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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
May 5, 2013
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: H. Webb
• Attendance: 75500
Anyway, that'll be all from me today, Sam Wells. Thanks for following the game with me and be sure to check Goal.com for all of the post-match reaction. Until next time, farewell.
That, meanwhile, was an unexpectedly productive day for the away side, particularly given the 87 minutes that preceded the goal. The team's intensive fixture schedule looked as if it was going to tell as they looked bereft of any real ideas going into the final five minutes. Juan Mata, however, popped up with a vital goal and, that unsavoury Luiz incident aside (he appeared to be laughing whilst writhing on the floor after Rafael's kick), Benitez will be delighted with what could turn out to be a vital three points. They are now well-placed for Champions League qualification heading into the final few games and that most definitely alleviates some of the pressure on their game with Tottenham on Wednesday.
Manchester United won't be too perturbed with losing that, in all honesty; it has practically no bearing on their season as a whole. Sir Alex will, however, be disappointed with the performance that his side put in - they looked fairly languid throughout, save for that lively conclusion to the game. Rafael's red card will also rankle with the Manchester United manager who, though unhappy with his side's performance, will not dwell for too long on this result.
90' + 4'
Howard Webb calls time on proceedings after a tumultuous ending that was completely uncharacteristic of what preceded it, an entertaining end to a game thoroughly lacking in entertainment!
90' + 3'
Ramires bursts forward after the free kick comes to nothing and, much to the advancing Ba's disgust, shoots from distance. The ball goes wide for a goal kick.
90' + 2'
With two minutes injury time remaining, the game continues to operate at a pace that was absent prior to the goal. Torres gives away a soft free kick in the Chelsea half and Manchester United have an opportunity to whip a cross in.
90' + 1'
Red Card Rafael
Rafael is sent off! Two players renowned for their short fuses go head-to-head as the right-back lashes out at the centre-back as Luiz shepherded the ball out of play. That wasn't pretty from either player really, Luiz made a meal of it but Rafael can have no real complaints.
Goal Juan Mata
Yellow Card David Luiz
Luiz is incandescent with rage after Webb gives a throw-in to Manchester United when it should have gone the away side's way. He earns a booking for dissent, though that yellow card does little to assuage his anger.
Chelsea are exerting a little bit of pressure in the latter stages here as Mata attempts a strike on the edge of the area. His shot is blocked but it's a little bit of an improvement from the away side.
Luiz gets the free kick all wrong though, striking the ball well wide of the near post as he attempts to whip it into the top corner.
Evra leans into Mata on the edge of the Manchester United area and the Spaniard seizes the opportunity, going down and earning his side a free kick. This is in a dangerous position, particularly with Luiz around.
Yellow Card Phil Jones
Torres operating from the left wing, does well to earn a throw-in off the feet off Rafael, though the striker felt it should have been a corner.
Manchester United go close! Rafael finds his way into the Chelsea penalty area through a large slice of good fortune and goes oh-so-close to playing the ball across to Van Persie for what would have been a tap-in. Ivanovic is there though, diverting the ball into the side netting for a corner.
Lindegaard doesn't deal particularly well with the consecutive corners that ensue, flapping at the two deliveries that come in quick succession. Webb gives a foul for the second of the corners though and the home side have a free kick.
Mata goes close! Lampard picks the ball up in the middle of the park and picks out the diminutive Spaniard's run into the Manchester United penalty box. The cross just eludes his team-mate though as Rafael knocks behind for a corner.
Rafa Benitez makes his first change of the game as Torres replaces Moses, the former Liverpool man coming on to a predictable chorus of boos from the Manchester United support.
Azpilicueta goes down clutching his nose, claiming Buttner hit him in the face. It is soft and, perhaps correctly, Webb deems it unworthy of a foul.
The home side are looking the more threatening of the two now, Buttner is fed the ball on the left wing but his cross is cleared from danger by Ivanovic. This game has livened up a little now, though that, admittedly, is not saying much.
