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Plucky Blues undone in game of fine margins


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0,,10268~10007055,00.jpgMan United 3-1 Chelsea

Plucky Blues undone in game of fine margins

Chelsea's title aspirations suffered a serious setback at Old Trafford as Luis Nani inspired Manchester United to a contentious victory over Andre Villas-Boas' side.

In a breath-taking and dramatic encounter, United had amassed a 3-0 interval lead after Chris Smalling, Nani and Wayne Rooney had all scored in incredibly fortuitous circumstances, while Ramires missed a guilt-edged opportunity at the other end in a pulse-raising first half.

And the game only continued to give after the half-time break as Fernando Torres scored inside thirty seconds of the restart to spark a Chelsea fight-back - ending a ten-game goal drought in the process as the West Londoners looked to rally from a demoralising first-half that had actually seen the Blues dictate much of the play.

However the game looked to turn again in the favour of Manchester United as referee Phil Dowd added to a tally of questionable decisions when he deemed Jose Bosingwa to have upended Nani inside the penalty area, only for red-hot media darling Wayne Rooney to slip on the turf and blaze well wide of the target in John Terry-esque fashion.

Meanwhile there was still time for the seemingly rejuvenated Torres to somehow miss an open goal with eight minutes remaining as he rounded goalkeeper David de Gea, only to skew his left-footed effort woefully wide when a composed finish could have set up a grandstand finale - fuelling the media bonfire in the process.

It means the Blues fall five points behind the defending champions after a game they did not deserve to lose - Chelsea bossed the game in terms of chances and whilst United were commendably clinical, Villas-Boas and his men will rue their ill fortune after a number of glaring misses and some abysmally poor refereeing. Smalling's opener was allowed despite the former Fulham man being well ahead of the last defender from Ashley Young's whipped delivery, whilst Nani was also marginally offside as he came from deep before driving forward to unleash a wonderful effort into the roof of Petr Cech's net.

A flurry of nothing free-kicks constantly fell the way of the hosts before a shocking decision saw a penalty awarded in the second half when Bosingwa was judged to have brought Nani down in the area despite clearly getting his foot to the ball - thankfully, through Rooney's miss, justice was served.

And the most-embarrassing offence of the lot saw Dowd punish a perfectly-executed sliding tackle by Ramires with a yellow card, begging the question as to whether he actually possesses refereeing badges, or if he is simply somebody Sir Alex Ferguson hand-picked from the Old Trafford crowd before kick-off.

3-1 is a misleading scoreline, and the result belies Chelsea's best performance of the season. Dowd's showing, however, coupled with some wayward Chelsea finishing served as the perfect catalyst to a negative result, but Villas-Boas must take heart from a dominating display that saw his side consistently trouble an experienced Manchester United side.

Many presentable chances were wasted by the visitors whilst United were ferociously clinical; scoring three goals from three attempts on target. An element of luck befell the champions - two offside decisions and a fortunate ricochet for Rooney's strike as the half-time whistle approached does indeed demonstrate why Ferguson's men lifted the league crown back in May.

Whilst their championship aspirations have suffered a serious set-back, the Blues still maintain third position and are only three points behind United's cross-town rivals City, who surrendered a two-goal lead to draw against Fulham - a team whom Chelsea play hosts to in Wednesday's Carling Cup third round encounter.

There is still a long way to go in the long slog for the Premier League title, but any harbouring hopes for the title may already have been dismissed as the United machine relentlessly saunters on - though it should, in truth, have been a different result.

A draw would have been a deserved return for the Blues. Despite their occasional defensive frailties, Villas-Boas' charges matched the champions on all fronts and but for some poor finishing from Messrs Ramires and Torres respectively, the British press could have been discussing the come-back to end all come-backs.

Instead their attentions will be diverted away from both Wayne Rooney's penalty miss and Phil Dowd's masterclass in how-not-to-referee, but towards Torres' embarrassing blunder after rounding de Gea and blasting wide an open goal gaping invitingly before him.

Presentable chances aplenty had fallen the way of the visitors even before Smalling's seventh minute opener - Ramires' close-range effort from Torres' clever cut-back being directed straight at the sprawling Manchester United stopper. Had the Brazilian directed the ball even an inch elsewhere, or alternatively leaving the ball to the marauding Daniel Sturridge at the back post, it would have been an emphatic return from Chelsea's first meaningful attack.

