For Chelsea it was never going to be an easy game; a grudge match against fellow high-flyers Manchester United always brings with it drama and tension. This 1-1 draw was no different.
The first half was a tense battle in the midfield with both teams hoarding possession lest they give the opposition the ball and opportunity. Caution was the name of the game as both teams tested defenses for weaknesses, and both Managers looked on from the sidelines more in fear than hope.
It was a battlefield where the slightest error might lead to disaster, and both teams played accordingly. At half-time the scores were still 0-0, with neither team creating a good chance on goal.
The tension ratcheted up with every passing minute.
First half action: Manchester United looking to play forward through a congested midfield.
The stalemate was finally broken in the 56th minute when Manchester United won possession in a midfield challenge. Pogba found Lingard wide on the left and the flashy midfielder made a dazzling run towards the byline. His cut-back pass into the goalmouth went to Ibrahimovic’s feet, but the big striker bobbled the ball and lost control for an instant. Chelsea’s keeper, Thibaut Courtois, pounced off his line, but somehow Ibrahimovic used his strength and skill to turn on the ball and shoot – leaving the keeper beaten and stranded.
Top: Pogba’s vision finds Lingard wide on the left.
Middle: Lingard drives towards the byline then crosses the ball to the feet of Ibrahimovic
Bottom: The Manchester United striker beats a diving challenge for the ball from the keeper and scores.
At 0-1, Manchester United Manager, Jose Mourinho instantly substituted a midfielder and brought on another specialist defender. United began to sit deeper in defense, inviting Chelsea to attack.
Chelsea had no choice.
For twenty more minutes Chelsea drove forward in waves and Manchester United absorbed the pressure and repelled each assault. Chelsea seemed to be running out of ideas.
Then, in the 75th minute, a simple error re-shaped the match.
Playing out from the back, United’s Daley Blind miscalculated a harmless pass, and Eden Hazard pounced for Chelsea.
The capacity Stamford Bridge crowd rose to their feet as Hazard intercepted the pass and dribbled for goal. Blind made an attempt at a sliding tackle, but Hazard eluded the challenge and carried the ball inside the penalty box. There was an instant of hush in the stands… and then Hazard drove the shot into the bottom corner of the goal, past the desperate dive of de Gea.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard goes for goal after intercepting a wayward Manchester United pass
It was the last real opportunity for either team in a game where chances were few and far between and the need not-to-lose overrode the necessary bravado required to manufacture a win.