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Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd


BlueLion.

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logo1.jpgSaturday 8 November 2009, the FA Premier League, Stamford Bridge, West London

Chelsea claimed a precious victory over Manchester United to keep them top of the Premier League.

Remembrance Sunday; a day that celebrates the end of the hostilities of the First World War and commemorates the men and women who fell between 1914 and 1918. In 2009, a pivotal battle in the Premier League was fought out between two of the country's superpowers - leaders Chelsea and defending champions Manchester United.

It was the hosts who came out victors in this Battle of Stamford Bridge, thanks to a goal scored through Blues captain John Terry. On a day that honours servicemen who fell during the Great War, it was apt that the captain of Chelsea Football Club, nicknamed the Pensioners, should score the winning. A poignant minute of silence was impeccably observed by the Chelsea faithful and the visiting fans from Manchester.

The Chelsea skipper rose highest to meet Frank Lampard's pinpoint delivery, and though the ball clipped Nicolas Anelka en route to finding the bottom corner of Edwin van der Sar's goal, few could have begrudged a boyhood Manchester United support claiming his first goal against the Red Devils.

The result is a highly significant one for Chelsea, who are now five points clear of both United and Arsenal. The Blues were off-colour and far from their deadly best, but their unbeaten home run in the Premier League now stands at twelve months without suffering defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Much was made of the game prior to kick-off, with many claiming it to be the most important game of the season so far. With Chelsea already two points clear at the top, United were in desperate need to close the gap on the Premier League's leaders.

There was some significant team news for the visiting side, who were already without the ailing Rio Ferdinand - both Dimitar Berbatov and Nemanja Vidic were far from match fitness, but the Serbian defender was on the bench with the threat of Didier Drogba challenging an inexperienced centre back pairing of Jonny Evans and Wes Brown.

However, the pair gave the Ivorian striker very little to craft openings for the hosts, and were aided immensely by the return to fitness of Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher; a player so often called up by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United's crucial matches.

United began the better of the two sides, with Luis Antonio Valencia testing Ashley Cole with an early foray down the visitors' right, but Cole was up to the challenge. Michael Carrick blazed over before Wayne Rooney was denied only by the linesman's flag - with replays showing the England striker was level with the last defender as the ball was played.

Ferguson's side were furthered angered when referee Martin Atkinson waved away penalty claims after John Terry appeared to bring Valencia down inside the area, but the official gave the benefit of the doubt to the England skipper. Terry was cynical and though he was not helped by slipping, a spot kick should have been awarded to the visitors - however, the referee waved play on.

Ryan Giggs and Carrick had long-range efforts that Petr Cech comfortably gathered, but United were being restricted by Chelsea's stubborn rearguard, with Carvalho and Ivanovic looking particularly imperious. The Portuguese defender blocked a close range Rooney effort as the quarter-hour mark passed, but United were lacking a cutting edge in front of goal.

Chelsea almost punished them for failing to take their chances but Anelka's efforts; the first a rasping drive and the second a curling effort, were both excellently stopped by van der Sar. The half-time whistle was sounded with United just shading the first half, but the hosts had had the better opportunities. Drogba hooked wide late on, but the United defence had kept the Blues striker relatively quiet throughout.

The second half continued to the same pattern, with Fletcher excelling in midfield, in helping to break up Chelsea's attacking rhythm. Deco was being completely marked out the match, and both goalkeepers made regulation saves as the tempo was increased slightly. Carvalho did well to block a Fletcher effort and Cech tipped over a curling Rooney effort to keep United at bay.

Rooney then shot wide after playing a clever one-two with Valencia, but United were punished with 15 minutes remaining when Chelsea took the lead. Ashley Cole was felled by Fletcher, and Lampard's delivery was met by Terry, whose effort went in via Anelka. Didier Drrgba may have been offside when Terry connected with the ball, but though the Ivorian tried to poke home, the goal stood and Chelsea had taken a massive step in the race for the Premier League title.

Joe Cole entered the play to make his 250th appearance for Chelsea on his 28th birthday, and Salomon Kalou soon came on to replace the stricken Drogba, who had received a high boot in the ribs. United's late rally was more desperate than threatening, and besides an important intervention by the brilliant Ivanovic and a superb clearing header from Anelka, the visitors were left frustrated as Chelsea celebrated a massive victory.

It is a result that may just point the way to who will be crowned the Premier League champions this season. Chelsea were patient and professional throughout, but a defeat is rough on United who in truth outplayed the hosts. Chelsea were not to care, however, and celebrations in West London will continue long into the night.

___________________________________________________________________

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry ©, A Cole; Essien, Ballack, Lampard, Deco (J Cole 62); Anelka (Alex 90), Drogba (Kalou 82)

Manchester United (4-5-1): Van der Sar; O' Shea, Brown, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (Owen 84), Giggs (Obertan 84); Rooney

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Chelsea's number 2 - Branislav Ivanovic

ManchesterUnited-BI2.jpg

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