Match Report: Man Utd 3 – Chelsea 1
Manchester United went two points clear at the top of the Premier League after beating us in an eventful encounter at Old Trafford with Manchester City being held to a two all draw at Fulham.
It was a game that was a mixture of madcap moments and missed opportunities with United three up at half-time with goals from Chris Smalling, Nani and Wayne Rooney courtesy of some rather poor defending from us and missed chances.
Fernando Torres, lively throughout, scored his first goal of the season with a fine finish just after half-time but there was then an astonishing late miss at the Stretford End when he shot wide of an open goal after skipping around United goalkeeper David de Gea.
There was also some embarrassment for Wayne Rooney, who suffered a “Moscow moment” when he missed a penalty as he slipped on the run up to take his kick.
United have been devastating when offered opportunities this season and in the 8th minute some poor marking from us for Ashley Young’s free-kick left Smalling to head past Petr Cech. It looked like he was narrowly offside, but was given the benefit of the doubt.
We were not discouraged by the early setback but missed two golden opportunities to equalise before the game was taken out of our reach in the closing stages of the first half.
Torres scuffed an angled finish after Anderson carelessly conceded possession and then Ramires missed in the 25th minute. Juan Mata played in Torres, who unselfishly squared the ball for Ramires in front of an open goal, but his shot was not quite strong enough and allowed De Gea to make a scrambling save.
Nani scored the second for United with a rising drive from the edge of the area nine minutes before the interval and then Rooney increased their lead in the closing seconds of the half. John Terry’s clearance struck Nani and rolled into his path for the finish.
At half time AVB made a change with Nicolas Anelka coming on to replace Frank Lampard – a switch that had an instant impact as the Frenchman played in Torres within a minute of the restart for the sort of finish that is his trademark of old.
We suddenly had hope but it looked to have been snatched away when United were awarded a penalty in the 55th minute. Nani struck the bar after cutting inside and was then brought down by Bosingwa as he chased the rebound.
Rooney exchanged smiles with England colleague Terry as he waited to run up but our Chelsea captain had the last laugh when the striker slipped as he took the kick and missed the target. It provided a moment of joy for the Chelsea away support who were great in their positive vocal support throughout the match.
Torres was showing real signs of sharpness as he brought another save from De Gea, but Rooney was also in the mood and rolled an effort against the foot of the post with Cech beaten. Javier Hernandez’s attempts to turn in the rebound were foiled by Ashley Cole’s late tackle – which left him quite fortunate to receive only a yellow card.
Torres then somehow failed to score his second with seven minutes left. He sidestepped De Gea with ease and composure at the Stretford End but then, with an open goal at his mercy, missed the target.
The action continued right until the final whistle as Cole cleared off the line from United substitute Dimitar Berbatov after he was set up by Rooney.
AVB’s description of the match afterwards was “crazy” but In spite of the loss it was actually a very encouraging performance from us. We played some good football and gave United scares throughout, and to be honest the match could have finished with any four-goal permutation one could have asked for.
Next up for the Blues a Carling Cup tie on Wednesday against near neighbours Fulham.
Gill Reeves – CSG disabled rep.
• 01 De Gea
• 03 Evra
• 04 Jones
• 06 Evans
• 12 Smalling (Valencia 62 – yellow card)
• 08 Anderson (Carrick 62)
• 17 Nani
• 18 Young
• 24 Fletcher – yellow card
• 10 Rooney
• 14 Hernandez (Berbatov 79)
• 34 Lindegaard,
• 20 Fabio Da Silva,
• 11 Giggs,
• 13 Park Ji-Sung,
• 16 Carrick,
• 25 Valencia,
• 09 Berbatov
• 01 Cech
• 02 Ivanovic
• 03 Cole – yellow card
• 17 Bosingwa
• 26 Terry – yellow card
• 07 Ramires – yellow card
• 08 Lampard (Anelka 46)
• 16 Meireles (Mikel 79)
• 09 Torres
• 10 Mata
• 23 Sturridge (Lukaku 68)
• 22 Turnbull,
• 04 David Luiz,
• 06 Romeu,
• 12 Mikel,
• 15 Malouda,
• 18 Lukaku,
• 39 Anelka