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As I didn’t watch this game live, I’ve dispensed with the full match analysis which, by now, others will have put on their blogs.
 
Instead, I’ve picked out some observations on the game, positive and negative, based on what television allows (never quite as good as “being there’ but better than nothing).
 
Regular readers will notice some recurring themes carrying forward from recent games.
 
The starting XI appeared to be based on pragmatism, following the midweek Internationals and with an eye towards Juventus in Turin.
 
6,000 air miles alone pointed to Ivanovic starting at Centre Back ahead of David Luiz. More so in view of starts for Azpilicueta and Bertrand. Shane Long’s pace may have been a mitigating factor.
 
Victor Moses played out of position on the left to accommodate Daniel Sturridge. Marin and Sturridge or Marin and Moses would have been a more natural combination either side of Hazard.
 
All the more strange as most of Chelsea’s offensive success came down the West Brom left, with Hazard ending up on the left after half an hour, with Sturridge in behind Torres and Moses moving to the right, where he looked more at home.
 
This was an Ideal game to start Daniel Sturridge at Centre Forward (not that he is for me), whilst sending Lukaku out on loan looks like folly given the lack of alternatives. 7 shots in the game (4 in the last 28 minutes at Centre Forward) but no goals shows Sturridge is not shy of shooting but lacks a killer finish and too often misses the target. One of his better games though and least he gets shots away.
 
In contrast, Fernando Torres had no shots in 63 minutes in another below par performance. Its increasingly difficult not to conclude that he’s a busted flush. The system we’re playing and the players we have this year give him a much improved supply line and far fewer excuses to hide. I know this won’t meet with universal agreement but I’m saying what I see and would love him to bang in 8 goals in the next 5 games to prove me wrong.
 
Another game, another early first goal conceded. We do not chase games well and cannot afford that luxury, regardless of the opposition, home or away.
 
Defensive howlers all round for the first West Brom goal. Azpilicueta, Romeu and Sturridge were all drawn to the ball but when it broke to Morrison he had time to pick his cross. Luiz went to sleep, allowing Long to peel off his shoulder and negate his height advantage to slot his header from point blank range.
 
Another goal conceded through deficiencies at Left Back. Odemwingie found it all too easy to brush aside Bertrand to head home Long’s cross for Albion’s winner. Ryan needs to compete much better physically if he’s going to make the position his own, long term.
 
Our lack of an incisive final ball when Mata doesn’t start is alarming with Azpilicueta’s crosses from wide the best examples on show before Mata came on.
 
Within seconds of coming on, Mata twice picked out Sturridge (now at Centre Forward) who could not convert. Another combination of the 2 with 13 minutes to go met with the same result but Sturridge’s movement at least was encouraging.
 
Eden Hazard did superbly for his goal. After spraying the ball out to Azpilicueta, he did superbly to pull off the back of Jones and head home the equaliser. If only he could beat the first defender with his inswinging corners.
 
Victor Moses’ lack of composure in front of goal continues. He blazed over from well inside the box at an angle when a low ball into an unmarked Sturridge would have given him a tap in at the back post. He should however have had a blatant penalty when Yacob’s shoulder charge went unpunished.
 
This defeat and draws with Swansea and Liverpool should temper fans’ expectations to a realistic level. 22 points from the first 24 available for our young side was a little flattering whilst 2 from the last 12 has brought us back down to earth. A top 4 finish remains the objective, anything more is a bonus.
 
For me, Robbie Di Matteo is a better manager in Cup competitions than over the course of a Premier League season. He nevertheless deserves the time to put his stamp on an evolving squad. Calls for his head after a defeat to a side who started the day in fifth are frankly absurd.
 
Carefree.
 
Follow Chris Davies on Twitter: @chrisdaviescfc

 

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The caption “Captain Leader Legend” is entirely appropriate for its beneficiary: John George Terry.
 
However there are not many natural successors in our current ranks and it is for this reason I would like to make the case for Juan Mata as a candidate for this role in the future.

The word “Leader” for me is the one that resonates most at this moment in time.
 
