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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
5 February 2012
• Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: H. Webb
• Attendance: 41668
J. Evans 36' (own goal)
David Luiz 50'
W. Rooney 58', 69'
J. Hernández 84'
WOW. What a game that was. Has to be up there with the best of this season, if not topping the list. As I said before kick-off, it was the result that neither team wanted as United are now two points before leaders Manchester City. The gap between third-placed Tottenham and Chelsea is now six points, with the former having a game in hand against Liverpool tomorrow night.
90' + 5'
Mata whips it in but Ferdinand clears... and the whistle goes! It's all over!!
90' + 4'
Right at the death De Gea pulls out yet another super save as Meireles has a dipping effort from 25 yards. There is just enough time for the corner...
90' + 3'
Giggs sends in another corner and Evans throws himself at it. He appeals for a penalty as Luiz appears to have, perhaps, pushed him but referee Howard Webb isn't having any of it. Carrick jumps onto the ball and tries his luck but Cech gets down well to save.
90' + 2'
WHAT A SAVE!! The much maligned De Gea has just pulled out one of the saves of the season to keep United firmly in this game. Super, SUPER save.
90' + 1'
We are going to have FOUR minutes of added time, and here comes some Chelsea pressure as Scholes fouls Luiz on the edge of the area...
We are just about to enter stoppage time, and what a stoppage time it could turn out to be.
Shockingly, some Chelsea fans are seen LEAVING the stadium!
Rooney has been majestic in this second half. Grabbing United by the neck and fully taking charge of this game. Chelsea simply cannot contain him and are now fearing the worst.
Sir Alex, like Villas-Boas earlier, immediately takes off a striker for a midfielder as Welbeck makes way for Ji-Sung Park.
Assist Ryan Giggs
Goal Javier Hernández
GOAL!!! It's 3-3!! Would you believe it?! Rooney hits a brilliant snap-shot on the turn from the edge of the area that Cech can only parry. Giggs picks up the loose ball and, ever so simply, finds the leaping Javier Hernandez six yards out to head in. Gobsmacked.
It is absolutely frantic here. Not one second of let-up at all.
Giggs sends in the ball but Ivanovic makes up for conceding it and heads clear.
It's all United and Welbeck sees a clear sight of goal 25 yards out but his effort is blocked brilliantly by Cahill. United come straight back and win a corner off Ivanovic...
...and Cech, unsurprisingly, takes his time over the goalkick.
United build from the back and Rooney again has the better of the Chelsea midfield as he powers through and finds Scholes, but a poor pass by the aging midfielder runs out for a goalkick.
Torres has a golden chance to wrap this game up as Romeu's heads on Cech's huge goalkick for the striker to control and fire, but a lack of confidence is evident as he hesitates and alllows Evans to dispossess him. Seconds later Malouda tries his luck from distance that clears De Gea's bar by inches.
...Mata takes the corner but United clear and within seconds it's played back to Cech.
He hasn't done too much today but Essien just let fly with one of his trademark bullet shots that more than stung the hands of De Gea has is parried it out for a corner...
Rooney is controlling this game now, taking on midfielders, defenders and threading balls through to Welbeck and Hernandez with ease.
Villas-Boas immediately reacts with caution as he takes off striker Sturridge for the defensive-minded Oriol Romeu.
Assist Danny Welbeck
Penalty Goal Wayne Rooney
And Rooney scores!! What a game we have on our hands. The striker sends Cech the wrong way with ease. It's 3-2 now!!
United were handed two penalties in midweek against Stoke and they've got another as Ivanovic trips Welbeck. Another clear foul. Rooney, again, steps over it...
ANOTHER PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED!!!
Anyway, back to the action and Sturridge does very well down the left to get past Valencia and almost finds Torres in space on the edge of the United area, only for Scholes to get a foot on the ball and direct it away from the Spaniard.
I just had another glance at the David Luiz/RIo Ferdinand goal and it appears I may have under-sold the United player's contribution. It could be argued that the ball was going off target before taking a massive deflection off his shoulder.
Another change for United as Paul Scholes comes on in place of Rafael. Valencia will take up the vacant right-back role, it appears.
Talking of desperation, United are going all guns blazing in attack now with Chelsea trying to contain the and slow the pace down. The last thing Villas-Boas and his men need is for the game to stretch and leave United to pick holes in their defence.
Sturridge is desperate to make up for giving away the penalty as he selfishly keeps hold of the ball for at least 30 seconds, twisting and turning on the edge of the area with his teammates screaming for the pass, before lashing a poor shot some 10 yards wide.
Assist Patrice Evra
Penalty Goal Wayne Rooney
GOAL!! Rooney converts the penalty, and in some fashion, powering it into the roof of Cech's net. The goakeeper had absolutely no chance with that. A glimmer of hope for the away side.
PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED!! Daniel Sturridge is the culprit as he sythes down Patrice Evra inside the area. Rooney sets up...
