As expected, no team came out of the game and say that they were the head and shoulders ahead of the other. Chelsea started in a slow, sluggish manner and were hit hard when Wayne Rooney gave United the lead in the first half, founding it hard to get that elusive equaliser for the rest of the game.
Carlo Ancelotti earlier said in his press conference that he has decided on his preferred strike force, but considering how Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres combined during the game, he could have done with a little more thinking on that front.
As David Luiz was ineligible for this tie, Branislav Ivanovic came in at centre-back after being rested for the Stoke game.
Chelsea had made a reluctant start to the game, but got an early chance when Torres latched on to a Evra’s pass, but he just slipped while taking his shot and his shot went straight into Edwin van der Sar’s hand.
Next, Didier Drogba warmed van der Sar’s palms with a thunderous shot from the edge of the box, but the Man Utd keeper was able to push it over the bar to keep Chelsea at bay.
Even though Chelsea were dominating the possession now and had created the better of the chances, it was United who took the lead. Michael Carrick played a measured ball to the ever-green Ryan Giggs on the left wing and his first touch took out Bosingwa completely, leaving him with all the time in the world to pick out the unmarked Rooney in the box, who slotted in a first-time finish into the right-hand side bottom corner.
Chelsea’s best spell of possession came right at the end of first half. We again dominated the possession, but looked far more threatening and had more purpose about our play.
Fernando Torres was able to beat Rafael on the wings, and nice exchange of passes between him and Zhirkov created an opening for him, but he wasn’t able to time his shot properly. Then it was a series of chances, first Torres’s deft touch came of the after some nice work by Drogba on the left, and then Lampard’s, making his 500th appearance, resulting shot from the ricochet was cleared off the line by Patrice Evra.
Chelsea went into half-time a goal down and despite dominating the possession for large parts of the game never looked in control of the match.
Manchester United were forced to make an early tactical change in the second half when they brought on Nani in place of the injured Rafael, as Valencia switched to the right back position.
Ramires had good chance to equalise when Drogba found him with his cross from the right, but his header was off-target, when he should have been able to at least hit the target.
With a breakthrough looking unlikely, Carlo Ancelotti brought on Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda to replace Yuri Zhirkov and Didier Drogba. The amusement on the face of Drogba after coming off told its own story.
Chelsea now switched to 4-3-3 with Malouda and Anelka taking positions on either side of Torres to complete the front three.
Chelsea now went all-out in search of the goal and it was Fernando Torres who came closest to score when his header needed fingertips of a fully-stretched van der Sar to pave it away. Frank Lampard and Ivanovic also came close; however van der Sar never looked under any trouble.
Just as the game looked destined for an uneventful finish the biggest talking point came when Spanish referee, Alberto Undiano Mallenco, didn’t give the penalty for a foul on Ramires by Evra in the dying moments of the game. The decision was even harder to digest because the extra official standing behind the goal had a clear view on it, but still didn’t award any penalty.
The result meant that Chelsea are left with a tricky task of overturning a first-leg defeat at home, which has only been achieved once in the past, recently by Inter Milan against Bayern Munich.
However, Carlo Ancelotti has to make some tough decisions to make before the next game. Both the strikers looked alright in patches, with Drogba shading ahead, but still they never seem to combine well and didn’t look a proper combination as a result.
His substitutions bewildered some of the fans as its hard to explain why Florent Malouda came on instead of Salomon Kalou, who has been in much better form than the Frenchmen, and also the fact that taking off Didier Drogba when he is having a decent game and looked the most threatening player on the pitch when we are in need of a goal doesn’t make any sense.
Also, John Obi Mikel would be pushing for a start after looking very composed when coming on and considering how vulnerable our defence is when playing the 4-4-2 formation; it makes sense to give him a chance.
The tie is not over, but its advantage United for now.
Carlo Ancelotti was disappointed with the result, but was contend with the overall performance of his players, after the game he said; “The performance was not bad. We had some moments where we weren’t able to have good control of the game with possession, in the middle of the first half, but in general the performance was good.”
“We had chances but it was difficult when we went 1-0 down to come back into the game. They used the counter-attack very well, but we had some chances. We hit the post and should have had a penalty and [Edwin] Van der Sar made a fantastic save from [Fernando] Torres.”
“We are disappointed but fortunately we still have 90 minutes at Old Trafford. It will not be easy, but last season at the same moment we needed to win there and we won the title. I have to believe. We believe we can win there.”
On the penalty incident, he added; “One. It was clear. It was the foul on Ramires. I didn’t see the other one, but that one was a clear penalty.”
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Bosingwa (Mikel 78), Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Zhirkov (Malouda 70); Torres, Drogba (Anelka 71).