Leaders are born, rarely made. Strip John of the Chelsea captaincy but he’d still be our leader. He can’t help himself.
 
Our cup overfloweth will talent at The Bridge. That is indisputable.
 
However, with Drogba gone, Lamps and Cole edging closer to the exit and John playing less, mainly due to age, as the seasons pass, who is stepping up to fill the leadership void?
 
This is not a rhetorical question but it is a serious one.
 
Remember, this is not a token Captain but a true leader we’re looking for.
 
Someone who starts regularly. Who instinctively leads. The leader who stares in the face of a 2 goal deficit and sees the potential to win the game.
 
Let me be candid: In the current squad, I’m struggling.
 
Theoretically, Ivanovic or Cahill in the back 4 are potential leaders. Branna is certainly a regular starter, Cahill less so but as we’re haemorrhaging goals, who is leading the line now?
 
Turning to midfield, Hazard and Oscar, though sublimely gifted don’t emit an abundance of leadership signals.
 
Ramires’ body language does not scream of leadership. Mikel, arguably our most improved player this season is more vocal as the years pass but is he a leader? Not for me, not yet anyway.
 
Fernando Torres is a talented footballer. His travails as a Blue are well documented. His focus must be on leading the line, not the team.
 
You’ve probably worked out by now that my nomination is arguably our most influential, creative and dynamic player of the current crop: Step forward Senor Juan Manuel Mata.
 
He commands respect from everyone. Have a look at Hazard’s goal against Norwich and his reaction. I know Mata played him in but there are many other examples.
 
JT is our club captain and I don’t expect that to change. For me though the mantle of leadership is passing slowly but surely to Mata. He is a PR dream but more importantly, he inspires THIS generation of Chelsea players to achieve greatness.
 
I’ll be watching with interest to see his influence grow in the coming months.

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Team News


The biggest news was John Terry’s return as captain after sitting out the win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard missed out again with a hamstring and calf problem respectively, whilst David Luiz missed the game through tonsillitis.

Branislav Ivanovic moved to Centre Back, with Cesar Azpilicueta starting at Right Back.

Observations

Chelsea’s inability to kill this game off in the 1st half came back to haunt us, as our poor recent record against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge continued.

Once Liverpool equalised John Terry’s 50th Chelsea goal, they were arguably the side more likely to go and win the game.

In the past 2 seasons, the clocks going back have heralded a sharp downturn in our Premier League form (it is now 3 games without a win).

From leading the Premier League by 4 points 3 games ago, we’re now 3 points behind Manchester United.

West Bromwich Albion away next Saturday is now a very big game indeed. Not as big as Juventus away perhaps but the snowball of momentum has come to an abrupt end in the Premier League and needs to start moving again.

1st half

Chelsea started well enough. Oscar shot over on 5 minutes from the inside left channel after a 1-2 with Eden Hazard.

Quality was in short supply as the teams huffed and puffed but struggled to control possession.

Ivanovic fired over and wide after a free kick was touched off to him. Soon after, Torres’ persistence won us a corner.

Mata’s remarkable recent record for goals and assists continued, whipping in a corner from the right, which was headed home by an unmarked John Terry, who celebrated with gusto.

Whilst Chelsea looked comfortable enough, penetration was hard to come by. On 26 minutes, a Hazard break led to a Torres shot being saved and from the follow up, Hazard failed to hit the target: he should have done better.

Liverpool had fired barely a shot in anger when John Terry went down on 34 minutes in agony as his knee buckled after a coming together with Suarez. This would become one of the turning points of the game, as Terry had kept Suarez in his pocket throughout his time on the pitch.

An MRI scan is scheduled for Monday to determine the extent of the knee ligament damage Terry sustained.

After a 5 minute delay, Gary Cahill replaced Terry. In the 5 minutes of added time, came the second turning point of the game.

Azpilcueta’s throw ended up at Mata’s feet, who with the beating of Carragher had a clear run on goal. Normally so assured in these situations, he shot over the bar from just inside the penalty area when he could have gone on and chipped the keeper or found the corner of the net. It was a big miss and ultimately punished.