Frank Lampard was the next to fire just wide when he gathered a delightful Raul Meireles dinked pass - the usually reliable England star failed to hook the ball cleanly enough and the chance went begging as Chelsea looked to urge an instant reply.

Before that Lampard opportunity, Torres had robbed possession from Jonny Evans before driving the ball narrowly wide of the far post, before Branislav Ivanovic did well to work Juan Mata's cross towards the target - unfortunately he could only direct the ball at United's under-fire custodian.

The lion's share of chances was falling the way of the West London outfit, and in Torres they had a man suddenly revitalised in a stadium that he holds very fond memories of. Jinking here, there and everywhere with an impressive combination of speed and strength, his shocking miss aside, this was something close to a £50 million performance from the former Liverpool man.

Surely his well-taken goal in the 46th minute is testament to a much-improved personal display, but this will surely be seen as a case of one step forward, step steps back for the Spanish World Cup winner. The pro-northern media will ensure he never forgets that miss, although, in fairness, it may actually inspire the Spaniard even more than his clinical finish immediately after the restart.

United rarely find themselves second-best at Old Trafford, largely thanks to the sucker-punch that is their clinical counter-attack. Regardless of the offside call - or lack of, rather - Nani should not have been allowed to advance so far without being pressed before launching a raking effort beyond the helpless Cech.

Chelsea were stunned considering their dominance, and the game was won when Rooney struck on the verge of the interval after the ball had bobbled around inside the penalty area. Cech had no chance as Phil Jones' shot bounced off Terry right into Rooney's feet. If only such fortune would fall Torres' way...

Nicolas Anelka came on for the ineffectual Lampard at half-time and it was the Frenchman that released Torres, who coolly converted just 28 seconds into the second period with the deftest of finishes. It was a goal that does not suggest a lack of confidence on the Chelsea number 9's account - but his horror miss will certainly have undone all the good work that was part of an excellent performance.

Torres had also passed up a chance when he hooked over from twelve yards after the effervescent Juan Mata had teamed up with Anelka down the Chelsea left. The switch in formation after Lampard had been replaced was adding to the Blues' fluidity, with Ramires and Raul Meireles impressing in their respective roles.

United would go on to hit the woodwork on three occasions and Rooney would also pass up a great chance to add to their lead when he slipped for the previously-mentioned penalty that had dubiously been awarded to the home side - but the crucial moment remains that Torres chance. Had it have gone in, one of the great come-backs in modern football history may have become a reality.

The Blues were desperately unlucky, but you must concede that United were the better side. 3-1 is a harsh scoreline and there are at least a handful of positives to take. The performance was commendable and the spirit of the players to come out after half-time and put in a real shift was pleasing to see.

As a fan, you do not mind losing when your team give everything. You do mind when you find yourself handicapped by refereeing. Villas-Boas wore a wry smile, suggesting he half-expected this from Ferguson's champions. But perhaps the best thing to come from this game is the freshness of the Portuguese manager. Taking off Frank Lampard at half-time was an incredibly bold move - one that his predecessors (José Mourinho included) certainly would not have dared to do.

Entering the lion's den with such attacking ambition may have been ultimately foolhardy, but Villas-Boas opted to fight fire and fire - it is just a shame that a combination of piss-poor refereeing and even worse finishing sought to extinguish the Chelsea flame.

Glorious chances fell the way of Torres on two occasions, Ramires should have buried his effort and Lampard really ought to have done better in the first half, too. It's funny how in times like these you look to the much-maligned Didier Drogba and think how much more potent this Chelsea side could be with him playing a central role.

The foundations are there for Chelsea - it's just a shame the fortune isn't. United seem to have stocked up on luck under Sir Alex, and that was enough to decide an incredibly tight, tense and terrific affair. A game of fine margins, football really can be heart-breaking when you lose.

United have won the battle and they may well win the war, but they were given a real scare by Chelsea and a lot of positives can be taken from this.

Manchester United (4-4-2):De Gea; Smalling (Valencia 61), Jones, Evans, Evra ©; Nani, Fletcher, Anderson (Carrick 61), Young; Rooney, Hernandez (Berbatov 78)

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry ©, Cole; Ramires, Meireles (Mikel 78), Lampard (Anelka 46); Sturridge (Lukaku 67), Torres, Mata.

