Barclays Premier League
Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United


Substitute Hernandez (pictured in red) completed the astonishing comeback for Manchester United six minutes from time with this header

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor at Stamford Bridge


Manchester United came from three goals behind to snatch a point against Chelsea in a truly extraordinary match with an incredibly dramatic second half at Stamford Bridge.

In a match that finished 3-3, Chelsea somehow managed to assemble a three-goal lead courtesy of an own goal from Jonny Evans in the first half, a superb Juan Mata volley from Torres floated ball in the first minute of the second half followed by a David Luiz header that deflected in off Rio Ferdinand. However, United staged a fightback in a match they bossed for long periods through two Wayne Rooney penalties and Javier Hernandez as the "Little Pea" headed Ryan Giggs' delicious cross past Petr Cech in the 84th minute.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas made three changes from the team that grabbed a late point at Swansea in midweek as John Terry, relinquished of the England captaincy this week, was out injured with his heel as suspicions regarding whether he would shake the hand of his adversary Rio Ferdinand became extraneous. Ashley Cole was suspended following his red card at the Liberty Stadium meaning he would miss his first league match in 65 games as Jose Bosingwa moved to left-back to cover. Gary Cahill made his long-awaited debut since his £7 million move from Bolton alongside David Luiz with Branislav Ivanovic moving to right-back. Michael Essien made a start for the first time since a full recovery from a dodgy knee problem. Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba remained absent for the side's 40th Premier League meeting.

Sir Alex Ferguson made six changes from their 2-0 victory over Stoke on Tuesday as Ben Amos, who made his Premier League debut and kept a clean sheet in the week, was ousted to the substitutes bench with David De Gea returning from illness for his first start in the league for seven matches. Ashley Young was back for his first appearance since the 5-0 victory over Fulham on 21st December. Wayne Rooney was back after a knock although Luis Nani or Tom Cleverley didn't make the squad. Berbatov and Hernandez dropped to the bench as Ferdinand, Welbeck and Rafael Da Silva were reinstated. Defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remained out as United made the bold decision of going with a 4-4-2 with the hope of blitzing the Blues right from the offing.


If all games had ended at half-time, then Sir Alex Ferguson's charges would have been on the top of the table, five points ahead of rivals Manchester City.

There was a good tempo to the early minutes of the match- Sir Alex Ferguson, banned from the touchline for five matches following comments about referee Martin Atkinson after the 2-1 defeat here last March, was on the sidelines conversing with his players as much as possible as the visitors made the better start.

They felt they should have had something when Welbeck sprawled under Cahill's challenge just outside the box with Howard Webb, the referee, giving nothing in a huge call for him. Thus adding to the list of decisions that have gone against them on this ground in previous seasons- United haven't won on this ground in the Premier League since a 3-0 victory in April 2002 when Paul Scholes, a substitute today, was on target. Although they did succeed in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final on this ground last season.

United were looking more assiduous when getting the ball and going forward with Rooney dropping off the main striker Welbeck to get the ball which is a normal trait of United's tactical decisions against the bigger clubs. It wasn't just about the three points for the Red Devils but responding to Manchester City's 3-0 victory over Fulham earlier in the weekend and ending a poor record at Stamford Bridge in recent seasons where good performances haven't been rewarded with the desired result. Chelsea had lost three matches in the Premier League this season at home- to Arsenal, Liverpool and most recently Aston Villa on 28th December.

The line-ups this campaign from boss Andre Villas-Boas have been more unpredictable with some vibrant ideas, different shapes and new personnel with some of the oldies from these fixtures down the years sitting this one out- the likes of Terry, Lampard and Ashley Cole. There was a slight nervousness from Chelsea as they tried to get a rhythm flowing through their side with the tension lifting in the home crowd.

The first clear chance came just short of the half hour point when Valencia's ball freed Rooney who found some space in behind. Ivanovic defended well against the striker initially but then left him as Rooney forced Cech to parry his effort. And as United continued to edge a cagey encounter, Branislav Ivanovic was later forced into a crucial sliding tackle as Welbeck waited to turn in Rooney's inviting low cross.

Terry's removal as England captain provided a sub-plot to the action as Rio Ferdinand was booed throughout. Terry is scheduled to stand trial in July on charges of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother Anton, for which he has entered a not guilty plea.


Manchester United are also the most successful side on the road this season, having accumulated 26 points in 11 away games. Interestingly, the Blues' home record does not measure up to United's exploits on their travels, since Villas-Boas' men have managed 22 points in their 11 matches at Stamford Bridge.

So it was against the run of play that Chelsea took the lead nine minutes before the interval when Evans unwittingly deflected Daniel Sturridge's near-post cross beyond De Gea whose boot it flicked off as Sturridge got the beating of Evra.

United's response was that of a team believing the scoreline was an injustice, with Chelsea keeper Petr Cech saving from Welbeck and Rooney in quick succession.

And United's pain increased inside a minute at the start of the second half when Fernando Torres's long cross was met sweetly at the far post Mata, whose magnificent volley flashed high and powerfully beyond the helpless De Gea. Chelsea seemed out of sight four minutes later when Luiz's header from a Mata free-kick took a decisive deflection off Ferdinand to wrong-foot De Gea and land in the top corner. As Stamford Bridge started the celebrations, United responded and were back in business from the spot after 58 minutes.

Villas-Boas was furious, hurling a plastic bottle to the ground, when referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot after Sturridge clumsily clashed with Patrice Evra, although his frustration may have been directed at his own player rather than the official. Rooney scored emphatically and he was on the spot again when Webb decided Welbeck had been fouled by Ivanovic, although contact was minimal.

