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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 16:39 UK

Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd

By Ian Hughes

Michael Ballack
Ballack's double has kept Chelsea's title hopes alive

Michael Ballack's penalty blew the title race open as Chelsea moved level on points with leaders Manchester United with only two matches left.

Joe Cole's shot hit the bar as United, who lost Nemanja Vidic to injury, backtracked before Ballack headed Chelsea in front on 45 minutes.

Wayne Rooney drove in the equaliser after Ricardo Carvalho's error to put United back in the driving seat.

But after Michael Carrick handled in the area, Ballack won it from the spot.

It was the first penalty United had conceded in the league all season and could prove decisive at the end of the season when silverware is handed out.

And as United pressed at the very end of the game, it took goal-line clearances from Ashley Cole and Andriy Shevchenko to deny first Cristiano Ronaldo and then Darren Fletcher and ensure Chelsea claimed a vital three points.

606: DEBATE

Chelsea, with their inferior goal difference, knew a win was their only realistic chance of keeping alive their hopes of overhauling United - and they started the match powerfully.

Although the Blues were much the better side in the first half, Cole's volley against the bar aside, they created few clear-cut chances.

Whether United were affected by the loss of Vidic, who was stretchered off on 11 minutes after catching a knee in the face from Drogba, is debatable.

United's reshuffled defence, which saw substitute Owen Hargreaves come on at right-back and Wes Brown moved to centre-back, had coped well with Chelsea's threats.

But questions will be asked as to how the German international was allowed to ghost in unmarked at the far post to score the opener.

Grant says Chelsea dominated the game

Michael Essien's running from deep was causing United problems, but too often the midfielder was not played in when in a good position as Chelsea made the wrong decisions.

But the power of Drogba, the combative qualities of Essien and Cole's darting movement had United pinned back in their own half.

And when United did find an outlet, often in right winger Nani, they failed to make any impact as time and again Chelsea snuffed out a limp attack and hit back themselves.

A quiet Rooney looked isolated, and United seemed toothless without Ronaldo, who had been left on the bench.

After the interval, Chelsea again tried to pick up the pace but their game plan appeared to be in tatters when Carvalho made an awful mistake to let United back into the match.

The Portuguese defender casually played the ball towards his own goal, straight into the path of Rooney, who raced clear of John Terry and scored with an excellent low drive.

It proved to be Rooney's last contribution as he was went off injured shortly after to be replaced by Ronaldo.

Regardless, United were now in the ascendancy and Chelsea looked shell-shocked.

Man Utd assistant Carlos Queiroz felt both penalty decisons were wrong

Ryan Giggs had a fierce shot well saved by Petr Cech and United were stroking the ball around confidently.

Frustration was building for Chelsea and Ballack and Drogba argued with each other as they prepared to take a free-kick.

Drogba eventually took aim and was only denied by a magnificent save by Edwin van der Sar.

And there was still time for more drama as Carrick was penalised for blocking Essien's right-wing cross with his arm.

Up stepped Ballack, who brilliantly sent the keeper the wrong way and put Chelsea back into the lead.

Yet it almost did not end there as United came so close to snatching another equaliser but Cole and Shevchenko cleared efforts off the line.


Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira (Anelka 66), Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Obi, Essien, Kalou (Shevchenko 81), Drogba, Joe Cole (Makelele 87).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Belletti.

Booked: Ballack, Obi, Drogba.

Goals: Ballack 45, 86 pen.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic (Hargreaves 14), Silvestre, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (O'Shea 65), Nani, Rooney (Ronaldo 63), Giggs.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Tevez.

Booked: Brown, Van der Sar, Ferdinand, Hargreaves.

Goals: Rooney 57.

Att: 41,828

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Michael Ballack 7.85 (on 90 minutes).

  • Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.




  • see also
    BBC pundits on Chelsea v Man Utd
    26 Apr 08 |  Premier League
    Queiroz questions referee Wiley
    26 Apr 08 |  Man Utd
    Man Utd could crack, says Grant
    26 Apr 08 |  Chelsea
    Saturday's football photos
    26 Apr 08 |  Football
    Premier League as it happened
    26 Apr 08 |  Premier League
    Debate: Title up for grabs
    26 Apr 08 |  Football
    D-Day for title rivals
    25 Apr 08 |  Premier League
    How to watch Match of the Day
    08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day


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