It’s not often that a score line so blatantly refutes the events of the game, but the 3-0 sore line at half-time did just that, and even though Fernando Torres scored early in the second half and we had chances to reduce the deficit it was not to be, as Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season came to end on a crazy day at Old Trafford.
All of Manchester United’s goals on the day, starting from Chris Smalling’s header, continuing in Nani’s brilliant strike to the easy tap in for Wayne Rooney, had a slice of fortune about them on the day, but were nonetheless ruthlessly taken by the United players.
Earlier, Andre Villas-Boas made the decision that everyone was looking out for as he gave Fernando Torres the start after his assists in the midweek, which meant that the in-form Nicolas Anelka had to do with a role on the bench, with Daniel Sturridge and Juan Mata playing either side of the Spaniard in a 4-3-3 formation.
The first chance of the game fell to Ramires, whose first time volley was saved by David De Gea as the Blues looked to get the early initiative.
Chelsea’s last attempt at victory was put off the track by an early strike by Javier Hernandez, and once again we suffered the same fate as Chris Smalling put the hosts ahead inside ten minutes from a Ashley Young free-kick. Smalling looked offside and that was probably the reason he got a free header with his markers left stranded at the edge of the box.
The difference from the game in May, where we succumbed to the early goal, was clearly apparent as Chelsea went on to the front foot straightaway.
Fernando Torres then had the chance to put Chelsea’s great start on the scorecard when he received a misplaced pass from Anderson, and despite doing the initial build-up brilliantly to get into a shooting position, he scuffed the eventual shot wide of the goal.
Frank Lampard was next to get his shot away, but failed to hit the target after some good work by Raul Meireles. Then came the golden chance for us, Mata supplied a great through ball to Torres, and the Spaniard then laid it on the plate for the two Chelsea players, Ramires and Daniel Sturridge, to score, but sadly it was Ramires who put the shot away rather than the better placed Sturridge.
Chelsea was totally dominant now and it looked as if it was only a matter of time before the equaliser will be scored.
However, it was Manchester United who once again scored to double their lead from a brilliant strike by Nani. The goal which initially looked just like a brilliant strike was again started from an offside position, seemingly missed by the linesman, so he should have never been allowed to get this far.
And so we trailed by two goals despite being the better side and creating more chances, but it was to get even worse as Wayne Rooney was gifted a goal on the stroke of half time. John Terry’s clearance rebounded off Nani into the path of Rooney who had an easy tap in.
Much to the surprise of most fans, Nicolas Anelka came on in the place of Frank Lampard. And, the faithful fans who had made the long journey up North were given an early hope in the second half after Fernando Torres pulled one back for the Blues from a great dink over the keeper after Anelka’s brilliant ‘vertical’ ball in the box.
The early goal was essential to find a way back into the game, but as was the case in this game, every time Chelsea threatened to get control United tried to get the decisive blow at the other end.
Nani once again in the thick of things as he unleashed a fierce shot, but was deflected off on to the cross bar, and he was the first to react to the loose ball, but was brought down by Bosingwa resulting in a penalty. With Rooney in great form and already a goal to his name things looked bleak, but luckily for us he reminded us of Moscow after slipping at the penalty spot and blazing his shot wide.
With Chelsea going gung-ho in search of goals, our defensive frailties came to the fore with Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic not having particularly good outings albeit with limited protection in front of the back four.
With a two goal lead and Chelsea threatening, United laid back and introduced the experienced duo of Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia to get a grip on the game, while we brought on Romelu Lukaku to get some fresh legs in attack.
With time passing by, Fernando Torres had two chances to score, either side of a miss by Rooney.
First chance was all down to the Spaniard when he showed the turn of pace and quick feet to carve out to space for him, but his shot was well saved by De Gea, and the rebound over the bar by Torres.
With every miss the desperation grew and United were themselves guilty of spurning chances to kill off the game. Wayne Rooney had a golden opportunity to add to his already impressive goal tally, but his weak shot could only hit the post as it slowly crawled away.
With ten minutes to go, the elusive chance came for which sadly Torres’s afternoon will be remembered by. After receiving a brilliant through ball from Ramires, he rounded off the keeper expertly and with the goal gaping, he somehow managed to miss the goal when it would have been easier to score.
The chance was gone and with that Chelsea’s hopes for a result form the game as the game finally mellowed down. United had one more decent chance to add to their tally, but seemed to find Chelsea’s finishing from the first half as Dimitar Berbatov failed to capitalise on Rooney’s perfectly laid ball.
The game had lots of positives for the Blues, particularly Fernando Torres’s performance for at least half an hour during the second half, but also reminded us of how weak our defence has been at times. Raul Meireles playing at the base of midfield does provide us with that composed passing, but doesn’t provide the defensive cover of Mikel which we badly missed in the game.
It’s getting better going forward for Villas-Boas as the games go by, but he must be concerned how loose his defense looks at the moment.
Andre Villas-Boas was himself surprised by the route the game took, he said; “It was a strange game, very, very open and a lot of opportunities for both teams.”
“If luck could play a better part for our side today, maybe. We had some very good chances to even the score or even to score first.
“The scoreline went crazy in the first half, but we had good opportunities to do something in this game.
“Coming back from 3-0 down is always difficult and we had to take risks without exposing ourselves too much.
“The second-half recovery was very good and we had a couple of chances to even the score. The scoreline is crazy.”
Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Meireles (Mikel 78), Lampard (Anelka h-t); Sturridge (Lukaku 67), Torres, Mata.
Goals Torres 46