Drama, controversy, red cards dominate thriller
Javier Hernandez his goal and Manchester United’s winner
LONDON, England ● Javier Hernandez’s controversial winning goal gave Manchester United a dramatic 3-2 victory against nine-man Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The result ensured Alex Ferguson’s side reduced the gap on Roberto Di Matteo’s Premier League leaders to just one point, but the Blues were left fuming at the performance of referee Mark Clattenburg.
Official complaint Chelsea vs Clattenburg
Chelsea have lodged an official complaint over alleged abusive language used by referee Mark Clattenburg towards two of their players during their 3-2 defeat to Manchester United.
The official had a controversial game, sending off two Chelsea players and allowing Javier Hernandez’s winning goal to stand, despite the striker being in an offside position.
Chelsea have not revealed the details about the incidents involving Clattenburg but have released a club statement confirming that they have lodged an official protest with the Premier League.
The statement read: “We have lodged a complaint to the Premier League match delegate with regards to inappropriate language used by the referee and directed at two of our players in two separate incidents in today’s match.
“The match delegate will pass the complaint on to the Football Association. We will make no further comment at this time.”
A statement by the Professional Game Match Officials said it “is aware of the allegations and they are being treated with the utmost seriousness. Mark will co-operate fully and welcomes the opportunity for the facts to be established. No further comment will be made until matter has been properly investigated.”
Chelsea had recovered from falling behind to a David Luiz own goal and a Robin van Persie strike to level through goals from Juan Mata and Ramires when Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a 63rd-minute foul on Ashley Young.
More contentious, though, was the second yellow card shown to Fernando Torres five minutes later, after the referee had decided the striker dived following a challenge by Jonny Evans.
Replays suggested there had been contact between the two players and the decision sparked fury on the Chelsea bench that led to a touchline altercation between Ferguson and Di Matteo’s staff.
Worse was to come for the home side, with substitute Hernandez clinching victory in the 75th minute with a close-range finish from what appeared to be an offside position.
Roberto Di Matteo afterwards was furious at Mark Clattenburg, claiming the referee’s decision to send Torres off cost Chelsea all three points.
“I think the key decisions from the referee today probably influenced the result,” Di Matteo said. “He sent off Fernando Torres and then the third goal is offside and that clearly decided the game for our opposition.
“Torres has put the ball between [Evans'] legs and he is through, he gets kicked on his shin and he goes down. It is as simple as that, it is a free-kick for us – it may even be a sending off for Evans because [Torres] is through on goal. I was shocked; I thought it was going to be a free-kick for us and a foul for us, not against us.”
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United had a slice of luck as they closed the gap on leaders Chelsea with a 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge.
United’s last league win at Stamford Bridge came back in April 2002, and while Ferguson believed Torres deserved to be awarded a second yellow card for diving after Jonny Evans’ challenge, he admitted Hernandez was fortunate with his goal.
“It’s been 10 years since we have won down here,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “We had a good record until Jose [Mourinho] came along and spoiled the party.
“We’ve never got breaks down here and had some terrible decisions against us in the last few years. But today we have got a little break for the goal – Chicharito may have been offside.”
On Torres’ red card Ferguson said: “The decision the referee has to make is whether the striker has chosen to go down. He was through on goal – I don’t know why he has gone down. I think it’s his own fault.”
Di Matteo also agreed with Ferguson that Hernandez’s winner was offside. He added: “I watched it again and the replay shows that when Rafael shoots [Hernandez] is in an offside position. Everything went for United in that sense and that really makes us unhappy.
“[The referee] is going to watch it again and probably realise he made a mistake. But we can’t change the result now and that is the bigger disappointment that we have.”
The events of the final half hour ensured the match ended in controversy but before that it had already been a thrilling encounter.
Red card for Fernando Torres
The pre-match handshake between Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole, together with the absence of John Terry — who is serving a four-match ban for racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother, Anton — removed a potential flashpoint.
But the subsequent 90 minutes more than made up for it.
It was United who started the game with the greater urgency and were clearly driven by the motivation to keep Di Matteo’s side within their sights at the head of the table.
While United quickly got into their stride, attacking fluently down their right-hand flank, Chelsea’s defence looked disjointed and nervous, and the absence of Terry was telling.
Petr Cech was called into action after less than three minutes when van Persie drilled in a stinging left-foot shot from outside the area.
But the home goalkeeper had no chance of preventing United taking the lead 60 seconds later after Wayne Rooney had worked his way to the byline and pulled back for van Persie, whose shot crashed off the post and into the net via the back of Luiz.
The second came just eight minutes later after another lightning move down the United right.
Goalkeeper David De Gea started the move by rolling the ball out to Ferdinand and it ended with van Persie sweeping the ball home from Antonio Valencia’s low cross.
Chelsea looked in desperate trouble, while United were rampant.
Slowly, though, the home side worked their way back into the game and when they were finally able to play to their strengths in the attacking third, the momentum of the game shifted dramatically.
Suddenly it was De Gea who was the busier of the two keepers and the young Spaniard kept his side in it before Mata eventually halved the deficit shortly before the interval.
Rooney fouled Eden Hazard on the edge of the United area, allowing Mata to curl a precise free-kick around the wall and beyond the reach of De Gea.
Di Matteo’s side continued where they had left off after the break and were level eight minutes into the second period when Ramires headed home from Oscar’s cross.
At that point the game was perfectly poised, before an incident-packed five-minute spell left Chelsea with nine men and United poised for victory.
Ivanovic was first to see red in the 63rd minute when he tripped Young as the United winger was bearing down on goal after being played in by van Persie.
And when Torres followed five minutes later, it was always going to be an enormous task for Chelsea to hold on.
But their sense of injustice was further fuelled by Hernandez’s strike after the Mexico forward turned home Rafael’s drilled cross.