Chelsea have grabbed a crucial late winner at Old Trafford to earn a crucial win over Premier League champions Manchester United, with referee Howard Webb not doing his reputation of favoring United any favors, by sending off United right back Rafael. The match started fairly slowly, although Chelsea were getting much freedom down the right flank. The flow of the game became very open as both sides settled into the match, and Oscar almost put Chelsea in front in the fourteenth minute. Oscar took on Nemanja Vidic after romping down the right flank, and after taking the ball up to the edge of the eighteen yard box, spanked a shot through the legs of Vidic. United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard amazingly managed to push onto the post, before smothering the rebound.
Although very open, the match lacked a bit of zip. Demba Be attempted to put Chelsea in front in the thirtieth minute after he cut inside from the left, but his shot across goal dipped wide of the frame. United almost took the lead ten minutes later when Ryan Giggs beautiful through ball from the left curled around David Luiz to Robin van Persie, who flicked a volley just wide of the near post. Oscar almost gave Chelsea the lead in the forty-third minute, but his low shot from the right flashed just wide of the far post. In the final seconds of the half Van Persie came close to giving United the lead when Vidic’s cross from the left found the Van Persie in miles of space, and the Dutchman’s bullet header from seven yards out was smothered by Cech. Neither side could take the lead before the end of the half though, and the first half ended 0-0.
Chelsea kept possession for much of the opening minutes in the first half, although they failed to create any good chances. Juan Mata laid it off for Frank Lampard to try his luck in the fifty-sixth minute, but the Englishman ballooned his volley over the bar from fifteen yards out. Although United started to come back into the match, with Branislav Ivanovic accidentally back-heeling Rafael’s low cross from the right inches wide of the near post, Chelsea took the lead. Ramires promisingly romped down the middle of the United half, though the chance seemed over after the Brazilian denied a chance to shoot. But he laid it back to Oscar, who found Mata open on the left side of the United box. Mata’s first touch set him up to shoot with his left foot, and the midfielder slightly mishit his shot across goal, only for it to take a deflection off Phil Jones’ leg and trickle into the far corner of the net.
The match, which had been missing energy, came to life, and seconds after Mata’s goal, Rafael was sent off. The Brazilian was tussling with Luiz near the corner flag, and after Luiz wound up Rafael with a few elbows in the chest, the Rafael lashed out at Luiz, sending the defender flying by kicking Luis’ legs out from under him. Although Luiz cheekily smiled as he look back at Rafael, Rafael fully deserved the straight red card he was given by referee Howard Webb. United desperately sent a few long balls into the Chelsea box in the four added minutes announced by the fourth official, but they couldn’t grab an equalizer, and the match ended 1-0, with Chelsea earning a crucial win to take them above Arsenal into third place.
Man of the Match: Juan Mata