A cagey game saw Chelsea win 1-0, with a goal scored against the run of play from Eden Hazard in the 38th minute. Some say John Terry fouled Radamel Falcao in the run up to the goal, maybe he did but to be fair to the referee, it wasn’t blatant. It’s goals like this which show a team who’s going to win the league. Chelsea didn’t play well and were there for the taking should United had posed any decent threat upfront. After the Chelsea goal, I couldn’t envisage a Manchester United equaliser. John Terry and Gary Cahill, never looked seriously threatened by United’s forward line. Prior to that, United’s best chance came from a Luke Shaw cross, which fed Wayne Rooney sixteen yards from goal in the 3rd minute. Rooney calmly sidefooted the ball high into the stanchion of the side netting. The ripple of the net deceived the travelling reds in the Shed End and David de Gea, into thinking United had scored.
This was always going to be a hard game. Chelsea haven’t lost a league match since a fixed odds-ruining home defeat against Sunderland on April 19th. Since then, they’ve beaten Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and they should’ve beaten City away as well were it not for a gutsy fightback and a Frank Lampard goal.
Today was the same scenario. When you go a goal behind against a side managed by Jose Mourinho, as United did today, it’s an uphill struggle. Mourinho’s teams defend a lead with an efficiency reminiscent of Bob Paisley’s Liverpool sides.
38 minutes: Angel di Maria floats a free kick into the Scorebaoard End penalty which…
…goes harmlessly straight into the arms of Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois
Just in case anybody was getting too carried away after last weeks performance and result, this will calm down all those who were suddenly expecting a charge and challenge for the league. Whatever improvements occur over the next few months, title challenging sides don’t blow a 3-1 lead when beating a feisty pub side like Leicester City, no matter how unlucky the circumstances.
How it came to all this can be dissected by all but ultimately, it’s Louis van Gaal who is trusted to sort this out. After a sublime first sixteen minutes United were cruising with momentum gained from last weeks win against QPR. 2-0 up with a header from Robin Van Persie on 13 minutes and a brilliant chip from Angel di Maria three minutes later, Leicester looked lost and United looked like running riot. A minute later and Leonardo Ulloa was allowed a free header from five yards out with Jonny Evans and Rafael stood either side of him. Things calmed down for the remaining two thirds of the first half.
An early kick off meant a subdued atmosphere from United fans compared to the last time were at this cauldron of snides last October. That night, the pathetic home support only woke up after Daniel Sturridge put them in the lead seven minutes into extra time, apart from that, United fans took the piss out of their wooden counterparts. Yesterday at Stamford Bridge, it was more of the same. Stood in the lower tier of Shed end of Chelsea’s modern but soulless stadium, we couldn’t hear a whisper out of Chelsea fans until Demba Ba’s admittedly brilliant goal, three minutes into the second half, put them into the lead. United had controlled the game for most of the first half without looking like scoring. Only once in that period was Petr Cech tested, when a bizzare swirling shot from Javier Hernández four minutes before half time produced a great save from the Czech goalkeeper. For all United’s possesion, it was Chelsea who had the first shot on target when Demba Ba tried catching David De Gea out on his near post after half an hour. It put me in mind of the rope-a-dope tactics Muhammad Ali deployed in his 1974 fight against George Foreman in Kinshasa.
Twice in the first eleven minutes Petr Cech was caught badly out of position to allow United to run up a quick 2-0 lead. When Javier Hernandez was found by a perfect Michael Carrick cross in the third minute I was convinced the ball was going over the bar, so was Peter Cech as it looped over his head and into the net. Eight minutes later after a foul by Victor Moses on Nani, Wayne Rooney floated the resultant free kick into the Chelsea box and past a crestfallen Cech to make it 2-0. United looked like running rampant here, by thirty minutes Hernandez had nearly made it 3-0 and then Petr Cech reminded me why I think he´s the best keeper in the Premier League by making an incredible double save to stop a David Luiz own goal.