03/04/2010 13:30, Report by Gemma Thompson
United 1 Chelsea 2
Didier Drogba came off the bench to strike a hammer blow to United’s title chances with a controversial winner which secured a 2-1 victory for Chelsea at Old Trafford.
The Ivorian was clearly offside when he latched onto Salomon Kalou’s pass, but was allowed to carry on and fire what could be a hugely decisive goal in the title race. Joe Cole had earlier put the visitors ahead, before Drogba doubled the advantaged soon after entering the action in the second half. Federico Macheda, who had saved United this time last year with a stunning winner against Aston Villa, gave the Reds hope but his goal was too little too late for United, who lacked a real cutting edge without Wayne Rooney up front.
Sir Alex made three changes to the side that started in Munich with one a well-reported enforced change. In the absence of Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, as expected, occupied the lone striker role with support close behind from Ji-sung Park. Chelsea, meanwhile, opted to leave top scorer Didier Drogba on the bench with Carlo Ancelotti sticking with the 11 that put seven past Aston Villa last weekend.
Chelsea started brightest, with Alex heading wide on four minutes from a Frank Lampard corner. The early exchanges were dominated by the Blues who enjoyed good spells of possession, while United, just as against Bayern, struggled to keep the ball.
Spurred on by a vocal Old Trafford faithful, Sir Alex's men carved out their first opening on nine minutes when Antonio Valencia picked out the unmarked Berbatov in the area after good work down the right. Unfortunately the Bulgarian was unable to direct his header on target. A lot had been made of the responsibility resting on the striker’s shoulders with Rooney out injured, but aside from that cross from Valencia, the Reds struggled to provide him with any real service during the opening 45 minutes. Chelsea, meanwhile, were knocking the ball around well and finding pockets of space all over the pitch.