With Chelsea now protecting a narrow lead, and with the more defensive Oriol Romeu on for a dissatisfied-looking Sturridge, United sensed they could secure an unlikely point and it duly arrived in the closing stages. Cech did superbly to claw away Rooney's effort, but when Ryan Giggs returned the loose ball from the left flank, Hernandez sent in a header that Chelsea's keeper touched but could not keep out.

Chelsea almost snatched back victory only to be denied by De Gea - and there was no doubt United's fans were the happier when Webb sounded the final whistle on an enthralling game. The away side were celebrating towards the end like it was a victory. Even then, United were indebted to much-maligned goalkeeper David De Gea for a magnificent save from Mata in the dying moments and another less spectacular - but equally important - fingertip stop from Chelsea debutant Gary Cahill.

Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It was an enthralling match- one of the best in the Premier League era it has to be said. Surely Manchester United at 3-0 down early in the second half were down and out. But you can never say never when United are out there battling for a title. The second half was as good as it gets in terms of intensity and adds to the collection of goal-filled matches involving the big teams this season. Chelsea couldn't protect the lead which seemed to be unassailable conceding a daft penalty and that was the precedent for more to come and that gave United the spurring on they needed. Ferguson will be disappointed with only a point but will be thrilled by the comeback his side produced- not many other sides could manage that in a situation like that."

Sunday 5th February 2012

Barclays Premier League

Stamford Bridge


Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United                                           KO 4pm           (HT 1-0)

Evans 36 (og)         Rooney 58 (pen), 69 (pen)
Mata 46                 Hernandez 84
David Luiz 50


Chelsea:  1 Cech (C)- 8/10, 2 Ivanovic- 6/10, 24 Cahill- 7.5/10, 4 David Luiz- 7/10, 17 Bosingwa- 6.5/10, 5 Essien- 7.5/10, 16 Merieles- 8/10, 23 Sturridge- 8/10 (Romeu 70- 2/10), 10 Mata- 8.5/10, 15 Malouda- 7/10, 9 Torres- 6.5/10.

Subs not used:  22 Turnbull, 19 Ferreira, 27 Hutchinson, 34 Bertrand, 35 Piazon, 18 Lukaku

Booked:      Torres (30), Ivanovic (45+1)


Manchester United:  1 De Gea- 8/10, 21 Rafael- 7/10 (Scholes 63- 6.5/10), 5 Ferdinand- 7/10, 6 Evans- 7/10, 3 Evra (C)- 7.5/10, 25 Valencia- 8/10, 16 Carrick- 8/10, 11 Giggs- 8/10, 18 Young- 6.5/10 (Hernandez 53- 7/10), 10 Rooney- 9/10, 19 Welbeck- 7.5/10 (Park 86- 1.5/10).

Subs not used:  40 Amos, 20 Fabio Da Silva, 42 Pogba, 9 Berbatov

Booked:      Evra (49)


My Man of the Match:    Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:      Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)- Rating 6/10

Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)- 7/10
Attendance: 41,668

Match Facts

Possession: Chelsea- 51%               Manchester United- 49%

Shots: Chelsea- 19                  Manchester United- 15

Shots on target: Chelsea- 10                 Manchester United- 10

Shots off target: Chelsea- 9                  Manchester United- 5

Corners: Chelsea- 6                    Manchester United- 6

Fouls: Chelsea- 14                    Manchester United- 13

Offside: Chelsea- 1                     Manchester United- 4

Assists: Chelsea- Sturridge, Torres, Mata                Manchester United- Evra, Welbeck, Giggs



Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas

"The first one is an obvious penalty, nothing to say, but the second one is very, very dubious. I don't know if Howard Webb had the correct angle to make the decision but it is very unlucky for him to give it. It is Danny Welbeck's leg that collides against Branislav Ivanovic's. I don't know if Howard is compensating for anything from the first half but it is a wrong decision. To go from 3-1 to 3-2 is immense and 3-3 is almost normal service for United. They have great desire and ambition. They never give up and manage to get the result, not the completely positive one they wanted, but a draw from 3-0 is important. The way it happened is a big disappointment. We expect top referees in the top games and at the moment it is not happening for us. It didn't happen for us against Manchester United at Old Trafford with two offside goals and it didn't happen for us again here with a dubious decision that shifted the running of the game. You have to try and hold on to a lead, but it was cut short by two penalties. The decision to give a second penalty for a team has to be taken with a clear mind and hopefully it was taken with a clear mind by Howard. The disappointment from our fans is most noticeable and they are right. We wanted to give them a massive lift in terms of motivation, so it's a pity we couldn't give them that."

Watch the post-match interview with Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas here

Click here for interview with Chelsea's Gary Cahill



Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

"They should have had a man sent off in the first half. That linesman (Darren Cann) gave a penalty against us from forty yards away last year against Liverpool - and he can't see that? I don't blame [referee] Howard Webb. He needed help in that situation and he didn't get it. That assistant referee, who's all too happy to flag at Old Trafford for penalty kicks, didn't give them. We had two penalties in the second half which were justified. But I think we could have had four. Welbeck's clear through and he was brought down. OK, it's outside the box but there was nothing, no decision. I see it as two points dropped. We played so well, especially as we got off to a terrible start. Apart from a period of 10 minutes after half-time when we got off to a terrible start and lost two goals, I thought we were the far better team. Of course it's two points lost, but the Manchester City players at home watching the game won't enjoy the way we fought back. They can see we've got spirit and we will be there with them until the end. A lot of teams might have put their heads down and accepted defeat. But we never put our heads down."

Watch the post-match interview with Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson here

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