Sunday, November 26, 2006

Draw for United and Chelsea

Quite a number of pundits forecast a draw between the 2 giants, and they were right.

There was nothing to chose between these two heavyweights of English football - Manchester United taking the honours in the first half.

If there is an advantage to be gleamed from the situation, it is that Chelsea possess the stronger of the two squads.

For the first 45 minutes, the Premiership leaders showed why they still enjoy a three-point advantage over the champions.

With Cristiano Ronaldo rampaging down the right and Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha switching around with the ferocity of bees round a honey-pot, United were in control.

Rooney's second-minute header from a Giggs cross set the stall for the way the first half developed.

United broke the deadlock just before the half hour from a glorious move.

Giggs, midway inside his own half, found Rooney on the Chelsea corner of the centre circle and his swift, simple pass found Saha just outside the Chelsea box.

The Frenchman, whose fluffed sitter and missed penalty will be best remembered from United's European Champions League defeat at Celtic in midweek, controlled the ball superbly and curled his left-foot shot around Carvalho and just inside Cudicini's near post from the edge of the D.

Chelsea's two first-half chances centred on 20-yard shots by Geremi and Frank Lampard which United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar saved comfortably at his near post.

Chelsea brought on Robben for Geremi at the start of the second half, but United still had the better of the early exchanges.

Michael Carrick's glorious reverse pass set up Rooney on the left side of the Chelsea box and both Saha and Ronaldo were inches away from scoring from his dangerous low cross.

Despite failing to control Gabriel Heinze's left-wing cross, Ronaldo still managed to get the ball from the far post to Saha six yards from goal. But Terry bravely blocked his efforts.

But Chelsea were now beginning to rest control from United.

In the 63rd minute Lampard tested Van der Sar with a powerful 25-yard shot and, six minutes later, Chelsea were level.

The goal stemmed from a slip-shod free-kick by Giggs for United in the Chelsea half.

The Londoners eventually won a corner and Lampard's deep delivery to the far post saw Carvalho leap above Heinze to head home from eight yards with the ball going in off Saha's head and the underside of the bar.

Sir Alex Ferguson said after seeing his side maintain their lead at the top of the table: "We proved we can compete and that when we reach the high levels of performance we are the best team in the country at the moment.

"The test for us now is to step forward from this, because winning championships is about beating other teams. If we want to win the title, consistency is the name of the game.

"It is disappointing to draw because we were in a winning position and allowed them to get an equaliser.

"It was a big opportunity for us, but they got the break they needed.

"But Chelsea should take credit from the game. They never stopped fighting, although we did not allow them to break up our rhythm."


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