2nd half

A half of 2 halves. For the first 22 minutes, Chelsea were comfortable and it looked inevitable that they would score a second goal and see out the victory.

Allen was booked for a foul on Torres and Mata’s Free Kick was cleared for a corner.

A neat build up finished with a shot from Mata on the right apex of the penalty area that fizzed just past Jones’ upright.

Johnson was next to enter Howard Webb’s book for a foul on Oscar.

From a Hazard Free Kick, Torres’ header was well saved by Jones. As he chased the ball along the touchline he appeared to be tripped by Gerrard who stayed down.

After the ball was recycled, pandamonium reigned in the Liverpool penalty area. Mikel had an airshot from 6 yards and Mata’s shot was charged down. The ball was still not properly cleared as Webb blew to allow treatment for Gerrard, to the crowd’s dismay.

The highlight of a scrappy few minutes was a crunching but fair tackle on Gerrard (miraculously recovered), by Ramires.

Mata’s volleyed pass into Bertrand’s path was crossed in but could not find Torres to provide the finishing touch.

Gerrard saw yellow for a crude tackle on Oscar, leading to the third turning point of the match. From Mata’s Free Kick, Jones’ weak punch fell to Mikel but his instinctive prod was wide.

Ramires’ shot well over after good possession led to a half clearance finding him 25 yards out.

The Liverpool equaliser came on 72 minutes. Carragher’s flick on from a corner found Suarez who planted a free header past Cech. The body language of the Chelsea players reflected the dejection of the crowd.

With 18 minutes to go plus stoppage time, there was plenty of time to find a winner but the self belief to do so, ebbed away as the minutes passed.

Oscar, Hazard and Mata combined on the break but the move came to nothing and a Bertrand break and cross was easily cut out.

Liverpool were doubling up on Azpilicueta with Johnson (switched from Right Back) and Enrique giving him an examination that, under the tutelage of Ivanovic, he largely passed.

Moses replaced Oscar for the last 15 minutes. After Mikel was booked, a blatant dive from Suarez went unpunished. Not for the first time.

Sturridge replaced Torres with 9 minutes to go but failed to make an impact. Ivanovic headed over from Mata’s corner before Hazard won another as pressure was sustained. He took it himself but it came straight back to him. Cutting in, he sliced his shot wide of the far post with our last chance of the afternoon.

In the 4 minutes of added time, Liverpool came closest to snatching all 3 points.

After possession was given away, Suarez waited patiently before finding Enrique whose shot from inside the area was turned away by Cech for a corner in the last meaningful action of the game.

Positives

John Terry looked imperious on his all too brief return.

Eden Hazard, though prone to conceding possession was industrious. Ditto Fernando Torres.

Negatives

Another game, another gimme goal conceded. This record is well and truly stuck.

2 points from a possible 9 in the Premier League are at least 4 too few.

When Juan Mata is becalmed, so are we. He had a relatively quiet afternoon, despite being pivotal in our best offensive work.

Why did Marko Marin not get minutes here? Sturridge for Torres was a rare insipid choice from Robbie Di Matteo. Marin for Mata or Hazard would have injected something different.

Moment of the match

John Terry’s goal celebration. 50 goals from Centre Half: great effort.

Carefree.

Follow Chris Davies on Twitter: @chrisdaviescfc

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Despite being outplayed for the majority of the game and with our defensive frailties seeing us concede a further 2 goals (15 in the last 7 games now), we once again found a way to dig out a victory when all hope of it appeared to be lost.

Shakhtar may top the group due to having scored more away goals in their defeat to us than in ours to them but Robbie Di Matteo’s Midas Touch in cup football continues.

A draw in Turin and victory over Nordsjaelland will see us qualify for the knockout stages but we are doing it the hard way. The Chelsea way.

1st half

The Blues made a bright start. An early Luiz Free Kick was fumbled but saved by Pyatov who had a game to forget.

Fernando Torres spurned his first opportunity from Oscar’s pass on 6 minutes.

From the restart, Pyatov played a 1-2 with his left back and his attempted clearance cannoned off Torres who gratefully accepted the gift. The rest of Torres’ evening would be industrious, with his work rate back to the high level we have come to expect.

