Comeback kings steal point
Champions show fighting spirit to earn point from being 3-0 down at Chelsea
Last Updated: 05/02/12 10:08pm
Substitute Javier Hernandez earned Manchester United the most remarkable point of this season's title race to date as Sir Alex Ferguson's side came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 at Chelsea.
After what was a largely ordinary first 45 minutes that saw Chelsea command an advantage courtesy of Jonny Evans' unfortunate own goal, what followed it has rarely been matched in Premier League history in terms of unadulterated entertainment.
Just seconds had elapsed when Juan Mata scored a goal of the season contender with an angled volley that threatened to rip the netting out of David De Gea's goal, before Rio Ferdinand joined Evans in putting through his own goal when he deflected in David Luiz's header from a set-piece.
Cometh the hour cometh the man for Manchester United as Wayne Rooney twice kept his nerve from the penalty spot after first Patrice Evra and then more contentiously Danny Welbeck were adjudged to have been fouled in the area.
The home side were shell shocked and none more so than six minutes from time when Hernandez nodded in from close range Ryan Giggs' cross after Petr Cech had parried Rooney's snapshot.
De Gea, who had hardly covered himself in glory up to the final moments, pulled off two sensational fingertip stops at the death to deny first Mata and then debutant Gary Cahill from range.
Although it was another classic second half at Stamford Bridge, it was more dropped points for Chelsea from a winning position as they almost lost at home in the league to United for the first time in 10 years.
Even though he was not playing, John Terry cast a long shadow over proceedings, with the visiting supporters taunting him over his highly-publicised problems.
Chelsea fans predictably showed their backing with chants of "There's only one England captain", while jeering Ferdinand's every touch.
They also had plenty of fun at the expense of De Gea, who was making his first league appearance of 2012 and whose edginess was betrayed in the eighth minute when he flapped at a cross.
But it was Chelsea who were soon breathing a sigh of relief as two United penalty cries were ignored.
The first saw Ashley Young go down far too easily under pressure from Jose Bosingwa, who got the nod at left-back with Ashley Cole suspended.
Moments later, Welbeck went down after being caught by the trailing leg of Chelsea debutant Cahill, an outraged Ferguson racing onto the pitch as Howard Webb ignored the United appeals.
Replays appeared to show Cahill had won the ball before catching Welbeck, but the decision only fuelled a poisonous atmosphere that included more abusive chants about Terry and Ferdinand.
The football did little to lift the mood until just before the half-hour when Branislav Ivanovic just beat Welbeck to Rooney's cross after a wonderful ball from Antonio Valencia.
Webb brandished his yellow card when Fernando Torres ran into the back of Evans, for whom insult was added to injury nine minutes before half-time when he inadvertently gave Chelsea the lead.
United failed to clear their lines and the ball broke to Daniel Sturridge, who got to the byline and fired in a cross that hit De Gea and then went in off Evans.
Sturridge's vicious drive was repelled by De Gea before Cech was finally called into meaningful action when he got fingertips on Young's curler.
The Chelsea goalkeeper then produced an even better stop on Welbeck's snapshot and Ivanovic was booked for running into Young as United finished the first half on top.
Ferguson had complained in his pre-match interview that the away dressing room was cold enough to "hang meat in" and the visitors were certainly caught cold at the restart as the home side trebled their advantage inside five minutes.
The second goal took less than 30 seconds, Torres getting clear down the right and whipping in the perfect cross for Mata to lash straight through De Gea before the goalkeeper could even move.
If that was sublime, the third was unlucky again for United, with Luiz heading Mata's free-kick against the shoulder of Ferdinand and into the net.
However, United, who threw on Hernandez for Young, enjoyed a spectacular reversal of fortune when they were awarded two penalties inside 10 minutes.
The first saw Sturridge harshly adjudged to have knocked over Evra, with Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas launching a bottle into the advertising hoarding in disgust before Rooney stepped up to blast the penalty into the top left-hand corner.
Mata and Rooney tested the goalkeeper at either end and Paul Scholes came on for Rafael before Webb pointed to the spot again when Welbeck tripped over the leg of Ivanovic.
This time Rooney went to Cech's left to put United within one goal of another astonishing comeback.
And although Oriol Romeu came on to shore things up and De Gea produced another uncomfortable punch on Michael Essien's drive, Ferguson's men deservedly equalised six minutes from time.
Cech could only parry Rooney's shot out to Ryan Giggs on the left and the veteran crossed for the unmarked Hernandez to head straight through Cech.Raul Meireles almost snatched it for Chelsea when he nodded Florent Malouda's cross over the top and De Gea produced two stunning stoppage-time saves to keep out Mata's free-kick and Cahill's drive.
|Chelsea||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||9|
|9||Shots off Target||4|
|44.4||1st Half Poss.||55.6|
|43.5||2nd Half Poss.||56.5|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||18||31|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||17||17|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||17||17|