Rooney, at the centre of things once more, gets his head to a Valencia cross but it's a difficult opportunity and his header can't find its way goalwards.
Rooney's first real contribution to the game is to gift Chelsea possession and the away side very nearly capitalise. The substitute misplaced a pass and Ramires got forward down the right, only to prove unable to find anyone but Anders Lindegaard in the Manchester United box.
Sir Alex decides it's time to make two changes as Rooney and Buttner replace Cleverley and Anderson. Let's see if those substitutions can spark this game into life.
In the end it's Mata who swings an effort goalwards but the Manchester United wall does its job and its duly blocked.
With 25 minutes remaining in this half, there has yet to be a real clear-cut chance in this game. That could change in the coming minute though as Mata is awarded a free kick after Evra brings him down on the edge of the area; can Luiz produce a much-needed piece of magic here?
Manchester United put together a nice move, working their way down the pitch well. The impressive spell of play swiftly comes to an end though via the feet of Valencia; the Ecuadorian winger's cross only managing to find the hands of Lindegaard as he gets his delivery all wrong.
The passes out there are all going astray; this has been worse than the first half, if anything. Rafael attempts to get something going down the right but Cole deflects the ball out for a throw-in.
Azpilicueta does the same as Cleverley just a minute prior, this time with Moses playing the role of the disillusioned team-mate. Surely some changes are imminent?
Cleverley plays the ball straight out of play in an attempt to find Giggs; that pass encapsulates today's proceedings - it really hasn't got going yet today.
Howard Webb, once again, infuriates the away support by giving Rafael a soft free kick when Chelsea appeared to be on the attack. The referee really isn't popular with the Blues' fans at the moment.
Chelsea spurn another half-chance and this time it's Frank Lampard. The midfielder surges into the box and strikes Mata's lay-off first time; his effort flies well over the bar. It was a difficult chance, to be fair to the Chelsea veteran.
Manchester United enjoy a spell of possession, stroking the ball around nicely, though they don't appear as if they are on the verge of threatening Petr Cech's goal anytime soon.
After Vidic picks up the first booking of the day, Luiz shapes to shoot from distance but plays it left to Cole instead. The left-back tries a one-two with Oscar but the return pass is dismal, going straight out for a goal kick.
Yellow Card Nemanja Vidic
Manchester United launch a dangerous counter, eventually leading to Jones surging into ample space in the Chelsea half. The midfielder tries to find Van Persie at the back post but his cross goes behind for a goal kick, he'll be disappointed with himself there.
Howard Webb, once again, irritates the Chelsea support immensely by failing to give what appeared to be a clear foul on Luiz after the centre-back appeared to be tugged down just outside by the box by Giggs.
In the first half-chance of the half, Moses is fed the ball by Mata on the right wing. The winger puts the ball in and Ba stretches for the ball, getting a toe to it but not managing to direct it goalwards. The referee, somewhat bewilderingly, gives a corner.
Valencia does really well to nick it from the feet of the advancing Cole and charges into the space the left-back left behind. He threads the ball through to Van Persie but the Dutchman is caught offside.
The signs aren't particularly promising in the opening couple of minutes as the half continues where the first half left off. Anderson attempts a through ball, aiming at Van Persie but his pass goes awry and its out for a goal kick.
Manchester United kick off proceedings in the second half, let's hope for a more entertaining showing than we were treated to in the first!
Chelsea, meanwhile, will also be slightly disappointed with their contribution to the opening period. Aside from Oscar's post-bound effort, they haven't really trouble Lindegaard in the Manchester United goal and, if anything, they looked less and less threatening as the half drew to its conclusion. Torres may be called upon sooner rather than later, particularly in the absence of any alternative attacking options off the bench (save for Yossi Benayoun). Benitez will be looking for his team to capitalise on a Manchester United side that look low on motivation, whether they can do so or not remains to be seen.
