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Chelsea 1-1 Man United


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Chelsea F.C. 1 - 1 Manchester United

September 21 2008, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, London


Salomon Kalou came off the bench to head home a late equaliser to preserve Chelsea's home record.

Park Ji-Sung had put the visitors ahead after Dimitar Berbatov's shot bounced off Petr Cech's stomach, allowing the Korean to give Sir Alex Ferguson's side the advantage. Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou were eventually introduced, with the latter heading past Tomas Kuszczak to earn the Blues a 1-1 draw. It is Chelsea's second consecutive home league draw under Luiz Felipe Scolari, but the Chelsea manager will be pleased with the work ethic shown by his players and the desire and determination to equalise against the champions.

Scolari elected to keep the basis of the side that beat Bordeaux in midweek, but with Deco injured in the warm-up, Michael Ballack was called in at short notice to play against Frank Lampard at centre midfield. Manchester United began with Rooney and ex-Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov up front, with Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo both on the bench for the visitors.

The champions began on the front foot, and were putting Chelsea under tremendous early pressure, but pressure the home side shook off with ease. Rooney hammered a shot over the bar after intercepting a stray pass from Petr Cech, and Darren Fletcher miscued a shot wide, but United were failing to show any conviction in the final third of the field.

The Chelsea midfield was missing the drive of Michael Essien and the attacking flair of Deco, but with John Mikel Obi starring, the home side began to take a hold of the game, even though they lost Ricardo Carvalho to injury with twelve minutes played. Suffering from a knock to the knee, the Portuguese was replaced by Alex da Costa, and the big Brazilian played excellently throughout.

Moments previously, Joe Cole should have put Chelsea in the lead, but drove wide when one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar. A long ball up field caught the United defence asleep, allowing Cole to steal in behind Jonny Evans - drafted into the side to replace the suspended Nemanja Vidic, though the England midfielder's shot lacked accuracy and went wide, with van der Sar stranded.

It was through a mistake by Chelsea's number one that handed United the initiative, only moments after he had brilliantly denied Rio Ferdinand with an excellent block. Patrice Evra out-muscled Jose Bosingwa inside the box before cutting back to Berbatov. The Bulgarian attempted to curl a shot which Cech almost managed to hold on to, but the ball rolled into the path of Park who finished with the Czech goalkeeper stranded.

Chelsea looked for an immediate response but United were defending valiantly, reducing Chelsea to long-range efforts. Anelka and Alex had efforts from range, the latter saved by substitute United goalkeeper Kuszczak, but the Blues were failing to break down a tough United rearguard action that suggested Sir Alex Ferguson was more than happy with a single goal lead.

At the interval, Scolari replaced Florent Malouda with the fit-again Didier Drogba, and the Ivorian's mere presence appeared to galvanise the Chelsea team. Within minutes, Chelsea resumed control of the game, and through Drogba, now had an additional target man up front. Joe Cole continued to frustrate the home crowd with poor play on 65 minutes, firing straight at Kuszczak after being released by a raking ball from Michael Ballack, before Anelka had a nightmare in front of goal.

With six goals scored in five pre-season matches and three thus far in the campaign, it would have been easy to have bet your life on the Frenchman scoring after Joe Cole teased a cross between Rio Ferdinand and Kuszczak, but Anelka - unmarked and less than two yards out - failed to make any contact at all with the ball. The striker had fired wide under pressure from Ferdinand only moments earlier, and Chelsea's lack of quality in the final third, and lack of concentration when they managed to break down the United defence, was quite apparent against the champions.

But the misses only made Chelsea become more determined to pull back level. Cue a Luiz Felipe Scolari master-stroke. The Brazilian tactician took off Michael Ballack, before switching to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, with Anelka and Drogba up top, and Cole and Kalou out wide in the midfield. Within six minutes of the Ivorian's introduction, he was on the score sheet; heading home from Mikel's quality free kick with ten minutes left.

The Blues tried their hardest to snatch a winner late on, and only a desperate lunge from Gary Neville stopped Kalou from scoring again; the United captain throwing himself to block the effort. The final whistle sounded to sighs of relief and sighs of disappointment, but Scolari will certainly see this as a point gained, rather than two points lost.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho (Alex), Terry, Ashley Cole, Mikel, Joe Cole, Ballack (Kalou), Lampard, Malouda (Drogba), Anelka

Man United: Van der Sar (Kuszczak), Neville, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Fletcher, Hargreaves, Scholes (Ronaldo), Park (O'Shea), Berbatov, Rooney

Attendance: 41,760

Star Man : Alex


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