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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Full Match Report - Chelsea 2 - 1 Manchester United

Chelsea FC 2 - 1 Manchester United

Man of the Match: Michael Ballack 8/10 - Two goals from four shots, 81 per cent pass success
Two goals from Michael Ballack kept alive Chelsea's title hopes as they overcame Manchester United in an enthralling clash at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea's dreams appeared over after a monumental mistake by Ricardo Carvalho gifted United a 55th-minute equaliser to Wayne Rooney.
Ballack had given Chelsea a 45th-minute lead and he sealed the vital win in controversial circumstances by slotting home a penalty five minutes from time to put the hosts level on points with United at the top of the table

Chelsea left Frank Lampard out of their line-up following the death of his mother on Thursday. Manager Avram Grant also omitted veteran Claude Makelele and Florent Malouda, while Mikel John Obi, Michael Essien and Salomon Kalou were recalled.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson chose to leave Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, although defender Nemanja Vidic was fit enough to resume his partnership with Rio Ferdinand in defence.
Chelsea enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and Essien brought a diving save from Edwin Van der Sar.
United were then rocked in the ninth minute when Vidic was stretchered off with a facial injury. The Serbian defender was caught by Didier Drogba's knee as he stooped to head the ball clear and was subsequently replaced by Owen Hargreaves.

It meant a reshuffle for United with Hargreaves slotting in at right-back and Wes Brown switching to the centre of defence alongside Ferdinand.
United should have done better when Nani broke clear from his own half, but his long run ended with a speculative 25-yard shot that was high and wide.
The tempo, as expected, was fast and furious but goalscoring opportunities were at a premium. Chelsea, however, should have taken the lead in the 20th minute when Joe Cole got clear of the United defence and, after initially losing the ball, he struck it against the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.
Chelsea were leaving plenty of gaps in defence but United, with Rooney operating as a loan striker, were unable to exploit them. In the 23rd minute a neat combination between Drogba and Essien ended with the Ghanaian's cross eluding everyone in the six-yard box.

The goal sparked emotional scenes as all the Chelsea players held up Lampard's No 8 shirt with the message 'Pat Lampard - R.I.P' in a tribute to the midfielder's mother.
United were still struggling to create anything in front of goal despite a better share of possession at the start of the second half.
Brown found himself booked for a foul on Essien in the 52nd minute as, rather ominously for Chelsea, Ronaldo warmed-up on the touchline. But United got themselves back into the game thanks to a monumental error by Carvalho.
The Portuguese defender passed the ball straight to Rooney, who accepted the gift by firing beyond Cech into the net. In shooting, though, Rooney appeared to hurt his hip and Ferguson swiftly replaced him with Ronaldo.

Seconds later, Anderson was substituted for John O'Shea and Chelsea, knowing they had to get themselves back in front, added Nicolas Anelka to the fray in place of Paulo Ferreira.
Chelsea almost regained the lead in the 72nd minute when a free-kick by Drogba was well saved by Van der Sar under the crossbar.
A similar attempt by Ronaldo at the opposite end was well held by Cech as Ferguson appealed for United's fans to increase their celebrations.
Controversy then reigned when Wiley awarded a penalty after the assistant on the near side flagged for a handball when Michael Carrick charged down Essien's cross.

After the protests had been calmed down Ballack kept his nerve to convert the penalty and keep the title race open.
United twice had late efforts cleared off the line by Ashley Cole and substitute Andriy Shevchenko in the final few minutes, and tempers flared enough for Wiley to hand out bookings to Hargreaves and Ferdinand, as the match ended in Chelsea's favour.
At the end of the match, Chelsea's groundstaff were involved in a post-match bust-up with United players during a warm-down session.
United's Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, John O'Shea, Gerard Pique and Gary Neville were taking part in the warm-down on the pitch when they were asked to move by Chelsea groundstaff.

The row erupted when the players refused to come off the pitch and an altercation broke out between Chelsea stewards, groundstaff and the players.