Here is Wayne Veysey, straight from Stamford Bridge to help clear that up for us: "'Rio, what's the score?' sing the Chelsea fans to Ferdinand after his own goal gave Chelsea what seems an unassailable 3-0 lead. The elder of the Ferdinand brothers has been pathetically booed by Chelsea's fans throughout, purely for his association with Anton Ferdinand and the fall-out of the John Terry affair. He has failed to answer the jeers, it has to be said, with a jittery display."
There seems to be a little confusion over who had the last touch for Chelsea's third goal. Luiz definitely directs it towards goal but United's Rio Ferdinand gets the slightest of touches off his shoulder.
Sir Alex rings the changes as he takes off Ashley Young for Javier Hernandez.
Assist Juan Mata
Goal David Luiz
Yellow Card Patrice Evra
Mata will get all the plaudits for the stupendous finish but you can not underestimate how good the Torres cross was that set up the goal. It took out the entire United defence.
That Mata goal was timed at 24 seconds into the second half. United are stunned.
Assist Fernando Torres
Goal Juan Mata
GOAL!! What. A. Goal. Chelsea go straight on the attack from kick-off and Sturridge send the ball out wide right for Torres to whip in a glorious ball that Juan Mata finishes perfectly with a superb first-time volley high into De Gea's net. Can United come back from 2-0 down?
...and Chelsea get us back underway!
Right then, the teams are back out for the second half. We are set up nicely for a rip-roaring 45 minutes.
We have a stat-off now between the two greats of said world. Here is Infostrada Sports with their effort: "Jonny Evans is the first player for over 12 years to score an own goal in this fixture. Henning Berg [the] only other United player to do so."
To keep you lot ticking over, here is a nice little stat from Opta: "0 - Each of Man Utd's three Premier League defeats this season have seen them trail 0-1 at half-time. Trepidation."
Here is Mr Veysey with his thoughts: "There is a renewed air of confidence here at the Bridge as Chelsea enter the break 1-0 up. The game came to life after Daniel Sturridge broke the deadlock by manoeuvring Chelsea's opener from the right flank, even though the finishing touch was supplied by Jonny Evans' chest. United peppered Petr Cech's goal with shots as they searched for an instant response but the home side clung on, thanks to a series of fine reflex saves from Petr Cech. A lively second half is all but guaranteed."
Well, it took a little while to get going but the final 15 minutes, or so, were breathless stuff. Chelsea lead 1-0 at the break. Can they hang on or will United, as they have threatened to do so, get back into it?
45' + 3'
...and Rooney powers a shot in that Cech does well to get down and parry away for a corner. Young takes it short but before United can get any further the referee blows for halftime.
45' + 2'
We are right at the end of the two added minutes at the end of the half and United, yet again, have a freekick near the Chelsea area...
45' + 1'
Yellow Card Branislav Ivanovic
Ivanovic is now in the referee's book as he goes straight through the back of Young.
...but again the Chelsea defence deal with any attack.
It's an extremely positive response by the away side to going behind and now they have a freekick to send the ball into the box...
It's back-against-the-wall time for Chelsea and United pepper their box with crosses. Time after time Young sends decent crosses in but the home side's defence is equal each time.
Another superb, reaction save from Cech as Rooney and Welbeck combine on the edge of the area before the latter lets fly with a stinging effort. The corner comes in and the goalkeeper punches clear. He's keeping Chelsea in this.
Ooof, but United go close straight away as Young's fierce drive from 18 yards is parried by Cech, but the rebound nearly skids into the path of the waiting Rooney, only for Bosingwa to react quicker and clear the danger.
That was the first time Chelsea really got behind the United defence, and it immediately paid dividends.
Own Goal Jonny Evans
GOAL!!! 3-0 to Chelsea!! United concede a freekick out wide on the right that Mata floats right towards David Luiz to head home. United are falling apart.
Assist Daniel Sturridge
It's a game of fits and starts at the moment as niggingly freekicks are interrupting the flow of the game. 10 minutes until halftime. Will either side be able to break the deadlock before the break?
Evra is down now after taking an attempted Ivanovic cross straight to the face. Ouch. He's made of sterner stuff, mind, and he's back up and running after gathering his bearings.
Yellow Card Fernando Torres
The first booking of the game and it's the Chelsea frontman. He chases down the ball and ends up charging into Evans back. Not really avoidable in the circumstances, but the striker can't have too many complaints.
Great, GREAT last ditch challenge from Ivanovic as he slides in to take the ball off the toe of Welbeck a mere six yards from goal. An equally impressive Valencia ball found Rooney in the build-up and the England striker slid in Welbeck. The closest either side have come thus far.
Quick stat attack and Chelsea can boast 66% of possession in the last 10 minutes of play. Just shows how much more of an impact they are having on the game, as opposed to the opening moments.
...and the midfield whips in a great spining cross that De Gea does equally well to punch clear as he battles with Luiz. Danger over, for now.
Chelsea win another freekick, again it is around 30 yards out but this time Mata is in charge...
Chelsea are starting to grow more and more into the game, getting on the ball far more and making strides upfield.