The TalkChelsea.net 'Man of the Match' award goes to Man United's number 17 - NANI

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FT result doesn't tell the truth. We could've easily won it with the performance we've shown. It's only a 5th game of the season and it won't have the impact like it had last year. Today we've shown that we should be equally treated when it comes to winning PL and that our lads play truly like a team. Anyone can score and they don't give up.

United scored 2 offside goals which impacted the game a lot, but our defending isn't what it used to be, but then again it's not easy to defend from Young, Nani and Rooney and have that little Mexican shit sneak around in your box.

It made me happy seeing that Andre is a man of his word and that he isn't scared of substituting players when they are not good. Kalou off after 35mins, Terry and Lamps on bench against Leverkusen and Lamps off after 45mins. He also gave Lukaku a chance and gave Sturridge a start. He came to Old Toilet to attack and try to outplay United. We did a good job, but in the end, Chelsea is a work in progress with a manager who been there for less then 6 months, while United is an almost finished product with the manager who's been there for 20 years.

In the end Old Traford is the 2nd hardest place to bring points from after Camp Nou and it was nice to see the boys playing good. Boys did well, and I expect to see more of the same.

I also really hope that today we got a new number 9 who will shut up the scum who hates on him from the day he left Liverpool.

CFC's man of the match for me is Fernando Torres, 1 goal and could've easily scored 2 more and made an assist.

The best is yet to come and keep the blue flag flying high! :cfc:

oh good review as always Alex :)

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Brilliant stuff as usual Alex.

Really thought we was caught whenever Nani or Young had the ball and somewhat became hesitent in defence whenver, which at this level we shouldn't be doing! A dissapointing performance from the back-line who should have been a lot better. Ashely Cole probably had the best game this season, so far, but he really was poor and i hope AVB gives Bertrand the chance to excell. A bright spark he could be!

Feel sorry for Torres for not hatching a brace, but the confidence from the goal neitherless should be enough to make him soldier on for the next game, and to be looking for another goal. Phil Jones was excellent for Man Ure, and i so beleive we should have gone for him! Bosingwa marked Young well in the first half but was caught more in the second half. But, the whole was in our favour when Lampard went off. Maybe signs for things to come?

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The foundations are there for Chelsea - it's just a shame the fortune isn't. United seem to have stocked up on luck under Sir Alex, and that was enough to decide an incredibly tight, tense and terrific affair. A game of fine margins, football really can be heart-breaking when you lose.

Good line, Alex.

We really did send a message, maybe not to the media but, to Fergie that we aren't the weak team everyone seems to think we are. While I still doubt our title chances, I do firmly believe we'll keep both Manchester clubs on their toes.

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Guest justin_3d

Good review.

Look forward to see what other changes AVB will make.

I would love to see David Luiz, now that this game is out of the way.

Also some shots at Romeu, Josh and Ryan won't hurt either.

Next EPL game against Swansea should not be a hard fixture, so awesome time to give some youngster their time.

And of course the Carling cup game coming as well.

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I know the importance of the high line of defense and that it serves in the transition to attack as quickly as possible...but I hope AVB takes more caution in some of the bigger games.

If one of our defenders doesn't make a mistake, I'm sure one of the linesmen or the referees are going to, just like that failed offside trap.

To be fair, apart from that one incident there weren't too many scares related to that, as we kept the ball better in their half. But its not yet as good as how Barca do it, so we're always going to face a threat on the counter against these kinds of teams..I hope AVB would have learned from this

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Great report, it really mirrors every chelsea fan's frustration at our lack of fortune, and the painfully biased refereeing.

I can't believe how fast our midfield was when Lamps got subed. I've always had Frank in the untouchable category, but maybe he does need to take less part in our season..

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Great report as always Alex!

IMO Phil Jones was much better for them than Nani but anyway, it doesn't matter. Very good performance and even though we have come away with nothing, there are more positives than negatives. Our football is improving game by game. Compare the amount of creativity and smart running that we had in this game to last season - very impressive. We're on our way!

Best performance at Old Toilet in the Roman era!

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Even after a loss, a paniful loss, I enjoyed this report. Just like I enjoyed a meet-up of the Czech Chelsea fans in a pub. We were watching the game together, there were also Man United fans so it was a good evening, no matter what happened at Old Trafford. With this spirit, movement and agility, and with slightly better finishing, I have no doubts about the future.

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