FA Cup: Chelsea earn replay after thrilling 2-2 draw
In what was a game of two contrasting halves, United, looking to erase the pain of being ousted from the Champions league, started on the front foot. They took the game to Chelsea in the early exchanges and went ahead in the fifth minute itself. The superb Micheal Carrick spotted Chicharito’s run and played a lovely overhead ball in the Chelsea area. With Petr Cech off his line in a half attempt to come for the ball, Hernandez lobbed his header over the keeper into the top corner of the net to send the United supporters into a frenzy. Chelsea barely had regrouped when inside 11 minutes it was 2-0 with Rooney curling a freekick through everybody in the area, including Cech, into the net. United had taken the upper hand in the game very soon and it was looking like the perfect response. After those two mistakes, Cech somewhat redeemed himself with a fantastic double save, first off Rooney’s shot and then David Luiz’s attempted clearance which was going into his own net. United took their foot off the gas after that, allowing Chelsea some room to breathe and play around. The first half ended with Nani being taken off for Antonio Valencia following a minor knock to the Portuguese wide-man.
The second half was totally opposite to the first, with Chelsea gaining confidence after whatever was said in the dressing room and United getting uncharacteristically sloppy. Rafa Benitez, much to the ire of the Chelsea supporters, took off Frank Lampard and brought on Obi Mikel in an attempt to increase the tempo of play. He also brought on Eden Hazard in place of Victor Moses and the change reaped immediate reward. In the 59th minute, Hazard, capitalizing on some shoddy play by United again, was allowed onto his right foot, cutting inside from the left, and curled a spectacular shot past the hapless De Gea. United responded by introducing Robin Van Persie for Chicharito but it accounted for little. Chelsea equalized nine minutes later on the break with Ramires shifting the ball onto his left foot and finishing past De Gea from the edge of the area. From then on, there seemed to be only two possibilities, a Chelsea win or a draw as United failed to show any bite or zest in their play with neither RVP nor the other substitute Danny Welbeck making use of their chances.
Juan Mata had a glorious chance to seal the game late on when he turned and twisted inside United’s penalty area and somehow his left footed shot was deflected behind by the right foot of De Gea.
It was a superb comeback from Chelsea with United and SAF again failing to react to an opposition substitution. The Blues will consider themselves to be in the driver’s seat for the replay at Stamford Bridge, the date for which has not yet been fixed. The winner of this tie will face reigning Premier League champions Manchester City in what is expected to be another mouth watering FA Cup tie.