustle the net.
Close to half time, United went ahead again, this time Anderson caught Luiz trying to bring the ball out and won possession. When the ball was fed to Hernandez he also gave Cech no chance with a low shot into the corner.
Half Time - Chelsea 1 United 2
Sir Alex made a change at half time, bringing on Powell for Buttner meaning Fletcher had to move to full back. It was a move that almost paid instant dividends when Powell saw a fine shot turned around the post by Cech.
Our hosts were to draw level, for the second time, after 52 minutes when Gary Cahill rose to power a header past Lindegaard. At 2-2 the game was there for the taking and United responded well.
With our hosts pushing forward, a quick counter-attack appeared to have broken down, but some neat passing around the edge of the penalty area saw Nani skip through and beat Cech to give United the lead for a third time.
There was now half an hour left and United knew Chelsea would come back at them strongly, even more so now that Di Matteo now had Oscar, Mata and Hazard all on the pitch.
United held firm though, although Lee Mason did miss a blatant handball from Keane and luck was on our side when a header from Cahill went narrowly wide. But just as you thought victory was ours, Chelsea were awarded a fortunate penalty when Ramires tumbled to the floor in the third minute of stoppage time.
Hazard stepped up and waited long enough for Lindegaard to commit himself before rolling the ball into the vacated part of the net.
Full Time - Chelsea 3 United 3
Extra time was always going to be a tiring experience for our young central defensive partnership and that proved to be the case seven minutes into the first period when Wootton`s back header destined for Lindegaard, fell woefully short allowing Sturridge to put the home side ahead for the first time in the game.
Sensing another goal would kill us off completely, fortune favoured us when Luiz crashed a free-kick against the bar with Lindegaard beaten. But respite was brief because, in the second period of extra time Chelsea opened up a two goal advantage.
Pushing forward, in search of the equalizer, United were open to the counter-attack and when Hazard received the ball his speed saw his burst clear, check back and play a ball for Ramires to run onto to skip past Lindegaard and make it 5-3.
United offered a brief reply when Hernandez was fouled by Azpilicueta and Giggs converted the resulting penalty but with only seconds left there wasn`t time to force the tie to penalties and it is Chelsea who are now contemplating a quarter-final tie with Leeds United.