Salomon Kalou’s header ten minutes from time cancels out Ji-Sung Park’s opener and preserves Chelsea’s unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea and Manchester United ends honors even at 1-1.Unlike the Liverpool/Manchester United clash last weekend, this was more typical big four fare. The game wasn’t pretty by any means, plenty physical and full of controversy. If a game was ever going to challenge the new FA’s respect campaign, this was it. It didn’t help that Mike Riley was way too quick to use the whistle as depending on which source you believe, there were either 34 fouls (the Guardian) or 40 (Soccernet). I did attempt to find the number on the Premier League’s website, but was unsuccessful in doing so.
Manchester United started out the promising side and were nearly rewarded nine minutes in. Petr Cech should have left the ball played in to his back four to clear but instead ended up 18 yards off his line when Berbatov volleyed goal ward. He didn’t have enough pace on it, but left it perfectly for Rooney, who only missed the far post by a couple of inches. Cech would have been beaten and it would have been an embarrassing opener to give up.
United’s pressure was rewarded eighteen minutes in. Patrice Evra is sprung on a great run and is able to center to Berbatov. Had Fletcher not made a dummy run in, Chelsea probably clear. However Fletcher’s run held back Chelsea’s line and Berbatov was able to put a shot on Cech. It was a shot that Cech should have saved, but when the ball sprung free, Park had an empty net to tap in, unmarked at that. Chelsea’s back line on the whole sequence left Cech out to dry, but it’s a shot Cech should have caught.
Two Chelsea players need to be taken to task for their shocking performances on the day. The first being Joe Cole who after Rooney’s volleyed miss stays onside, has Van der Sar on the ground, and hits the side netting. The second ties into the second player who should be taken to task, Nicolas Anelka. On the first occasion, sixty-six minutes in, Joe Cole was too greedy when Anelka was unmarked on the far post. The second one comes seven minutes later when Joe Cole centers to Anelka who pretty much blocked the ball off the line when he could have equalized for Chelsea.
Looking at Salomon Kalou’s equalizer, there are a few things there as well. How Manchester United let him into the mixer unmarked is beyond me. Secondly, while there was contact on Rio Ferdinand, it was barely the tips of his fingers and wouldn’t have mattered in the long run. And for those who thought there was a foul, Ferdinand was marking Terry heavily and pretty much ran into him about the time Kalou headed in. Mikel’s free kick was inch perfect.
Two injuries played a key factor in this one. The being Ricardo Carvalho’s injury thirteen minutes in, and probably had something to do with Manchester United’s opener as the back line was adjusting to Alex’s inclusion. The other being Edwin Van der Sar’s twenty seven minutes in. It was a nasty collision with Florent Malouda and Van der Sar took the brunt of the contact squarely on the shoulder. I give him credit for giving it another go, but only lasted six more minutes. You have to wonder if Edwin Van der Sar was in and not Tomass Kuszczak, would Kalou had had the easy header?
The last talking point I have from this game is the sheer number of yellow cards Manchester United got. Looking at the seven yellow cards, you could understand why Riley called them. The two dissent bookings were the ones that made me smile the most, but it should have been both ways. However when Evra gets in the face of a lineman shouting and Ronaldo is motioning to Riley that he was shoved, those are the easiest dissent calls to make. The ultimate act of disrespect though had to come at the end. For Rio Ferdinand to scream at Mike Wiley and call him and I quote “A shit ref” should result in some sort of FA sanction. Granted no one in the world knew if Riley had awarded a free kick or had blown for full time, but that is no excuse.
A few other observations
1) Had Manchester United not sat back after taking the lead and attacked with the same intensity that led to the opener, do they name their own scoreline?
2) Florent Malouda is a good player for Chelsea in the Champions League, yet never seems to be able to perform in the league.
3) How bad was it for Drogba that he wasn’t completely ready for the second half kickoff?
Picture via the Telegraph and Getty Images