Manchester United vs. Chelsea: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Both teams started short-handed up front in this important match. Manchester United decided to rest veteran Wayne Rooney, while an injury kept Eden Hazard out of the match for Chelsea, according to the Premier League's official Twitter account:
Through the first 45 minutes, the absence of these two key players showed as neither side was able to get anything going offensively.
There were some scoring opportunities, but the clubs generally struggled to live up to the moment and the score was tied at 0-0 heading into intermission.
FOX Soccer provided a general glimpse of what fans were thinking at halftime:
Halftime: Manchester United 0, Chelsea 0. Everyone is thinking the same thing: are we going to see a goal today or what? #BPLonFOX— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 5, 2013
For much of the second half, there was not much more action as neither side had too many great looks at the net.
Chelsea did have one opportunity in the 67th minute when it earned a free kick just outside of the box. However, Juan Mata was only able to kick it straight into the wall and the challenge was quickly ended.
David Luiz then took another free kick late in the match, but his shot soared high and wide.
However, everything changed in the 87th minute when Mata was finally able to get the game-winning goal. He took the ball on the left side of the box and put enough on the shot to get it past Anders Lindegaard in net.
Chelsea was able to hold on to the lead to end with a much-needed 1-0 victory.
This match meant a lot more for the visiting club as Chelsea looked to keep pace with Arsenal and Tottenham in the English Premier League standings. Both squads had a 1-0 victory on Saturday and are battling for the third- and fourth-place spots in the table.
Where will Chelsea finish in the EPL?
After receiving three points on Sunday, the Blues are now in third place with only three matches remaining before the end of the year.
On the other hand, Manchester United has little to worry about after clinching the top spot in the table with a few weeks remaining. The remaining two matches will simply be to add on to the great season while giving their fans a few more memorable performances.
The club will remain home on May 12 against Swansea City in the last match at Old Trafford this season. Chelsea returns to Stamford Bridge for an important battle against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
You can be certain that this will be an entertaining battle as both sides jockey for positioning with the year coming to an end.
Juan Mata, Chelsea: A-
Throughout the season, Juan Mata has been the person to make things happen for Chelsea. He leads the EPL with 12 assists and always seemed to be near the action when the squad was able to score.
On Sunday, the midfielder struggled for the majority of the contest. He missed passes and did not take advantage of opportunities when they were there.
However, Mata came through when his team needed it the most. He took a shot in the 87th minute that barely trickled past the goalkeeper off the post and into the net.
Chelsea needed someone to make a play, and arguably its best player was the one who came through at the right time.
Demba Ba, Chelsea: D
After scoring 13 goals for Newcastle United in 20 appearances, Demba Ba came to Chelsea with high expectations. To this point, he has failed to live up to these hopes in league play.
With Hazard out, Ba needed to be the one to make things happen on the offensive end. Like he has for much of the past few weeks, he was active with the ball and took plenty of shots.
Unfortunately, he was once again unable to find the back of the net, which makes five EPL appearances in a row where he has failed to score a goal.
He is lucky that Mata was able to come through late, otherwise the forward would have a lot of questions to answer in this one.
César Azpilicueta, Chelsea: A
While the offense struggled for most of the match, Chelsea's defense was quite impressive. Among the group, César Azpilicueta stood out as someone who gave his best effort when the club needed it the most.
The defender was able to stop virtually every challenge Manchester United had by making clean tackles and getting the ball back up the pitch.
He also had spectacular passing to help the club attack on the offensive end. The young player showed great potential in this one against a tough opponent and will give the squad plenty of hope for the future.
Anders Lindegaard, Manchester United: B+
With regular goalkeeper David De Gea getting a break, Anders Lindegaard was asked to step up against a tough opponent.
Although he had not started a match since Jan. 16, he did not disappoint. He only allowed one goal on a tough play and added two saves against the opposing attack.
While the Danish veteran is still behind De Gea in the pecking order, he showed that he is able to handle the job against a tough squad. This depth is a positive development for the future of this club, especially if something happens to the starter down the line.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United: C-
As the leading scorer in the EPL, there is not much for fans to complain about with Robin van Persie this season.
However, this match was a good opportunity to see how the talented striker was able to do without Rooney distributing the ball. While there were some positive developments, it was not a great showing overall.
The superstar failed to score for the first time in five league matches and was hardly even able to touch the ball near the offensive zone.
Obviously, this is only one match without a lot on the line for Manchester United. Still, his inability to contribute led to the scoreless effort for his club.
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