Manchester United got back into the Premier League title race with a 3-2 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday. The match was played at a frantic pace, which provided excellent entertainment for the sell-out crowd. However, the match finished in controversy as Chelsea were reduced to ten men in the space of 5 minutes, with both Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres receiving their marching orders. That was followed by a Javier Hernandez winner with just 15 minutes remaining. Replays clearly showed that the Mexican was half a yard off-side when the ball was played into him.
United started the match at a whirlwind pace, with the ever impressive Robin Van Persie causing mayhem amongst the Chelsea defence. He played a big part in the opener, his vicious shot cannoning off the post and rebounding into the net off the back of the luckless David Luiz. Things got even worse for Chelsea a few minutes later as Valencia again got down the wing and played a superb ball into Van Persie, who wasn’t going to miss.
The game looked over, but Roberto Di Matteo’s men had other ideas. First Juan Mata scored a superbly placed free-kick past De Gea. That was promptly followed by a Ramires header, and Chelsea suddenly looked in the driving seat. The match then swung back in United’s favour as Van Persie sent Ashley Young through on goal. As Young sprinted through the chasing Ivanovic’s legs came into contact with the United winger. It appeared accidental, but it stopped the United man having a clear run at goal and by the letter of the law he had to go. Whilst referee Mark Clattenburg had little option on the Ivanovic sending off, no-one could have predicted the Fernando Torres dismissal. Already on a yellow card for a high challenge on Tom Cleverley, Torres raced towards Jonny Evans. The United man launched himself at the ball, missed it and made slight contact with Torres. Torres went down, and Evans immediately pleaded his innocence. To the shock of the entire stadium, Clattenburg produced a yellow card for ‘diving’ and Torres was off.
With just over 20 minutes left, the nine men of Chelsea battled bravely, but it looked only a matter of time before United would make their numerical superiority pay. Rooney was take off and replaced by the live-wire Hernandez, and his arrival proved key.
The win has moved United level on points with Manchester City and to within a point of Chelsea. The Chelsea team were visibly fuming at the end of the game and Manager Roberto Di Matteo said “It is a shame a game like this had to be decided in that manner by officials. Surely when the referee watches it he will realise he has made big mistakes.”
It has also emerged today that Chelsea have made a formal complaint against referee Mark Clattenburg, accusing him of using ‘inappropriate language’ towards two Chelsea players. It’s a shame such a superb match between two great teams has been once again overshadowed by controversy.