Chelsea fume as controversy reigns

Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 00:00

Chelsea 2 Manchester U 3:IT WAS a wild and eccentric match that finished amid great controversy and, from Chelsea’s point of view, a thick portfolio of grievances about incidents that accompanied Manchester United’s first league win at Stamford Bridge for a decade.

Their complaints were vociferous and justifiable too because even ignoring the red card for Fernando Torres that left Chelsea two men down, Roberto Di Matteo had every right to be aggrieved about events leading to the decisive goal. Javier Hernandez, the United substitute, was in an offside position when Rafael da Silva took aim at Petr Cech’s goal and misdirected his shot into the Mexican’s path. The flag never went up and Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the league season was over.

It was a rancorous ending and there were moments when Di Matteo and his coaching staff became embroiled in a heated exchange with Alex Ferguson. Afterwards Di Matteo complained with unusual vigour about the performance of Mark Clattenburg and the referee’s assistants.

Chelsea had shown great togetherness to recover from United racing into a 2-0 lead inside 12 minutes. Their opponents have never lost a match from that position in the Premier League but had been looking vulnerable until red cards for Branislav Ivanovic and then Torres in the 63rd and 69th minutes. Clattenburg, Di Matteo said, had “ruined the game”.

Later there were more serious allegations about comments the referee had allegedly made to one of the Chelsea players.

There could be no dispute about the validity of the first dismissal, Ivanovic clipping Ashley Young’s heels as the forward ran clear on goal. Yet Chelsea were entitled to their complaints after Clattenburg decided Torres had been trying to deceive him when the Spaniard turned past Jonny Evans.

The replays showed there had been a slight touch and when Clattenburg reached for his pocket most of the crowd would have assumed he was going to punish Evans. Instead it was a second yellow card for Torres. The first booking for Torres had come at the end of the first half, a minute after Juan Mata’s superb free-kick had put Chelsea back into the game, and this is perhaps where Di Matteo’s argument is undermined. Torres had embedded his studs into Tom Cleverley’s chest and a challenge that high might have enticed a red card. By the end Clattenburg, excellent for the first hour, was straying dangerously close to losing the plot and Antonio Valencia was booked for diving when there was a tangle of legs with Mikel John Obi.

United began as though affronted that their record on this ground should be so undistinguished. Young was prominently involved and Rooney was exceptional in getting on the ball and influencing the match. They also had a striker, Robin van Persie, who had the technical gifts and force of personality to cause Chelsea’s defence plenty of problems.

After three minutes Rooney broke on the right and Van Persie’s right-foot shot flashed against the post, bounced out and ricocheted against David Luiz to pinball its way into the net.

United’s second goal also originated on the right, Van Persie firing in Valencia’s low cross with another right-foot effort, and at that stage Chelsea looked as though they had temporarily forgotten everything that has helped them to the top of the table.

Rooney also made one contribution that might have had serious repercussions for his team. His hack at Eden Hazard’s ankles was needless and dim-witted, when Chelsea’s artillery included a free-kick specialist of Mata’s refinement. Just outside the area Mata sized it up, then speared his left-foot shot into the top corner.

Mata became influential, aided and abetted by Hazard and Oscar. David de Gea, United’s goalkeeper, made several fine saves, particularly to keep out Torres’s header at 2-0. Evans turned a cross against his post and Rooney cleared Gary Cahill’s goal-bound header. This was a staunch recovery from Chelsea and, after 53 minutes, they were level. Oscar hooked the ball across the penalty area and Ramires outjumped Cleverley to head firmly past De Gea.

Yet there was a certain inevitability to what happened after Torres’s red card. Within six minutes Cech turned Van Persie’s shot against the post and the ball came out to Rafael. Offside, Hernandez applied the final touch for a chaotic and controversial win.

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