Torres had a further opportunity saved after again being played in by Oscar before Shakhtar equalised.

Fernandinho left Ryan Bertrand slipping as he pulled a cross back for Willian to score from 10 yards. Bertrand had a poor night and suddenly the left back position at Chelsea, so long formidable, looks increasingly like our achilles heel.

The Blues were visibly deflated in the aftermath of the equaliser but Hazard, whose light burned brightly throughout dribbled and played in Torres wide on the left. He opted to shoot when a pass to the now unmarked Hazard was the percentage ball. No criticism from me for that though Fernando.

Oscar and Torres once again linked up well to force a corner on 19 minutes but the next 20 minutes were largely Shakhtar’s. Comfortable in possession and with players whose familiarity with each other has been pivotal to their unbeaten 2012 to date, for a while, it was easy to forget that we were playing at home.

The best they had to show for their dominance was an Alex Texeira shot that was inches wide of Cech’s right hand post. The lack of pressure on the ball, a worryingly repetitive feature of recent defensive displays was again in evidence.

Torres headed wide from Mata’s chip but had to try and generate pace on the ball: a quarter chance at best.

With 5 minutes to Half Time, Oscar’s goal scoring affair with the Champions League continued. After sustained Shakhtar possession, Hazard emerged with the ball and found Mata. His crossfield ball was headed out by Pyatov (sweeping way outside his box) and the ball feel to Oscar 35+ yards out who took one touch and launched a right foot drive into the unguarded net.

So many times, such efforts clear the bar or go wide but Oscar kept his cool and took his chance with a terrific strike.

Oscar had another shot turned out for a corner in the last significant action of the half. After a below par performance against Swansea, he had delivered a superb 45 minutes of intelligence and creativity. He would fade from the game in the Second Half but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

2nd half

Shakhtar equalised within 2 minutes of the restart with a carbon copy of their first goal. Ryan Bertrand was AWOL as Srna crossed for Willian to finish.

Their goal set the tone for a challenging second half that Chelsea looked destined not to score in.

Shakhtar had back to back chances to take the lead from successive corners. Rat’s sweet left foot strike swerved and crashed against Cech’s left post before being scrambled out. The next corner led to a shot that was a whisker wide of the opposite post. Our defensive organisation had once again left the building.

After Hazard was tripped outside the penalty area, his Free Kick evaded everyone before going behind. Ivanovic could and should have had a tap in at the back post if he’d gambled.

On 65 minutes, Torres was upended. Mata’s Free Kick was headed home by John Mikel Obi but as the Matthew Harding Lower went delirious, the bubble was burst by the Assistant Referee’s flag. Mikel had strayed half a yard offside.

Hazard’s shot from a tight angle was well saved by Pyatov at his near post. Hazard then played in Ramires who was clearly fouled and went down inside the Shakhtar penalty area. It seems Blues fans are getting used to the number of these decisions that go against us, despite a brief chorus of “we’ve seen it before”.

Mikel volleyed wide before Oscar was replaced by Moses on 80 minutes.

A Mata corner was headed goalwards by Cahill but Willian cleared at the expense of a corner.

As the clock ticked down on normal time, Sturridge replaced Torres before Shakhtar had 3 shots blocked in succession by some last ditch Chelsea defending, the last turned away for a corner.

3 minutes of added time yielded nothing until a corner was forced with seconds remaining.

Mata, who looked to be limping for the last 20 minutes commanded his wand of a left foot to deliver an inswinging corner. Moses rose to head home a bullet header from 6 yards at the near post.

For the second Wednesday in succession, Chelsea had changed the course of their season’s destiny in a competition with the last effective kick of the game.

Most of the 41,067 in the crowd could not quite believe what they had seen. Maybe, that’s why we’re Champions of Europe.

Positives

The haters can say what they like but even the most ardent cannot deny that we have a never say die team spirit. Winning when playing below your best is the most valuable commodity in football. It is essential for success in the Champions League and Premier League, by which ultimately Roberto Di Matteo will be judged.

