Sunday, September 23, 2007

United get big decisions but they deserved to beat Chelsea

Chelsea came to Old Trafford today for their first game minus Jose Mourinho after he parted company with the club earlier on in the week. The football world wanted to see how his former players would react, in truth they worked very hard and they will no doubt argue that every big decision went United's way.

The game in part hinged in two very big decisions, a poor tackle on Evra by Mikel for which the referee Mike Dean sent him off mid-way through the first halt and then a late penalty award right at the death, when Louis Saha was brought down by Ben Haim.

In truth both decisions were very harsh, the Mikel sending-off was one those tackles that often go unpunished. Joe Cole committed an even worse foul on Ronaldo in the second half but he only received a yellow card for his troubles. So it was somewhat surprising that Dean had sent off the Chelsea midfielder in that opening period. For the penalty award Louis Saha made a meal out of the contact of which there was some, so here again Chelsea will feel hard done to.

However controversial those decisions were United did create by far the better chances in the opening period. Early in the first half Rooney brought the very best out of Petr Cech when his curling right foot effort from 25 yards looked all the way as if it was going to end up in the back of the net, but the Chelsea stopper pulled off a superb save to deny him.

Evra had a good shout for a penalty turned down when Joe Cole brought him down before getting the ball. Ryan Giggs elected to try and lob the ball over Cech instead of heading the ball into a virtually open net.

Then Vidic beat Shevchenko and Terry with a trademark powerful header only for it to sail into the grateful arms of Cech. United broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when Giggs and Tevez linked up as the Apache planted his header beyond the reach of the Chelsea keeper. Up and until that point both Giggs and Tevez had been quite poor and in truth they didn’t improve after that crucial passage of play.

The story of the second half was that of the first with United dominating possession but without creating any clear cut chances, apart from when substitute Saha was put through only to shoot instead of squaring the ball to the unmarked Rooney who would have surely scored if the Frenchman hadn't elected to shoot. Chelsea did come back into the game as it wore on, but without seriously troubling Van der Sar.

The game ended as it had started in controversy when Saha converted the penalty to hammer the final nail into Chelsea's coffin, but who cares as United won and as a result are now second in the league.

Marco van Basten was among Chelsea's guests which will no doubt fuel speculation that he could soon replace Avram Grant as the new Chelsea manager.

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