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A Thriller!

 Posted by on October 29, 2014 at 4:05 pm  Blogs/Media, Chelsea, England, Manchester United
Oct 292014

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea
78546923 vanpersie goal empics A Thriller! It felt familiar. It felt just lovely! Robin van Persie’s miraculous equalizer three minutes into injury time in front of a screaming Stretford End gave Manchester United a point to stay within reach of the top four. It also helped keep Chelsea a realistic target for the other teams hanging in there to realistically focus on after one humdinger of a match at Old Trafford. Indeed, this was a moment up there on the Red Devils historical thrill-scale up there with the 1999 Champions League extra time victory over Bayern Münich at the Nou Camp.

It was a night where United had to perform at their highest level and manage to maintain their concentration in a manner they had failed to do for a full match all season. The mission was to contain one of the two most talented midfields in the world for a full 90 minutes or else face the music and wake up Monday morning 13 points behind their opponents. It was a lot of pressure. As expected, the Center Back pairing of Marcus Rojo and a dreadfully nervous Chris Smalling, like a pair of seasick rookie sailors, had a hard time dealing with the ruthless old troll that is Didier Droba and adjusting on the fly to whoever came in behind him, whether it was Oscar, Hazard, Willian or the tireless Fabregas. And then, at free kicks and corners, up also came the big reinforcements in Gary Cahill and his wily old thug partner, John Terry. You could see the future like the handwriting on the wall. United always seemed likely to concede due to some petty lapse of concentration rather than mass ineptitude. Yet, with the help of confident more mature heads like those of Daley Blind and his first-time partner Marouane Fellaini, United hung in there throughout the first half and even managed to work some snazzy plays down the channels.

Although Chelsea controlled the lion’s share of possession in the match, United definitely created more and better scoring opportunities. When he was allowed space, Luke Shaw showed a snap to his tackles and many variations in his quiver full of different crosses. Likewise, Adnan Januzaj, often free on the left side,looked sharp. With Januzaj and Shaw given ball time, Van Persie was able to make more incisive runs. In tandem, they took a lot of pressure off Angel Di Maria. The Argentine, although aggressive and always dangerous, had a bad day. His radar off. He, nevertheless, showed himself to be a fine team leader, very much making up for the absence of Our talisman captain and striker Wayne Rooney.

What Chelsea showed, minus the presence of Diego Costa, is that all that glitters is not gold. The quick, lithe determination and confidence of Eden Hazard gave Rafael a relentless handful. Simply too relentlessly good to contain 100% of the time, it was his give-and-go with Drogba, which lead to a a stunner of a save from David De Gea, that led to the corner for their goal in the 53rd minute.

78546544 ivanovic smalling2 getty A Thriller!It never seemed clear just how small United are by comparison are to to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City as when that corner was taken. Why the tiny Rafael Da Silva was marking Drogba in the first place is unfathomable. LVG will have to carry the can for that one. With Matic, Terry and Cahill shoving in unison during the melée as the ball floated in, Van Persie moved too slowly to keep out the ball off the goal line and the 36-year-old Drogba, bundled the ball past David De Gea.

Unless you are a partisan Chelsea fan, it’s crystal clear that—in spite of getting a goal from set-play in which size dominated—it’s no accident that seven of the match’s ten bookings went to Chelsea. Yet, after the game, Chelsea’s manager Mourinho persisted in complaining to the press that Marcos Rojo had a choke-hold John Terry and Chris Smalling pulled off an even more blatant bit grab-and-yank bullying on Ivanovic. To anyone familiar with the who’s who of the league. Mourinho’s straight-faced complaint is downright ludicrous. At any rate, the referee, Phil Dowd, never heretofore known as an ally to Manchester United, was not sympathetic to a crybaby Chelsea.

When all was said and done, a moment is all it takes. A moment indeed was all it took for Bronislav Ivanovic to deface the edifice he himself had constructed. Ivanovic can be a brilliant instinctive player and will do anything to win. Passion is never a grievous fault, but, sometimes, the Serb takes the silk gloves off his ratcheted-up persona and gambles at pushing the boundaries of a game. Sometimes it works brilliantly as with the game two seasons ago with Liverpool, when a steady dose of invective, wit and strategic hard fouling, made a certain volatile opponent, Luís Suarez, snap and bite him and receive a red card which, in one fell swoop, destroyed his club’s season. Also prone to lecturing officials about their level of competence, Ivanovic isn’t so much a bomb waiting to go off as short-tempered man unable to accept the case of glaucoma he’s been diagnosed with.

Anyway, a blind man with arrogance is still a blind man. For some reason, Ivanovic snapped at the single most crucial moment of the game. A warrior in a fog of pure rage, he pulled the pin out of metaphorical grenade. Like some blind zealot warrior, carrying a grenade pin in his hand, searching for a hole in the grenade with the pad of his thumb, the Serbian right back attached himself doggedly to Angel Di Maria. Troubled by the highly-skilled Argentine midfielder all day, Ivanovic gambled on a mix of vicious, hard and tiki-taka fouls to suppress him. throughout the game. Then boom! it worked into the 92nd minute when the referee, Phil Dowd, having repeated a number of ‘last warnings’ to the Serb and repeatedly been mouthed off to, was as coiled and enraptured by the game as the players. So when Ivanovic yanked down on the shoulder of a sprinting Di Maria on the left flank, although it wasn’t even close to being his worst foul, it was enough to pull a second yellow, followed by a red out of Dowd.

So, with seconds to go, as Ivanovic poured out a stream of invective in the tunnel, Di Maria whipped in yet another free-kick. Marouane Fellaini’s rocket of a header was superbly intercepted by Thibaut Courtois but the rebound fell straight down on Robin Van Persie, who blasted home the equalizer.

Finally. there’s Marouane Fellaini. Picked to start for the first time this season, the big Belgian dominated throughout. Additionally, as strong and determined as Yaya Touré does at his best, Fellaini proved to the warrior that the club paid out 30 million pounds for, rising to shunt aside both Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill before heading down a perfect Di María free kick which allowed Robin Van Persie to score the equalizer. I have no clue what Louis Van Gaal whispered in the ear of my beloved Bog Brush’s ears, but he gave a savvy, controlled performances that served to stifle and seal up the vast stretches of midfield Matic and his partner Cesc Fabregas are so familiar with owning. Simply put, Fellaini closed down Fàbregas in way that hasn’t happened since the good old days United had during the smiling Brazilian Anderson’s heyday six seasons ago. Fellaini may have too many difficulties against small, fleet-footed teams like Arsenal, but when he’s the hub of a speedy midfield, Fellaini becomes a kind of dangerous mothership connection. Surround Fellaini with more fleet-footed team-mates and he becomes a kind of space station for the ball, holding up possession with his back to goal on the edge of the penalty area and playing as a kind of distributional hub 20 yards in from the flank. He should not be sold.78546147 mourinho vangaal pa A Thriller!

Ivor Irwin

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