Eden Hazard exemplified the need for a talented footballer to keep his head up to the end. He was at fault for one of Shakhtar’s goals in the away defeat and looked like a man who wanted to make amends for the rest of that game and throughout this one. Even when not at his best, he gives us a sharper attacking edge and is not shy of tracking back.

Having been critical of his performances since the International Break, Fernando Torres deserves credit for a return to his hard working self. His goal was deserved and his celebration of Oscar’s almost as enthusiastic as his own.

Negatives

Clean sheets have deserted us. A worrying number of goals are coming from defensive problems on our left. Ashley Cole has not been at his best for several weeks and Ryan Bertrand was arguably at fault for both goals last night. Last night was Ryan’s chance to enhance his claim to be our first choice Left Back if as seems likely, Ashley Cole moves on sooner rather than later. He didn’t.

Ramires is not always the most aesthetic looking footballer and when he has a bad game, as he did last night, he looks like the kid who is last to get picked for a kickabout in the playground. He ran into too many cul-de-sacs and his distribution was below par. Mikel may not be everyone’s favourite footballer but he outshone Ramires here. Hopefully, the real Ramires will be back for Liverpool.

Juan Mata looked to be limping for the last quarter of the game. Given the importance of the game if he was rushed back, it was arguably worth it. In the short term. If he misses a month as a result it would look short sighted.

Moment of the match

Oscar’s goal: a sublime finish. As great as he is, how good could he be in the years to come?

Carefree.

 

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As I didn’t watch this game live, I’ve dispensed with the full match analysis which, by now, others will have put on their blogs.

Instead, I’ve picked out some observations on the game, positive and negative, based on what television allows.

The elephant in the room: we really missed Juan Mata. His goal threat in open play and set pieces, assists and overall intelligence have seen him become the Premier League’s most prized asset in recent weeks.

3 games in 6 days may have been a factor in a jaded, leggy performance. No one really grabbed this game by the scruff of the neck. Swansea are a fair side but no more than that. To mount a serious Premier League challenge, we cannot drop many points like this away from home.

We seemed to settle for 1-0 as soon as we’d scored. Perhaps with an eye on Wednesday but a second would have given more wriggle room in the crucial last 10 minutes. Swansea pushed up, stopped us playing out from the back and in fairness, deserved a point.

Without Mata, we looked a crucial yard slower in our build up and lacked punch, returning to a more predictable side to side movement of the ball with much less penetration.

Its easy to forget that Oscar and Hazard are 3 to 4 years younger than Mata and expectations need to be tempered a little, especially away from Stamford Bridge.

Playing Romeu and Mikel together is like eating the same meal twice: as nice as it may have been the first time, once you’ve eaten it, you know what’s coming next.

Moving Ramires to the double pivot was inspired. He had a quiet half after replacing Romeu but his directness and energy, is ideally suited to playing alongside Mikel, whose primary instinct is to stay and shield.

Mikel’s own engine is improving. He made a great block midway through the first half from a Swansea break that started with him ahead of the ball.

Hazard’s trickery will frustrate some supporters at times, especially when possession us conceded or he shoots when he could pass. He has huge self belief (his 93rd minute penalty to take the League Cup game to extra time exemplified that) and his set pieces in the second half, including the corner that led to our goal were high quality. His pace over the first 10 yards is a real asset.

Oscar had a quiet game and missed Mata more than anyone. He showed his tender years by getting caught on the ball and his final ball was not too his usual high standard. He was due a dip and had one.

All the more reason to give minutes to Marko Marin. This game looked ideal for him to get at least half an hour. After Moses’ goal, Robbie Di Matteo could have turned the screw with Marin’s fresh legs but chose not to. A trick missed perhaps.

Shakhtar is a must win game and I’d be tempted to start with Sturridge on Wednesday. In my opinion, he is not a Chelsea Centre Forward. If Torres starts, he must play in the width of the penalty area and really up his work rate. His brittle confidence has returned and my advice to him is simple: wherever possible, have a shot.

Despite an instinctive flick of the head for his goal, when he has time to think about what he’s doing, Moses must work on his finishing. He carried on where he left off in midweek and needs to add a clinical finish to his repertoire. His substitution though suggests he may start on Wednesday.

