Bosingwa, Carvalho (Alex 11'), Terry (c) A Cole
Ballack (Kalou 73'), Mikel, Lampard
Joe Cole, Anelka, Malouda (Drogba 46').
18' Park Ji-Sung 0-1
78' Kalou 1-1
The match had all the ingredients of a thriller, and it didn't disappoint the fans. Even with the attacking quality both teams possessed, we knew it was not the number of goals that would make the match thrilling, but the intensity at which the game is played.
As they did at Anfield a week back, United started well, with Park and Fletcher starting ahead of Nani and Ronaldo, and Rooney partnering Berbatov upfront with Tevez on the bench. Deco's injury during warm-up and Carvalho's injury in the opening minutes were a huge blow to Chelsea even though we had adequate cover in the form of 'Ze German' Ballack and Brazilian Alex. Chelsea took time to settle with the new strategy and game plan and United capitalized.
Deco's absence showed in the passing early on. The passing lacked the beauty that we have seen lately from Chelsea and it looked more like the Chelsea we saw last season. United took the lead early on when Evra's thrust into the box was not stopped and Cech spilled the ball into the path of Park. Cech had earlier made a quality save from a Ferdinand shot. Chelsea too got their share of chances to score but Joe Cole failed ot hit the target even though Van Der Sar had given up hope.
Van Der Sar was soon substituted because it seemed like he had an injury. I felt that it was a blessing in disguise for United because the Oranje goalkeeper looked totally out of sorts. Chelsea came back to the match soon. Mikel looked awesome in front of the back four, or back two rather. Bosingwa and Cole went forward on every opportunity, and troubled the United fullbacks, especially Neville. Ballack was playing well considering he is just back from injury. Lampard looked good, Malouda played like Malouda, Joe Cole was poor and Anelka was average during the remainder of the game. Terry had a very mediocre game but Alex made sure we didn't feel the absence of Carvalho in defense.
Chelsea took total control in the second half of the match. Scolari's half time talk made sure that Man Untd were outplayed and outclassed in the second half. It was a great sight to see the champs of Premier League defending for the majority of time just like Stoke City did at Anfield on the previous day. Rooney had an excellent match defensively and was even seen complaining to his coach about the lack of intensity in his co-players.
Ronaldo was brought in by Fergie in the second half to add pace to the United counter-attacks but the ploy failed miserably. Ronaldo announced his arrival by a typical dive that fooled only Mike Riley and then later got himself a yellow card for showing dissent. Ronaldo considerably weakened the strength of United bus that was parked in front of goal. Joe Cole missed his second one-on-one situation but made amends by putting a perfect cross in front of Anelka. It was too easy for a player of Anelka's quality and hence he missed from a yard in front of an empty net.
Scolari threw Kalou into the pitch, the last roll of dice and Kalou scored from a setpiece header. He could have doubled his and Chelsea's score when Neville's clearance fell straight in front of him. Neville recovered somehow, and with Evans' help, cleared the ball away. On the other end of the pitch, Berbatov rarely got the ball and Alex put himself in front of goal to save Chelsea the blues in the final quarter of the match.
Drogba came on in the second half and his appearance was a huge relief, except maybe to Johny Evans. He held the ball, chased the ball and won every battle upfront. He put the extra pressure on defenders but the other forwards failed to capitalize. Joe Cole had a bad day at the office while Anelka's finishing betrayed him. He played some beautiful passes and also was in the right places, but he needs to improve his finishing to be a regular in the Chelsea line-up.
Riley gave the mancs 7 yellow cards and they deserevd every single one of them. We know from Riley's record that he would never be harsh on United. He did disrupt the passage of play sometimes but his yellow card decisions were all right. Having said that, I don't think Mike Riley is a good referee. If Mascherano was yellow carded for 'dissent' at Old Trafford, and the same law holds good now, Rooney and Ferdinand should be banned for the whole season. They showed no respect and repeatedly questioned every decision by the referee.
We could have won the match, but we should be happy with the draw. The home record is intact and the season promises so much. Even though Arsenal are top of the league now, I feel its just a matter of time now before we are back on top,
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