Chelsea vs. Manchester United was a game that was seen as a title decider in previous years. Not so much today, though, as one lingers in 5th position with the other in the unlucky 13th.
The game, however, proved to be quite a different story than the reverse fixture at Old Trafford back in December which ended in a 0-0 draw. Chelsea actually had a striker in this one, and United were on the back of an impressive win.
So, the action in the first half was equally divided, with Manchester United dominating the opening 10 minutes, creating chances and trying to break the deadlock. The pattern from their previous meeting was continued, in other words.
The pattern was broken when it was Chelsea who got back at United afterward, and they, arguably, created the better opportunities. This aspect was similar to their game last season at Stamford Bridge, when Chelsea let United dominate possession while they pounce on the chances that they produce.
The 1st half ended with Man United trying to break away after a Chelsea corner, and the stage was set for the climactic scene in the 2nd half. For Van Gaal would’ve surely been a bit disappointed with his side not creating any decisive chances, while Hiddink would rue his ultra-defensive approach to the game with Mikel and Matic sitting in midfield.
The 2nd half started brilliantly from a neutral’s point of view, with both sides attacking with equal intent and intelligence. However, Kurt Zouma suffered an injury right after the introduction of Eden Hazard in the 53rd minute for Oscar, and we all wish him the very best in his recovery because it looked quite serious.
Zouma’s injury led to the switch with Gary Cahill, and United scored their first goal consequently. Martial was fed the ball out on the left-hand side, who rolled it to the young fullback Borthwicke-Jackson, who then crossed the ball right in front of the 6-yard box, hoping that a United player will pick it up. Jesse Lingard did pick it up after a small mishap from one of Chelsea’s defenders with his back turned to goal. He then turned and hit it on the bounce into the top right of Courtois’s goal, giving little chance to the Belgian of stopping it. This 61st minute goal was a beauty that Wayne Rooney would’ve been proud of had he been the scorer, for the technique was a sign of sheer class from Lingard.
Hazard’s substitution for Oscar was a bit unjust to the Brazilian, as I thought he had quite an impact in the first half though he had been wayward with a few of his passes. Hiddink was probably, in his mind, left with only two options that he could’ve taken off, and Willian, as he’s been Chelsea’s best player this season by some distance, was more likely to make a telling difference.
Anyhow, Chelsea responded very well to Manchester United’s goal, and actually started full-on attacking United’s back four after Hiddink made a second substitution(as he realized his first one was quite bad) and brought on Pedro for Matic. It seemed as if the game had only begun, and this sort of late hustle from Chelsea after they go a goal down has got to tell Hiddink that they need to have an attacking lineup from the very beginning. For they have gone a goal down when they start with this defensive mindset way too often for any Chelsea fan’s liking.
The response from Chelsea produced some really good opportunities for them to equalize, but they didn’t grab any until in the 91st minute when Daley Blind played Diego Costa onside and the Spaniard dribbled the ball past De Gea and rolled it into the net. The finish was similar to the one he had against Everton, if you remember, though the players the position and his surroundings were very different.
This makes it 6 goals in 7 games under Guus Hiddink in the Premier League for Costa, who’s been on a good run of form overall since Mourinho’s departure.