Ashley Cole’s display was an improvement from Man Utd last Sunday but his sloppy, misplaced pass after our throw in led to their goal and again he got caught too far up the pitch on several occasions, unable to get back. That 2 year extension is sadly looking like a bullet dodged in a League that does not respect reputations.

Ivanovic and Cahill may well be our medium term first choice pairing at Centre Half. They both read the game well, stayed close enough together and organised the line.

Carefree.

Follow Chris Davies on Twitter: @chrisdaviescfc

 

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Team News

Roberto Di Matteo chose his strongest available XI for the biggest home game of the season so far. With John Terry serving the second game of his 4 match ban and Frank Lampard missing with a calf strain, the team all but picked itself.

Marko Marin was welcomed back to a strong looking bench.

 

Observations

This was some game. 5 goals (one offside), 2 red cards (one given to the wrong side) and a delicious Juan Mata free kick.

Not forgetting allegations of “inappropriate” language from Mark Clattenburg (Clangerburg if you prefer) to 2 Chelsea players and a formal complaint from the club.

After gifting United a 2 goal start, Chelsea dragged ourselves back into the game and looked likely to go on and win it before the wheels came off.

Its hard enough playing United with 10 men but impossible with 9. They may be a poor imitation of a vintage United side but QPR they are not.

1st half

A half of two halves as Chelsea conceded 2 goals in the first 11 minutes before hitting back on the stroke of Half Time to go into the break a goal down but with all the momentum.

Robin van Persie had an early sighter straight at Cech before Rooney drove in behind Ashley Cole (who was AWOL and I’m afraid to say, had a stinker) and crossed in low. Van Persie’s strike conspired to hit both the upright and David Luiz’s backside before crossing the goal line.

As with Shakhtar in midweek, Chelsea had conceded inside 3 minutes.

Branislav Ivanovic welcomed Evra to Stamford Bridge with a strong but fair challenge that left his opposite number more winded than wounded.

2 minutes later though, Valencia ran unchallenged into our left back area and crossed low for van Persie to apply the finish. All too easy, all too quickly and Chelsea had a mountain to climb and 79 minutes to scale it.

The Blues looked shell shocked for the next 10 minutes but we are Champions of Europe for a reason.

On 23 minutes, Ramires’ run came to an abrupt end, earning us a free kick 30 yards from goal.  David Luiz has found his range with these now. His pacey side footed effort dipped over the wall and De Gea had to rely on his right boot to save his blushes as he appeared to misread the flight of the ball.

A minute later, Eden Hazard worked himself half a yard but his shot on the turn was a yard past the post and lacked devilry.

At last, Chelsea had a foothold in the game and began to dominate possession. Ivanovic’s throw found Mikel whose cross deflected off Evans and onto De Gea’s near post with him stranded. Fergie may have rued his luck in seasons gone by at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League but his side got plenty this day.

Mata’s corner was met by a strong header from Cahill and cleared for another.

Oscar and Torres were fouled in quick succession as United decided to defend what they had and were pushed ever deeper, fearful of allowing the creatives to play between the lines. Cleverley and Carrick were all but on the toes of Evans and Ferdinand as the bus was well and truly parked.

Our sustained pressure needed a goal to underpin it. De Gea did well to keep out a Torres header before Rooney went into the book for a foul on Hazard who had picked his pocket.

From the resulting free kick, Juan Mata punished De Gea for getting his weight too much onto his left side by slotting the ball just inside the post to his right and past the keeper’s despairing dive.

With a minute to go to Half Time, it was just what Chelsea needed and United were creaking. De Gea’s poor clearance was delivered back to Mata who forced him to save with his feet to prevent an equaliser before the interval.

In added time, Torres was booked for an agricultural challenge on Cleverley. It was about the only thing the latter won in a poor half from him but it would turn out have a major impact on the outcome.

2nd half

Chelsea began the second half as they ended the first: dominating possession.

After an early corner was cleared, Mata’s goal bound shot was charged down. After Luiz was fouled, Hazard was adjudged offside from the resultant free kick.

