Chelsea blew the Premier League title race wide open again when they came from a goal behind to beat Manchester United, with ten games of the season remaining. Chelsea still have a mathematical chance of retaining the league title themselves, although they would have to win the majority of their remaining games while relying on other results to go in their favour.
United who started the game on the back of an impressive run of form, had amazingly not beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 2002. Chelsea however who have their worst run of form for many seasons were a huge fifteen points adrift of United before the start of the game.
The Blues, who left Didier Drogba on the bench in favour of a Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka strike partnership, started the game brightly, but the visitors soon found their stride, with crisp passing and fluent football.
Wayne Rooney, who controversially escaped a ban following his clash with Wigan’s James McCarthy at the weekend, was jeered by the home fans every time he touched the ball. It was Rooney, however, that silenced the Chelsea fans after 29 minutes when he sent a long range shot into the Chelsea goal before celebrating in front of the Chelsea fans.
The Reds, who started with their first unchanged team for 165 games, continued to dominate play during the first half and prevented any real threat from the hosts, although a fine save from Edwin Van der Sar from a Frank Lampard free kick, six minutes before half time, should have set alarm bells ringing and reminded United of the nemesis that Chelsea have been over the last few years.
Chelsea’s hero on the night proved to be David Luiz, who’s arrival from Benfica in the January transfer window was somewhat overshadowed by the £50million signing of Fernando Torres. Luiz was impressive throughout the game and it was his unstoppable shot in the 54th minute that levelled the scores and threw the game wide open.
Both managers made positive, attacking substitutions, with Drogba replacing Anelka for the Blues and Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs coming on for United, which was a record 606th appearance for Giggs at the club where he began his professional career twenty years ago.
Neither side seemed happy with a draw and both teams went in search of a winning goal, the play and tackles were furious at times as both teams seemed to be playing for pride as much as the three points. After Chris Smalling made a clumsy challenge on Zhirkov in the 80th minute, Frank Lampard, whose impressive penalty record has wavered of late, made no mistake this time as he smashed home the spot kick to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead. Zhirkov nearly added a third goal for the Blues moments late but his shot was deflected onto the post.
To compound United’s misery Vidic was sent off during injury time for a second book able offence, which means he will miss the important trip to Liverpool and the dismissal could leave United defensively weak.
The main beneficiaries of this game would appear to be Arsenal who are now just four points behind the leaders and have a game in hand, while Chelsea have consolidated their quest for a top four Premier League finish and entry into next years Champions League.
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