Date:Sunday November 26 2006
Chelsea comeback to earn a well deserved point at Old Trafford.
The eagerly awaited clash between Chelsea and Manchester United produced a match that enthralled the watching nation. United had the better of a somewhat disappointing first half whilst Chelsea dominated the second half.
For the clash, Mourinho was able to announce a full strength squad with both Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack having recovered from the injuries sustained against Werder Bremen in midweek.
The first half was a half of few clear cut chances with the action, at times, being too frenetic for any individual to have any time on the ball to carve out a chance. Any chances that came either team`s way, in the early stages, were somewhat speculative, a typical example being when a Rooney header sailed well wide in the first minute.
Chelsea tried to get Drogba and Shevchenko into the action and one long ball in the seventh minute saw Van der Saar race out of his area to hack clear as Shevchenko looked to trace onto a loose ball. Ashley Cole, pushing forward on the left flank, fired in a cross that drifted just wide before United began to up the pressure.
First Cudicini had to claw away a Rooney cross before a Ballack handball gave Ronaldo the chance to try his luck from distance. Thankfully Carlo was up to the task and turned his shot over the bar. From the corner Rooney saw his shot charged down as the Chelsea defence pushed out.
However, just as you thought Chelsea had weathered the storm United took the lead. Chelsea`s forward play broke down and the ball was moved forward quickly to Rooney. The striker fed Saha and with Carvalho looking as if he`d covered all angles, the French striker curled a low shot pass the despairing dive of Cudicini.
Chelsea tried to respond but without any real conviction. Geremi was seeing a lot of the ball without delivering any telling crosses. Shevchenko saw a weak shot saved low down before Lampard forced Van der Saar to save low down with a rasping drive from twenty yards.
Drogba and Vidic clashed in an aerial tussle and Drogba was shown the yellow card. However, in all honesty, Howard Webb was doing a difficult job in a testing fixture. As the half drew to a close, Geremi saw an angled shot parried away by the keeper but it was to be United that went in at half time leading by that solitary strike from Saha.
The second half saw Mourinho make an instant change introducing Robben in place of Geremi with Essien switching to right back. Compared to the somewhat sterile first forty-five minutes, the second forty-five was to be an exhilarating affair.
Chelsea were to produce the sort of display that showed Manchester United that they are not ready to give up their Premiership crown. Slowly but surely Chelsea began to force United back, however, the home side were still to be dangerous as two searching crosses into the Chelsea six yard box provided two heart stopping moments as the Chelsea defence struggled to clear the ball.
However, it was to be Chelsea that were to pepper the United goal with chance after chance. Shevchenko and Lampard both fired over before Drogba threw himself full length at a Ballack cross only to see his header go wide. With United back pedalling Lampard found space to try his luck from range, one forced the keeper into a save whilst the over flew over. However, the tempo was being set.
Two corners were forced in quick succession, the first saw Robben deliver a cross that was easily dealt with before a Lampard corner, won after good work from Essien, was to give us a decisive moment. Carvalho out jumped Heinze to despatch a thumping header past Van der Saar. With the away support jubilant Scholes saw a long range effort deflected wide off of a prone Saha.
Mourinho introduced Joe Cole in place of a tiring Shevchenko as Chelsea went for the winner. Lampard saw another effort fly just over before Robben delivered a telling ball into the area only for it to race to safety with no Chelsea forward in sight.
Ferguson tried to shore up his team by taking off the injured pair of Ronaldo and Saha introducing Fletcher and O`Shea but it was Chelsea that were to have the final half chance when Makelele saw a long range shot fly wide. The late introduction of Ferreira for Ballack wasted valuable seconds and in all honesty the draw was the fair result. It leaves the race for the title wide open.
Team - Cudicini, Geremi (Robben), Terry, Carvalho A.Cole, Makelele, Essien, Lampard, Ballack (Ferreira), Drogba and Shevchenko (J.Cole)
Unused Substitutes - Hilario, Boulahrouz,
Scorers - Carvalho
Booked - Makelele, Drogba, A.Cole
Sent Off -Nil
Referee - Howard Webb
Attendance - 75,948
Date:Sunday November 26 2006
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