Hazard then worked an opening for Mata whose shot was on target but saved by De Gea.

A minute later though the United dam was breached again. After a sustained attack, Hazard’s cross met Ramires’ head and at 2-2, Chelsea were more than back in the game: we were on top and it was there for the taking.

Hazard had a shot saved by De Gea’s feet and then shot wide after a Mata dink as the two of them threatened to run riot.

By the hour mark, Rooney had dropped so deep that his head was clearing the ball for a corner from inside the United penalty area.

Completely against the run of play, the pendulum of luck swung firmly in United’s direction.

Ashley Young vs Branislav Ivanovic one on one with a headstart was not destined to end well. Branna could not resist trying to nick the ball, missed and in the opinion of the referee, fouled Young. Contact if any, was minimal and despite Luiz keeping up, Clattenburg adjudged it a professional foul and brandished the red card.

Taking off my blue specs, had it been Ferdinand on Torres, 38,000+ Blues would have been screaming for the same outcome. Somehow though, I doubt it would have come to pass.

Rooney put the free kick over the bar to the delight of the Matthew Harding stand before Javier Hernandez replaced Cleverley, with Fergie determined to make superior numbers count.

Di Matteo sacrificed Oscar for Azpilicueta (on Premier League debut) to fill the hole at Right Back but Chelsea continued to press for a winner.

With the game entering its final quarter, Clattenburg reached for his second and decisive red card. Torres was fouled by a two footed challenge from Jonny Evans, who had already been booked.

The Chelsea faithful shouted “off, off, off” and the referee obliged. Evans’ face was a picture of apology. De Gea shook his head. No one could quite believe it.

The card was for Torres. Despite a hole in his sock, he was booked for simulation as 2 yellows turned to red.

Van Persie blazed a shot way into Row Z but United knew it was only a matter of time before the knockout blow would come.

To add insult to injury, Hernandez was offside when he turned the ball in from close range.

Again removing my Blue specs, it was similar to Torres’ goal against Reading (also offside) and that one went for us.

For some sections of the crowd however, the preceding 15 minutes were too much to bear. A steward slipped and hurt his knee as objects were thrown on the pitch, followed by indignant chants of “3-2 to the referee”.

Chelsea were bowed but not broken. A surging run from Luiz fed Ramires whose shot was powerful but over the bar.

Hazard twisted, turned and teased the United backline but there was no centre forward to finish off his cross.

United made their numerical advantage pay as Chelsea could not fill all the gaps. Hernandez scuffed a good chance before Sturridge replaced Hazard.

Hernandez then shot over after Young played him in.

Despite 5 minutes of added time, Chelsea could not fashion another opportunity.

Graeme Souness and Gary Neville, hardly Chelsea through and through, were both incredulous after the game, not quite able to believe what they had seen. Neither could anyone else in the ground, regardless of their allegiance.

Positives

Bouncebackability: 10/10 for the fight we showed to get back into the game after a shocking start.

Juan Mata: its like a stuck record but the hottest player in the Premier League was fantastic. Again.

John Mikel Obi: arguably outshined Ramires in the double pivot once the Blues hit their stride. Covered the chasm left on our left when Ashley Cole went missing (as he did a number of times in the first half).

Negatives

Ashley Cole: If anyone wanted to question giving him more than a one year extension, watch the rerun of this game and you’d have plenty of ammunition. He repeatedly went missing as Valencia, Rooney and Rafael overloaded on the United right. Once in the first 11 minutes is unfortunate, twice is unacceptable.

Branislav Ivanovic: I can argue a yellow may have been fairer but Ashley Young still had plenty to do before Branna’s ill fated attempt to win the ball. The 3 match ban will be ably deputised by Cesar Azpilicueta but the Red Card was both costly and avoidable.

Fernando Torres: Yes, unfortunate to be sent off when he was but arguably could have gone before for a challenge of sorts on Ferdinand. Another below par performance that some were blaming on tiredness. He now has Wednesday night off.

Moment of the match

For all the wrong reasons, Torres’ sending off. Literally, a game changer.

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