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Monday, 6 February 2012

United stage amazing comeback to hold Chelsea

Manchester: Two penalties from Wayne Rooney brought Manchester United back from the dead to draw 3-3 with Chelsea in a pulsating game at Stamford Bridge.

The hosts were riding high on a three-goal lead shortly before the hour mark, with an own goals from Jonny Evans and a David Luiz header either side of a Juan Mata stunner giving the Blues the advantage.

But United unleashed a second-half onslaught to rescue a point at the Bridge, with Rooney and Javier Hernandez the heroes for the Red Devils.

United went into the game having failed to win in their last nine visits to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, and looked to the returning duo of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young to spearhead the attack along with Danny Welbeck.

Chelsea, meanwhile, handed a first start to new signing Gary Cahill, with skipper John Terry ruled out through injury.

The game had the feel of a usual heavyweight bout in the opening twenty minutes, with each side attempting to feel their way in to the game without leaving themselves exposed to the counter attack.

United had the lions' share of possession in the opening exchanges, and looked the more likely to break the deadlock as Rooney and Welbeck began to combine well up top.

The visitors were left to feel aggrieved with referee Howard Webb as they had two strong penalty appeals turned down within the space of ten minutes: first Young went over under a nudge from Jose Bosingwa, then Welbeck was felled by Cahill as he ran through on goal, but neither decision went the way of the Red Devils.

The game remained fairly balanced towards the end of the half, but then out of the blue, the Blues struck the first blow.

Juan Mata and Fernando Torres worked the space to the left of United's penalty area, and Daniel Sturridge wove his way in behind Patrice Evra before running at the near post. His cut-back took a nick of David De Gea’s outstretched leg before striking Jonny Evans in the chest at nestling in the back of the net.

The goal brought the game to life, as Sturridge then tested De Gea from distance before a United onslaught closed out the first half, with Petr Cech denying Rooney on two occasions and Welbeck from close range.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side looked the most likely to grab the next goal, but just forty seconds after the restart, Chelsea doubled their lead in emphatic style.

Torres got the ball in space on the right flank, and picked out Mata with a pin-point cross before the former Valencia man rifled home a sumptuous volley from inside the area.

And just five minutes later, Villas-Boas' side had a third, after Mata’s free-kick was flicked on by David Luiz and turned home by Rio Ferdinand’s shoulder.

It was further insult to the England international, as he suffered a torrent of abuse from the home fans throughout due to the on-going race row between his brother Anton and John Terry.

Desperate for a way back in to the game, Ferguson threw on Javier Hernandez to bolster the attack, and shortly before the hour mark, United grabbed a lifeline.

Sturridge brought down Evra inside the Chelsea box, and it was third time lucky for the visitors as referee Webb pointed to the spot. Rooney crashed home the ensuing penalty in to the top right-hand corner to keep his side in the game.

With such an open game, chances were coming thick and fast. De Gea had to get down low to save from Malouda, whilst Cech denied Rooney from the edge of the area after good link-up play between the England man and Hernandez.

But it was the Champions who struck next, again from a Rooney penalty, after Welbeck was caught by the outstretched leg of Ivanovic following good work from Hernandez.

The Bridge had gone from rocking to rocky, and it almost got worse for the hosts when substitute Oriol Romeu gave the ball away in his own half, but Hernandez could only fire wide across goal after being played in by Giggs.

Torres was then gifted a golden opportunity as a simple ball bounced over Evans' head, but the Spaniard dallied on the ball after driving goalwards and was eventually robbed by Valencia.

And with less than ten minutes to go, Torres – and Chelsea – were left to rue that miss, as United's famous comeback was completed.

Valencia and Welbeck combined well down the right. The former’s cross was gathered in by Rooney, whose shot was parried by Cech to Giggs before the Welsh veteran picked out Hernandez with a cross to and the Mexican headed home the equaliser.

Chelsea could have stolen the three points at the death when Mata's free-kick seemed destined for the top corner, but De Gea did brilliantly to turn the ball behind.

In the end, the sides had to settle for a point apiece from a match which will rightly go down in the annals of Premier League classics.


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