Here is Mr Veysey again with his two cents: "Fourth official Phil Dowd is in for a long afternoon. He has already been on the receiving end of Scottish and Portugese invective when penalty appeals by both teams were waved away by Howard Webb. For good measure, his ear has also been bent by Roberto Di Matteo, Villas-Boas' assistant. There are few chalices more poisoned."
Two years ago the sight of Torres charging towards your penalty area, in acres of space, would scare the life out of a defender, but United give him plenty of space and watch him shank the ball around 20 yards wide from about the same distance out.
Meireles takes the freekick but appears to miss-kick it as it doesn't end up near anyone in a blue shirt.
The first opportunity for Chelsea to threaten in a while as they win a freekick around 30 yards out...
Chelsea are insisting on playing it out from the back every time, a philosophy brought in by Andre Villas-Boas, and it's not working at the moment. The home side are struggling to get past United's midfield at the moment.
Young is involved in everything for United so far, but he has just fouled Ivanovic while battling to get on the end of a Rooney through ball. United, just, on top at the moment.
Hold on, now it's United who are appealing and they may well have a case. Welbeck is hauled down very untidily by debutant Gary Cahill on the edge of the Chelsea area, with the challenge skidding into the area. It's definitely not a penalty, but that is a freekick all day long, and quite possibly a yellow card too.
Huge, loud jeers towards referee Howard Webb from the home support as Torres goes down under a challenge by Rafael on the edge of the United area. It looked clean though.
Here is our man at the ground, Wayne Veysey with his take on proceedings so far: "He is sat in the stands today but the presence of the injured John Terry is being felt here at the Bridge. There were chants of 'There's only one England captain' shortly before kick-off and the banner on the Matthew Harding stand says 'Captain, Leader, Legend'. In other news, David Luiz looks like he is wearing blue tights to stave off the chill. Bless him."
Mata takes it and aims for the head of Ivanovic, it's heading towards goal before David De Gea, very nervously, punches it clear.
Chelsea take the throw-in the work quickly upfield through Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge, eventually winning a corner through the striker's hard work inside the area...
Neat midfield passing between Michael Carrick and Ashley Young allows Ryan Giggs to send a long cross-field pass into the direction of Antonio Valencia but, uncharacteristically, it's too long and flies out of play.
The first action for Fernando Torres as tries to latch onto Michael Essien's through ball, but Rafael intercepts before being fouled by the Spainsh striker.
...and it's wide. The striker does well to get it up and over the wall but it skims past the wrong side of Cech's right-hand post.
...and United win a freekick after just 60 seconds and it's in a superb position, at the edge of the area on the left-hand side. Rooney is stepping over it...
Here we go! Manchester United, through the hairy Rooney, kick us off!
Just a quick, terribly important, note before the action gets underway. Wayne Rooney is sporting a mohawk today. The kind of barnet he could only dream of two years ago.
Five minutes from kick-off. The teams are lining up inside the tunnel.
United are the most successful side on the road this season, having accumulated 26 points in 11 away games. Interestingly, Chelsea's home record does not measure up to United's exploits on their travels, Villas-Boas' men have managed 22 points in their 11 matches at Stamford Bridge.
Fernando Torres has gone 12 matches in the league without scoring a goal, which makes it his worst goal drought since his switch to the Premier League.
Chelsea are undefeated in their last nine Premier League clashes against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Time for a few more stats then, methinks...
Interesting, United have not completed 'the double' over Chelsea since the 1987/88 season. That stat took me by surprise, I must admit.
United won the reverse fixture 3-1 back in September which, you may remember, involved that horror miss by Fernando Torres. If, somehow, you missed it (pun intended), then YouTube have about 1,552,324 videos of it for you to peruse.
If you click the little 'Preview' tab above these very words you can have a look at Adithya Ananth's preview before the 16:00 kickoff. He has gone for a 2-1 Chelsea victory. What do you lot reckon? I'm staying on this remarkably comfortable fence and opting for a 1-1 draw.
For United, Ashley Young comes in for his first appearance of 2012 following injury and David De Gea recovers from injury to return between the posts. Wayne Rooney partners Danny Welbeck upfront.
So, with the recently displaced England captain John Terry ruled out with a knee injury and Ashley Cole serving a ban following two yellow cards last weekend at Swansea, Gary Cahill comes in for his Chelsea debut and Jose Bosingwa takes up the left-back position. Michael Essien comes in for his first start of the season with Frank Lampard still out with a calf injury.
Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young; Rooney, Welbeck Subs: Amos, Fabio, Park, Berbatov, Pogba, Hernandez, Scholes
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bosingwa; Essien, Meireles, Malouda; Sturridge, Torres, Mata Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Bertrand, Hutchinson, Romeu, Piazon, Lukaku
So, who have Andre Villas-Boas and Sir Alex Ferguson chosen to take to the Stamford Bridge turf? Let's find out.
United will be desperate for all three points to keep up with rivals Manchester City at the top of the table, after they dispatched Fulham 3-0 last night. But, can a win for Chelsea keep their ever-fading title chances alive? What we do know is that a draw for both sides is out of the question.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the HUGE crunch clash between Chelsea and Manchester United.
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