Old wolf Drogba almost bring vitory for Chelsea against Manchester United, Arsenal’s happy return from North.
Manchester United 1 Chelsea 1:Late draw against Drogba’s goal
During David Moyes’ ill-fated season in charge and in the early weeks of Louis Van Gaal stewardship, Manchester United’s tendency was to fade away in games.
But Robin Van Persie’s added time equaliser yesterday – following on from Daley Blind’s late leveller at West Brom on Monday – showed that while their defence continues to look vulnerable and they are wasting too many chances, they have, at least, got back their old resilience and fighting spirit.
And this result could just prove the “Juventus moment” Louis Van Gaal has been looking for to provide his re-modelled team with a belated lift-off for their season.
In his first few difficult months at Bayern Munich he had to wait for his players to produce a stunning Champions League victory in Turin in the late autumn to validate his philosophy.
This performance hardly matched that victory in terms of quality but in terms of confidence it could do wonders for United – especially with the Manchester derby derby looming at the Etihad stadium on Sunday.
Until that fourth minute of added time, a trademark Didier Drogba goal appeared to have put the seal on a trademark Chelsea away performance.
For a quarter of an hour after Didier Drogba headed home from Cesc Fabregas’ corner in the 53rd minutes, Manchester United looked lost – like so many teams have when trailing Chelsea, usually the masters of seeing a game out from a winning position.
But they kept plugging away and their efforts were rewarded in a controversial final few seconds.
Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a second caution for clipping Angel Di Maria’s heels – only he will now if it was accidental or not. That followed a booking apparently for dissent after Di Maria had gone easily after feeling a touch on his shoulder from the Chelsea defender.
To compound Chelsea’s misfortune, Ivanovic’s aerial presence was missed when Di Maria floated in the free-kick. Serb Ivanovic would have marked Fellaini but the big Belgian was able to power in a header that Thibault Courtois could only block allowing Van Persie to ram home the rebound.
The goal was something of an act of redemption for Fellaini and Van Persie. Fellaini should have picked up Drogba for his goal but a mix-up in communication left the diminutive Rafael to try and out-muscle the Chelesea’s giant striker. It was no contest. Drogba gave him a shove, gained a yard and glanced in Fabregas’ inswinger, evoking memories of his Champions League final winner in Munich in 2012.
Van Persie could have blocked the header had he not strayed away from his sentry duty on the near post, the ball deflecting in off his head.
The goal was like seeing a ghost from the past for United. Remember, Drogba scored the winner in the 2007 FA Cup final as well what was effectively a title-clinching goal at Old Trafford in 2010.
That Drogba’s first Premier League goal of his second spell with Chelsea came from a set-piece came as little surprise because United lived on their nerves every time the ball was played into their area. Chelsea had two clear appeals for penalties turned down with Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling wrestling John Terry and Ivanovic to the ground respectively from the same Fabregas delivery in the first half.
It not only needs 20-20 vision by referees to award spot kicks in those circumstances but also bravery because it happens so often in every game.
In the final analysis a draw was a fair result but Chelsea left frustrated at the end despite maininting their unbeaten start and stretching their lead to three points at the top of the table. Twice now they have led games in Manchester this season and been pegged back to draws.
Had they not just sat on their lead but kept pressing United, they would almost certainly haave come away with three points.
Twice United needed the heroics of David De Gea to deny Chelsea. In the first half he stopped Drogba’s first time shot and seconds before the goal he produced a magnifcent save to stop the impressive Eden Hazard. He also produced more acrobatics to stop a long-range from Willian.
Thibault Courtois was as impressive at the other end, twice denying Van Persie but he could nothing about the Dutchman’s added time strike that would certainly have earned cheers in the blue half of Manchester as well.
Manchester United vs Chelsea Match Stats
Man Utd: De Gea 6.5, Rafael 6, Smalling 7, Rojo 7, Shaw 6.5, Blind 6, Januzaj 5.5, Fellaini 6.5, Mata 4.5 (Wilson 65 – 6), Di Maria 7, Van Persie 7.
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Carrick, Herrera, Fletcher, Blackett, Pereira
Booked: Rafael, Fellaini, van Persie.
Goal: Van Persie 90+4
Manager: Louis van Gaal 6
Chelsea: Courtois 7, Ivanovic 5, Cahill 7, Terry 7, Luis 6.5, Fabregas 7, Matic 6.5, Willian 6 (Zouma 90 – 6), Oscar 6.5 (Mikel 65 – 6.5), Hazard 7 (Schurrle 89 – 6), Drogba 7.5
Subs not used: Cech, Zouma, Ake, Mikel, Schurrle, Salah, Baker.
