Traditionally, Chelsea and Manchester United fixtures are meant to decide the top four positions; not this time around. Chelsea is playing to manage a place in the top half of Premier League, somehow, while Manchester United is battling hard for Champions League qualification. There wasn’t much spark in the match until Kurt Zouma got injured in the second half and was replaced by Gary Cahill. While Chelsea moaned and groaned, United heaved their game in those crucial moments and Lingard struck their only goal in the match. It wasn’t until injury time that Costa scored an equaliser to put the game level.
For the most part, none of the two teams dominated the game, creating halfhearted chances every once in a while. Chelsea looked frail for most of the match while United seemed comfortable with defending the ball in the last few minutes. One would argue that a draw was unfair, and United deserved all three points while others think Chelsea created more solid chances and put the game level deservingly.
Let’s take a look at the three things the probable losers, Chelsea, did right to maintain Hiddink’s unbeaten record so far:
Boiling Things At The End
The Blues may not have been at their best for most of the game, but the sudden burst of energy as the end neared summed up the game. De Gea had to pull off some athletic saves from Fabregas and Costa’s attempts on goal, but the Spain-stopper held his nerves and showed his class to deny both of his compatriots; though only initially. Chelsea drew back level with a late strike from Costa, who has scored six goals in last seven outings. United were all over the place, unable to close up on Chelsea crosses and shots from inside the box.
Fabregas played a pivotal role in creating attacks and putting United defence on their heels. He came close to scoring a goal when De Gea denied his shot with an outstanding save but with minutes counting, he set up Costa in the dying minutes and secured a draw for his limping club.
Winning The Critical Duels
Chelsea may not have registered a daunting performance in the midfield, but the number crunchers do tell how the draw came by. It is an undeniable reality that aggression flows through the whole Chelsea squad as blood flows through the entire body. From Costa, in the front, to Terry, in the back, Chelsea players like tackling and intimidating the opponent with big mouths and physical battles.
The stats tell that Chelsea won 53% of all the duels and a massive 70% of all the tackles in the match; a deciding feature of Chelsea dominance at the end.
Had it not been for the world-class saves the Belgian carries along in his rucksack, Chelsea would have gone down two or three more goals earlier in the game. Courtois denied Martial in the initial minutes as the game was just beginning to sparkle. Not to mention his saves from Rooney and Lingard’s shots on target that uplifted Chelsea’s morale and brought them right back into the game while also providing an opportunity to draw level.
Courtois has only four clean sheets in Barclays Premier League this season. However, in all fairness, it hasn’t been all his fault. He hasn’t had much support from the defensive line and had to raise his game to make sure Chelsea survive in the remaining campaign. Although just like Lingard’s goal, there isn’t much he could have done to keep Chelsea alive in the title race. If it weren’t for his saves in the match, Chelsea would not be smirking in the locker room at United’s misery.