08/11/2009 18:54, Report by Ben Hibbs
Chelsea 1 United 0
volley, looping his shot just a little too high over Petr Cech, and subsequently the crossbar. Chelsea finished the first half with a flurry of attacks as United’s passing became temporarily sloppy. But all in all it was a hugely positive first 45 minutes for the Reds, with Sir Alex’s tactics of pressing Chelsea’s midfield working well overall.
United began the second half equally as positively as the first, with Rooney stepping it up a gear. Fletcher flashed a shot over after good work from the United front man, then a well-worked move across the area involving Rooney ended with Giggs crossing just too high for Anderson at the far post. Fletcher was then denied with another attempt on the hour mark, as Ricardo Carvalho brilliantly raced out to block the Scotsman’s 20-yard effort.
With Fletcher and Carrick pulling the strings in midfield, and Rooney providing the spark up front, this was fast turning into one of United’s finest displays of the season so far. There looked like being only one winner - a case of when or if United could find a way through. The Reds’ best effort came in the 67th minute. A quick free-kick from Anderson allowed Rooney to press menacingly on into the final third. He played a clever one-two with Antonio Valencia and then drilled his shot inches wide. A minute later, the outstanding Rooney curled a shot from 25 yards which had Cech scrambling desperately across goal to tip the ball wide for a corner.
But all United’s good work was to be undone by one shoddy refereeing decision after 76 minutes. Fletcher clearly won the ball in a challenge on Ashley Cole, but Martin Atkinson thought differently. United were understandably angered by the decision, and that soon turned to indignation when Terry glanced his header home from Frank Lampard’s delivery on the left. Even then, the goal came under dubious circumstances as Drogba – in an offside position – flicked his foot at the ball and was technically interfering with play. To rub salt in the wounds, Rooney was booked for protesting the initial decision.