By Lee Savery
A nine goal thriller saw Chelsea just edge the Red Devils, after extra time, in an enthralling contest at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United made 10 changes from the side that beat Chelsea on Sunday and included youngsters Scott Wootton & Michael Keane at the heart of the defence. However, it was an old guard change that got United in front here.
Oriol Romeu turned on Petr Cech’s short goal kick who was then dispossessed by Anderson who knocked it on to Ryan Giggs who had time and space to roll the ball past Cech after 22 minutes. The veteran’s first goal of the season.
Up the other end, just eight minutes later, another defensive error gifted a chance but this time for Chelsea. Alexander Buttner brought down Victor Moses just inside the penalty box. Referee Lee Mason had no choice but to award a penalty. David Luiz converted the penalty despite Anders Lindegaard’s best efforts.
David Luiz would be involved in United restoring their lead just before half-time. His burst with the ball from defence to the halfway line was stopped by Rafael. The ball landed to Anderson who played a precise pass through to Javier Hernandez who got away from Gary Cahill before burying his finish past Cech. It was his sixth goal in nine appearances against Chelsea and his fourth goal in the last three games for United.
Chelsea drew level 52 minutes when Cahill headed in unmarked from Juan Mata’s corner, despite Rafael’s efforts on the line. It was clearly over and a correct decision by the officials. However, just six minutes later, a delicious lob by Nani after a brilliant one-two with Anderson restored United’s lead.
As the clock ticked down and United were heading for the quarter-finals, Wootton brought down Ramires with a clumsy tackle. Despite being 13 seconds over the allotted stoppage time, Lee Mason pointed to the spot. Substitute Eden Hazard rolled the ball past Lindegaard to send the game into extra time.
A now young looking United team looked deflated and Chelsea took full advantage with goals in each half of extra time. Firstly, Wootton’s poor defensive header gifted Daniel Sturridge the chance to round Lindegaard and put the ball in the net. In the second period, a counter-attack led by Hazard saw him play a through ball for Ramires who calmly finished one-on-one with Lindegaard as he rounded the keeper also.
Another penalty was given for United in the final minute of extra time as Cesar Azpilicueta clumsily bundled down Hernandez in the air. Giggs slotted home his second of the match but it was too late for a comeback.
Despite the results, there were some positives from a very spirited performance from the away side. Nani & Anderson were excellent throughout especially the latter who controlled the midfield while he was on the field. For the youngsters, Keane, Wootton, and Ryan Tunicliffe it will have been a good learning curve. Nick Powell also put in a decent performance as a substitute. Federico Macheda could not get into the game as it slipped away from the Red Devils.
Despite the defeat, United fans can be quite proud of their reserves tonight after such a spirited display. Chelsea’s experienced players got them over the line in the end and into the quarter-finals.
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