Chelsea, who had so far offered little in attack, went close to drawing level on 34 minutes. Drogba headed Lampard’s deep cross to the far post, back across goal. Rio Ferdinand dithered for a just second with Michael Ballack breathing down his neck. His presence forced the United skipper into heading towards his own goal, but Edwin van der Sar was alert, beating the effort away at point blank range.
United broke forward immediately from the resulting corner, Wayne Rooney finding Ronaldo with an exquisite 40 yard cross-field pass. The winger controlled it brilliantly and delivered a perfect cross onto Carlos Tevez’s head. Cech blocked the diving effort from the Argentine and was also on hand to parry Michael Carrick’s follow-up shot from the edge of the box. An awesome double save.
The Reds were clearly growing in confidence and Ronaldo in particular was giving Chelsea's stand-in right-back Michael Essien a torrid time. Two minutes before the break Hargreaves won possession, broke forward and fed Rooney on the right. He fizzed in an early daisy-cutter which evaded Makelele at the front post. Tevez was waiting just behind him but just wasn’t able to poke the ball goalwards.
At the other end, Ferdinand was booked for a foul on Lampard right on the edge of the box, but Ballack curled the subsequent free-kick over van der Sar’s crossbar much to the delight of the jubilant United fans behind the goal.
That jubilation turned to deflation right on the stroke of half-time when Chelsea drew level. When the marauding Essien's shot cannoned off both Vidic and Ferdinand, it dropped to Lampard in the area. Van der Sar raced to meet him but slipped at the vital moment, allowing the Chelsea midfielder to side-foot home.
Buoyed by their ill-deserved equaliser, Chelsea began to take a grip of proceedings after the break. Essien broke