In all honesty, it's fair to say that was a fairly turgid first half. It was fairly evident that Manchester United have nothing left to play for as the home side haven't really got going, occasionally troubling with the odd Van Persie effort in a half bereft of any real drive or invention. Sir Alex will be looking for more from his players in the second half, the veteran manager surely won't appreciate such a languid performance, even if the title is long since wrapped up?
Just before Webb blows the whistle for half time, Van Persie had another opportunity but could only head straight into the arms of the grateful Cech.
Oscar tries a strike from the edge of the area but he drags it well wide of the far post. Manchester United go up the other end, working an opportunity from the ensuing goal kick. The move ends with Valencia crossing the ball for the incoming Giggs but the half-chance goes begging as his volley flies well over the bar.
Giggs finds Van Persie with a lovely through ball but Van Persie can't quite convert! The Dutchman attempted to guide his team-mates pass into the goal with the outside of his foot but can only find the side netting.
David Luiz tries a speculative effort from distance but the strike doesn't replicate his recent heroics, flying harmlessly wide of the goal and out for a goal kick.
Lindegaard completely miscues a clearance but he's fortunate in that it falls to Cleverley just shy of the centre-circle. Manchester United attempt to work it forward but Evra slips and appears to have picked up an injury from his attempted foray forward.
Chelsea attempt to work an opening but Lampard's attempted ball to Ba is shepherded out of play by Evans. Both sides have seldom threatened in this first half, appearing unable to conjure up anything that can break down their opposing defence.
Giggs tries to find Van Persie with another lofted ball over the top but it's Luiz, this time, who intervenes, heading away astutely. Both sides have struggled to really get going as of yet, it's been a fairly tame opening.
Anderson does really well to drive through Chelsea's midfield, feeding the ball out left to Giggs. The veteran whipped a dangerous cross into the box but Cech proved equal to it, parrying out to the edge of the area. Cleverley picks up the rebound, attempting a strike first time but his effort is disappointing, flying well over the bar.
A nice ball from Cleverley leaves Van Persie bearing down one-on-one with Luiz. The Dutchman fails to beat the centre-back though, dallying on the ball for too long and letting Ivanovic get back. The striker eventually gets a strike in but it is blocked and the chance, once again, comes to nothing.
Ba works an opportunity for himself, cutting inside from the left and running at Evans. The striker found a chance to shoot at goal, attempting to curl an effort towards the opposite corner. The strike flies quite a way wide though, not particularly troubling Lindegaard in the United goal.
Howard Webb once again incites the ire of the away support as he deems Rafael's dubious-looking challenge on Victor Moses as unworthy of a free kick. He did go down easily, to be fair to the referee.
Jones puts in a good challenge on Oscar after Chelsea forge a potentially dangerous move going forward, putting the ball behind for a corner. The away side play the corner short but their eventual delivery comes to nothing.
Giggs attempts to find Van Persie with a dinked ball over the top of the Chelsea defence but Ivanovic deals with it well, heading away and, in doing so, averting the danger that is pretty much guaranteed whenever the Dutchman receives a through ball.
A lull in play now as the away side stroke the ball around in front of the Manchester United midfield. Azpilicueta tries to spark something with a cross but the imposing figure of Lindegaard claims with a fair amount of ease, before setting the home side away on the attack.
The swings in momentum keep coming as Chelsea now have the impetus going forward. Mata is at the centre of things as usual but Lindegaard proves equal to his delivery, claiming the ball astutely.
The home side have another chance to break the deadlock but no one is there to knock in Phil Jones' dangerous cross! The Red Devils work it well down the right and the midfielder whipped in a good ball, only for no forward to prove capable of getting on the end of it.
Manchester United have their own opportunity and it's a similarly disappointing effort, particularly as it came from the feet of Robin van Persie. The striker received the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside and shot but could only blaze his effort well wide of the goal.
