At the same venue, the two rivals met again. There was no Torres and Ivanovic, but Mikel and Juan Mata, the centre of attention currently, remained on the team sheet. Chelsea’s second string looked fairly competitive, while Manchester United required the experience of Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher to protect the young backline formed by Scott Wootton and Michael Keane.
With the Saturday early clash with Arsenal in mind, Sir Alex included eight youth team members in the 18-men squad. Rooney and Van Persie were both exempted from the match, but the attacking trio of Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck and Nani still posed a significant threat to Peter Cech. Chelsea completely altered the attacking combination, but Victor Moses and Juan Mata were active and constantly threatening the Red Devil’s defence.
Coincidently, there were three first half goals, but came in a completely different manner to Sunday. Romeu’s carelessness in his own half allowed Ryan Giggs acres of space to calmly beat Peter Cech. Alex Buttner’s clumsy challenge on Moses in the box exposed the defensive liability of the Netherlands full back, also gifted David Luiz a chance to score the penalty.
However, the Brazilian’s adventurous style was penalized by Rafael and it eventually led to Chicharito’s go-ahead goal. The Mexican poacher is in unstoppable form. He recovered from a heavy right foot touch and fired a quick left foot shot past to grant Manchester United the lead at half time.
Alex Ferguson decided to restore some experience at the back by withdrawing Buttner and slotting Fletcher into the right back position. Chelsea introduced the more advanced Ramires to replace John Obi Mikel. Although the Blues showed a higher level of intensity, it was young Nick Powell who was the first to impress and nearly made it 3-1 with a decent long shot. Peter Cech kept the goal difference at one.
Chelsea did not spend long to make it an even game again. Another centreback Gary Cahill’s header from a corner made it 2-2, despite Rafael’s effort to scramble the ball away from the goal line. It was a lesson to learn for United defenders in corner marking. While Gary Cahill’s header was unchallenged, Daniel Sturridge was also wandering around the goalkeeper unmarked. Minutes before, Lindegaard was found refueling with liquid when a quick corner was launched.
However, it was once again the familiar story line for Manchester United this season. The quality of the attack made up for the mistakes at the back. A simple one-two between Nani and Andersen was concluded with Nani’s composed chip shot. Just as Chelsea seemingly was regaining the control, a simple yet effective play put Chelsea on the back foot for the third time.
Roberto Di Matteo’s determination was crystal clear, with Eden Hazard and Oscar introduced in the second half. Victor Moses and César Azpilicueta both had wasted golden chances to level the score, while Hernandez could not extend the lead with his shot fired over the bar.
Arsene Wenger reckoned his team’s historical comeback victory would boost his team’s performance in the Premier League. With no doubt, consecutive defeats at home to a title rival would seriously damage Chelsea’s morale, but tributes had to be paid to United’s defense, in particular Nick Powell who surprisingly emerged as the solid anchorman.
With the help of the referee, Wootton and Keane looked increasingly likely to leave Stamford Bridge with one of their most famous victories in their career so far. Nevertheless, the game is not over until it is over. Wootton’s last second push on Ramires left Lee Mason an easy but crucial penalty decision. Eden Hazard converted with ease to force extra time.
Things went from bad to worse for the young Wootton, when his powerless header was never reaching Lindegaard. Daniel Sturridge put Chelsea in the driving seat despite trailing for three times in the game. David Luiz nearly sealed the game with an amazing freekick which ricocheted off the bar then Lindegaard’s back.
Chelsea was aware of United’s historical success of winning from behind. They maintained their concentration in defence, and when Hazard fed Ramires to make it 5-3 with five minutes to go, it appeared there was no way for United to claw back. Azpilicueta made the last few minutes a bit more interesting with a foul on Hernandez, which was of similar kind to Wootton’s, but the scoreboard finally stopped at 5-4, only three goals short of the famous game at Reading last night.
It was another thrilling Capital One Cup game. Di Matteo would be more than delighted to see his investment of resources returned with the dramatic revenge. Sir Alex was let down again by the defense. Although the Capital One Cup has traditionally not been his first priority, he would reluctantly admit the loss was indeed a painful one. It was an invaluable experience to Wootton, but a physically and mentally exhausting game for Manchester United. Can they fully recover before Saturday afternoon?