Diego Costa rescued Chelsea in stoppage time as the Blues stutter to another draw against Manchester United, to record their fourth consecutive draw in home games in the Premier League for the first time in their history.
Jesse Lingard’s 61st-minute strike looked like it would be the winner but Costa popped up with his 11th goal of the season, but it came from stoppage time owing to a lengthy injury to Kurt Zouma who looks to be out for the season.
It means the Blues still languish in 13th position as they yet again fail to really get into their stride until they are already behind, but with Chelsea recording 93% of possession in the final 10 minutes, it was fair the Blues shared the spoils, as Hiddink’s unbeaten run back at Chelsea continues.
Whenever these two sides meet, it is usually a top-of-the-table clash, but even though this match was of less league significance, it was still a matter of personal bragging rights.
Manchester United edged overall possession by 51% to Chelsea’s 49%, and also shots by recording 17 attempts to Chelsea’s 16.
The closeness in the statistics explained why the two sides could not be separated and why the first half, albeit entertaining, petered out to a 0-0 score-line, largely thanks to the two goalkeepers.
The early quarter of an hour was dominated by the hosts, with Borthwick-Jackson, Rooney and Carrick all having attempts on Courtois’ goal. If open play was not working, within the first 12 minutes the visitors had five early corners but each bore no fruit, but did serve to put Chelsea’s back-line under strain from the off, but was marshalled well by John Terry, whose name was chanted loudly as the fans look to pressure the Board into extending their captain’s contract.
The best chance fell for Martial but Courtois was equal to it, as was De Gea equal to Oscar’s try.
Smalling then had two chances of his own, first from a header from a corner and second from a shot from the ensuing corner, but neither got through to Courtois.
Costa and Oscar both missed chances around the half-hour mark, the former dragging his shot wide and the latter placing his too high, as little was budging at either end. Terry’s shot hit Blind just before the half-time whistle blew but the penalty claims went unnoticed by Michael Oliver.
What would the second half bring? More attempts. Rooney’s header was blocked from Mata’s cross, with the ex-Chelsea ace getting a warm welcome on his return to Stamford Bridge.
A flurry of activity ensued for Lingard and Martial, which was the tipping point for Hiddink to bring on Hazard to inject some energy into a laboured Chelsea performance.
The real concern came moments later though when Zouma landed awkwardly when volleying a ball clear. His knee buckled when landing and, after a lengthy delay, Cahill came on.
Such is the young Frenchman’s importance that a minute after he departed, Lingard scored. It was a well-taken goal from the centre of the box, with the 23-year-old Englishman linking up well with his compatriot Rooney.
Then Chelsea came to life. Ivanovic did superbly well to wait for a ball to fall before unleashing what was surely an unstoppable left-foot volley into goal, but De Gea’s reaction save was fantastic.
It was then Fabregas’ turn to throw a thunderbolt at De Gea from five yards out but the Spaniard was not to be beaten.
Terry and Cahill played centre-forwards for the last 10 minutes, with Mikel and Azpilicueta a make-shift back two, but the high risk strategy bore great returns in injury time.
Fabregas’ disguised pass caused a Manchester United defender to become wrong-footed and fall, which allowed Costa to round De Gea and tap in.
Cue wild celebrations, but Chelsea are still at the wrong end of the table whilst Manchester United are at the right end.
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Man of the Match
THIBAUT COURTOIS: Made some big big saves as he continues to prove his worth as one of the best goalkeepers in this generation. An all-round good defensive display by Chelsea, who were marshalled well by Terry, whilst Azpilicueta and Ivanovic proved their worth offensively as well as in their usual defensive duties today. 7/10
Hiddink was satisfied with the performance if not another draw: “I am happy with the reaction of the team. Manchester United did a good job in the first half and in the beginning of the second, they are not an easy team to beat. But we deserved a point. We dropped too far back after the first 20 minutes when they dominated us but later on we closed a little more.”
Van Gaal was frustrated: “I feel we didn’t reward ourselves with a victory because we were the better team. Until the last quarter we played very well and could have scored more goals. But you have to control the game better and we did not do that.”