Chelsea have another good opportunity! A slip from Phil Jones allows the opposition to surge forward, eventually leading to Moses receiving the ball on the edge of the area. With an abundance of time and space, the Nigerian blazes well over the bar. He should have done much better there.
Ba and Benitez are both displeased as Howard Webb fails to give the former a free kick after he appeared to be tugged to the ground by Evans.
Oscar hits the post! After receiving the ball deep on the right wing, the Brazilian surges forward as the Manchester United defence allowed him to run and run. Eventually, he worked his way into the Red Devils box, striking towards the near post. Lindegaard proved equal to his effort though, tipping onto the woodwork.
It's Chelsea's turn to exert some control over possession now but that spell is also put to an abrupt end as Mata is caught offside; a good run but he got the timing just wrong.
The home side are enjoying a productive spell over the past few minutes, though that comes to a swift end via a fairly dismal effort from Valencia. Giggs whipped a nice ball into his path but the winger attempted the spectacular, only to see his effort fly well over the bar.
United are finding some joy down that right flank at the moment; Valencia plays a cross into Van Persie who adeptly lays the ball off to Cleverley with his chest. The English midfielder skews his effort well wide though, he'll be disappointed that he didn't catch that quite right.
It's Manchester United's turn to worry the opposition now as Rafael gets in behind Cole down the right wing. His cross is parried by Cech but Ivanovic is there to clear; Chelsea's left-back fell asleep there.
Chelsea continue to cause the home side problems as Lindegaard flaps worryingly at another cross from Mata. The ball falls to Ba but the striker can only strike the air, completely miscuing his effort as Rafael clears.
Chelsea have started in the ascendancy here, as one might expect given the importance of this game in their push for Champions League qualification. Mata drives a majestic ball into Cole's path but his cross is cleared by Vidic; encouraging signs here for the away side.
Chelsea go close with an opportunity of their own! The away side work the ball really well as Moses and Mata engage in some lovely interplay, ending with the Spaniard on the right of the box. The diminutive midfielder chips a ball backpost to Ba but the striker can't get his head around it and the chance goes begging.
Manchester United almost work an opening after a driving run from Anderson, the Brazilian eventually working it out to Valencia, who played the ball inside to Cleverley. Luiz intervenes though and the danger is averted.
We're off at Old Trafford as Chelsea get proceedings underway!
Both teams are out in the tunnel as we're now just minutes away from kick-off at Old Trafford.
Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, also rotates his squad as he makes his now customary changes from the team that beat Basel on Wednesday as Ashley Cole, Juan Mata, Demba Ba and Oscar all replace Ryan Bertrand, Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres and Gary Cahill.
Sir Alex Ferguson has made several changes from the team that earned a 1-1 draw against Arsenal last Sunday, bringing in Anders Lindegaard, Nemanja Vidic, Anderson, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs at the expense of David De Gea, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Nani and Wayne Rooney.
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Moses; Ba. Subs: Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Cahill, Terry, Ake, Benayoun, Torres.
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Jones, Anderson, Cleverley, Valencia, Giggs; Van Persie. Subs: De Gea, Buttner, Ferdinand, Scholes, Kagawa, Rooney, Hernandez.
And here come the team line-ups...
This could be an intriguing contest as the onus is really on Chelsea to get a result here; the Blues sit fourth heading into this game but face fifth-placed Tottenham on Wednesday – they will no doubt be looking to take some of the pressure off that fixture with three points today. That, however, is no easy task against the champions who, in spite of having nothing to play for, are not usually ones to let complacency slip in, as proven by the two points they took off Arsenal last weekend. With a win, the away side would move above Arsenal into third, leaving their prospects of Champions League football next season looking extremely healthy – let's see if they can manage it, it could be a cracker!
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of today's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Chelsea, I'm Sam Wells and I'll be guiding you through this afternoon's proceedings.
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