Booked: Fabregas, Matic, Oscar, Hazard, Drogba.
Sent off: Ivanovic.
Goal: Drogba 53
Manager: Jose Mourinho 7
Manchester United 1 Chelsea 1 Match Video
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Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2:Alexis Sanchez Carying Gunners
The Gunners boss had reminded his stuttering stars that water boils at 100 degrees and not 99 degrees – in other words they were not hot enough for the challenge of securing an overdue Premier League title.
Anything less than a win against a side whose fans could have been excused for placing Gus Poyet’s men in cold storage following their 8-0 caning at Southampton last week, would have produced an unwanted statistic for ‘Le Prof’.
A third win of the league season might not exactly have Gooners dancing on the ceiling but at least the luke warm Gunners are still in the shake up for a top four finish.
Best laid plans can never compete with irrational acts like the ones which brought Sunderland to their knees.
That the first involved the experienced Wes Brown was more galling after Poyet’s bedraggled army, back on duty following their south coast humbling, had kept Arsenal at bay for half an hour.
But any pretensions of redemption were snuffed out as the former Manchester United defender made a complete hash of what should have been a routine clearance from within the centre circle following a punt out of his own area from Per Mertesacker.
A feeble back pass towards his own keeper Vito Mannone barely had enough momentum to disturb the grass and Alexis Sanchez seized upon the central defender’s to accelerate towards goal and calmly dink his seventh goal of the season past the Italian.
If that wasn’t enough to send Poyet searching for the men in white coats, what happened in added time as Sunderland searched for the equaliser most certainly would.
Again there was little danger as Will Buckley passed back to Mannone only for the keeper’s ball skills to sadly desert him, the eager Sanchez moving in for the kill as the Sunderland man treated the ball like a grenade.
Mannone remonstrated with Buckley as Poyet who had locked himself away for 48 hours after last weekend’s debacle must have wondered whether he should have thrown away the key.
Wenger admitted: “I am happy because we had a difficult game on Wednesday night against Anderlecht and came to Sunderland who had a big defeat last week.
“Before the game what we wanted were the three points and we got them. I believe we were in control but as long as we couldn’t score the second goal, of course you can concede a goal and drop points. We didn’t do it today, we were focused.”
The biggest culprit in front of goal was Santi Cazorla who twice late on scooped golden opportunities over the bar while England striker Danny Welbeck, harshly booked for a dive following a John O’Shea challenge sent a close range header over the bar.
Poyet had bravely started with two wingers, Buckley and Adam Johnson, after making just two changes from the side which a week earlier had gone into the history books being involved in the club’s record all time defeat.
But although there was plenty of spirit and endeavour there was an ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ gulf in class with the Arsenal aristocrats holding sway – albeit in profligate mode.
There was also the welcome sight for Gunners and England fans of Theo Walcott on the bench after being out since January with a serious knee problem.
Wenger added: “Theo is fit, he lacks competition. Physically he lacks two things – contact in the Premier League and competition. But fitness wise there is no problem at all.”
Sunderland vs Arsenal Match Stats
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone 5, Vergini 6, Van Aanholt 6, O’Shea 6, Brown 4, Cattermole 6, Larsson 6, Rodwell 6 (Gomez 5, 74), Buckley 6, Johnson 6 (Altidore 5, 74), Fletcher 5 (Wickham 6, 51)
Subs (not used): Pantilimon, Bridcutt, Mavrias, Reveillere
Bookings: Larsson, Cattermole, Wickham
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny 6, Chambers 7, Mertesacker 6, Monreal 6, Gibbs 6 (Bellerin 6, 74), Arteta 6 (Ramsey, 88), Flamini 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Rosicky, 90), Cazorla 7, Sanchez 8, Welbeck 7
Subs (not used): Podolski, Walcott, Martinez, Campbell
Goals: Sanchez (30, 90)
Bookings: Gibbs, Welbeck, Arteta
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Man of the match: Sanchez
Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2 Match Video
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Barclays Premier League Match Week 9 Results
Liverpool 0 Hull City 0
Swansea City 2 Leicester City 0
Sunday, 26 October
Burnley FC 1 Everton 3
Tottenham 1 Newcastle 2
Man United 1 Chelsea 1
Monday, 27 October
QPR 20:00 Aston Villa