Manchester United pipped Chelsea to a 3-2 win in a incidenct-filled and controversial encounter at Stamford Bridge, to record their first three points at the ground in 10 years. Sir Alex surprised many with his team selection, reverting back to his attacking 4-4-2, rather than a three-man midfield as some had predicted. De Gea kept his place in goal, as did the regular back four of Evra, Evans, Ferdinand and Rafael. Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley were tasked containing Chelsea's formidable attacking threat. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young paired up on the wings, while Rooney and van Persie continued to link up front.
The Chelsea fans did their best to support their team from the outset, creating a great atmospheric setting for this top-of-the-table clash, but United's players dampened their spirits very early on. Wayne Rooney found Ashley Young in some space up front, Chelsea's defence looking very open already. Rooney then managed to find van Persie's run into the box. The Dutchman's effort crashed off the upright, only to hit David Luiz on the back before going in.
There might have been an element of luck about the goal, but there certainly was none eight minutes later when van Persie doubled United's advantage. Valencia and Rafael, who were causing Chelsea no end of misery down the right-hand side combined once more, Valencia subsequently fizzing in his cross for RVP to latch onto and score. Both United and Chelsea fans were shocked at the scoreline, obviously for very different reasons, and it really looked like United could go on to score more goals on the evidence of the opening 15 minutes.
Instead, however, it was Chelsea who began to reassert their dominance in the match, and their terrible trio of Oscar, Hazard and Mata were beginning to become more and more influential. The latter part of the first half was a straight face-off between Chelsea and David de Gea, the Spaniard keeping United's lead intact with a string of breath-taking saves. Unfortunately, however, Chelsea did manage to pull a goal back, and deservedly so when Rooney unnecessarily fouled Hazard at the edge of the box, Mata then converting the resulting freekick with an exquisite effort. United were probably to go into half time still in the lead, and given Chelsea' growing influence as the first half wore on, there needed to be a mental reawakening amongst the United players before the second 45.
Chelsea however, continued their first half momentum and came out with a bang right from the off of the second half. United failed to clear their lines when Oscar tried to play in Mata, and the Brazilian eventually managed to cross to his countryman in Ramires, who rose above Tom Cleverley to head Chelsea back level. United have been coming back from going behind a lot recently, so this was a bitter taste of their own medicine that they were forced to swallow by the home team.
The match was evenly poised -- perhaps even tilted slightly in Chelsea's favour given their excellent comeback. In the space of a few minutes however, all their good work came undone with a couple of sendings-off in quick succession. First, Branislav Ivanovic was shown a straight red for bringing down Young as the last man after being put through by van Persie, and then Torres was shown a second yellow for an alleged dive from a Jonny Evans tackle. Replays showed that Evans did make minimal contact with Torres, so the yellow card might have been harsh -- but although two wrongs don't generally make a right, it was probably justice done to Torres for a ridiculously high kick on Cleverley in the first half, after which he was lucky to stay on the pitch anyway.
Down to nine men, the onus was surely on United to get the win from here, and Sir Alex signalled his intention to do so, bringing on Javier Hernández and Ryan Giggs for the last 20 minutes. The former quickly repaid his manager's faith by scoring what turned out to be the winning goal 15 minutes from time. Rafael took a shot on the rebound from van Persie's initial effort, and Hernández was on hand to deflect it into the goal from a yard out. Replays showed that he might have been offside as the ball left Rafael's foot, so United were fortunate in that aspect once again -- but really, who cares now?
The referee blew the final whistle to a chorus of Chelsea boos directed at him, music to the ears of the travelling United fans who have endured years of bad decisions against the Reds at Stamford Bridge. Just one point off the top now, so the coming fixture against Arsenal at home next weekend could become crucial to determine the struggle at the top of the table.
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Best Moment: Hernández's winning goal/ Torres getting sent off for diving
Worst Moment: Ramires's equaliser
Man of the Match: David de Gea
Chelsea 2-3 Manchester UnitedMata 44'; Ramires 53' - Luiz 4' (OG); van Persie 12'; Hernández 75'(Assists: Valencia, Rafael)
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