Manchester United Holds Chelsea at Stamford Bridge: Who Leaves Happiest?

Nick JohnstonCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2008

In a game frustrated by officious refereeing from Mike Riley, reigning champions Manchester United held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw, having led for much of the game after a first half goal by Park Ji-Sung, later cancelled out by a Salomon Kalou header.

With this draw, Chelsea's unbeaten home league record was extended to 85 games, stretching back through the reigns of Phil Scolari, Avram Grant, Jose Mourinho, and Claudio Ranieri to defeat by Arsenal in 2004.

As at Anfield last weekend, United started brightly and controlled much of the opening battles. As at Anfield, United took the lead in the first half before sitting back on their advantage and ultimately paying the penalty.

With Deco injured in the warm-up and Ricardo Carvalho coming off after 12 minutes, Chelsea struggled to find an early rhythm and after 18 minutes, the visitors took the lead.

A surging run from Patrice Evra combined with neat passing from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov took the Frenchman into the Chelsea box. Berbatov's shot was parried into the path of Park, who made the most of his chance to take the lead.

United had dominated early on, with full-backs and wide midfielders combining to keep Chelsea's wide players largely anonymous, whilst also creating chances for themselves. But John Obi Mikel, Michael Ballack, and Frank Lampard were soon able to overpower Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher in the middle and control proceedings from there.

With Edwin van der Sar injured after half an hour, Tomasz Kuszczak was called upon to guard United's lead. A confident performance from the Pole meant that United went into half-time with the lead and with confidence.

At half-time Didier Drogba was introduced in place of Florent Malouda who failed to impress with another lacklustre performance. With two men up front, Anelka being the other, Chelsea began to really test United and took complete control of the game in the second half.

Chelsea's best chances came from wide positions with Owen Hargreaves having been moved to a central position after Cristiano Ronaldo replaced Paul Scholes. Chelsea soon attacked down the left-hand side with both Coles and Nicolas Anelka combining well and looking dangerous.

United had chances at 1-0, largely from counter-attacks, but Rooney failed to deliver when presented with a chance to seal the game. The best second-half opportunity, however, fell to Anelka at 1-0 who, presented with an open goal, failed to make contact with a cross from Joe Cole.

Another silly challenge from United, Rooney to be more particular, gave a free kick to Chelsea with less than ten minutes to go. From halfway, the ball was launched into the United area, Kalou seized his opportunity having found himself unmarked to level the scores and left Kuszczak ruing his decision to stay back, rather than claim the ball.

Chelsea had further chances to take the full three points, but were thwarted by resilient and, at times, desperate defending from the away team.

United may feel they should have held on to the lead, but will accept a draw, whereas Chelsea must feel that they deserved nothing less than the full three points from a game they, for the most part, dominated.


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