Chelsea downs Manchester United, tightens EPL race with two matches left

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Michael Ballack scored two goals, including a late penalty kick, to give Chelsea a 2-1 victory against Manchester United on Sunday. The win helped Chelsea catch Manchester United on points with two games left to play in the English Premier League Season.

Chelsea has remaining games against Newcastle and Bolton while Manchester United will face West Ham United and Wigan. Chelsea must finish ahead of Manchester United on points because of Manchester United’s essentially insurmountable edge in goal differential (16 goals).

The big talking point following the game will surely be Alex Ferguson’s decision to rest Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal decider against Barcelona. If you’re ripping that move you either don’t grasp the situation or you are a Man U hater who was looking for a reason to rip on Ferguson.

Man U has what amounts to a must-win Champions League semifinal on Wednesday and there is no debating that the Barcelona game is more important than today’s Chelsea game. Why? Well because losing today doesn’t kill Man U’s title hopes. The Red Devils still hold a lock in the goal differential department against Chelsea, meaning if they win out they win the title. A loss on Wednesday DOES kill Manchester United’s Champions League dreams, and for those of you who have lost track, Man U has a trophy case full of EPL titles while just one Champions League trophy.

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Kudos to Avram Grant for bringing the Blues all the way back. Tied for first in the EPL and in a great position heading into a Champions League semifinal second-leg encounter with Liverpool is pretty impressive stuff. I can’t help but wonder if Jose Mourinho would have done better, or worse, with this same Chelsea squad.

What did you think of today’s match? Share your thoughts below.

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16 Responses to Chelsea downs Manchester United, tightens EPL race with two matches left

  1. JGray says:

    Very nice. I am going to have to say ManU has the better chance of winning out and getting the title. Newcastle-Chelsea I think will be a good game the way the magpies have been playing lately.

  2. Camjam says:

    So who scored the loan goal for Man U?

  3. ManicMessiah says:

    Perhaps Man U might feel unlucky not to have snatched a draw because of the goal line clearance at the end, Also,I thought the penalty given to Chelsea was a bit dubious, though to be fair they did deserve to win the match based on their performance.

    I’m pretty much with your line of thinking about resting Ronaldo and Tevez, Ives. And to be honest, if United can’t beat West Ham and Wiggan, then they don’t deserve to win the league.

    Finally, with Newcastle hosting Chelsea next week, how about the possibility of Kevin Keegan clinching the title for Alex Ferguson and Man U?

  4. Edward says:

    Wayne Rooney scored in the 57th minute.

  5. sky says:

    This Chelsea side is still Jose Murino’s baby. Grant has nothing to do with it.

  6. Dante says:

    I really think goal differential being the difference in a championship race is rather lame. If the teams are tied after 38 games, then it should go to a playoff. Imagine how intense that would be and how much money the EPL would make! All goal differential does is mean that you have to pummel the smaller clubs, and what kind of sportsmanship is that? I think any Derby County fan would agree ;)

  7. eric says:

    The Rooney goal was pretty fluky too, it came off a terrible square ball by Carvalho that Rooney ran on and away with.

    While you can’t deny that Chelsea are getting the points with Grant in charge, I drink the Jose kool-aid, so I give him credit for the mindset at Chelsea, and that doesn’t vanish when Mourinho leaves. Maybe it is Grant, or maybe it’s the players themselves, but even for those who are going to leave, everyone seems to realize that it is in their best interest to keep getting results. Even their biggest miscontents like Drogba and Shevchenko have kept their complaining below crisis level (Sheevchenko looked thrilled to be on the pitch today for his 8 mins, really looked like he was all about the team when he cleared Fletcher’s shot off the goal line).

    Finally, on Grant vs Jose, a big wild card is that Roman Abramovich really took a step back when Jose left, and Grant’s been free to make the right moves like benching Shevchenko. It’s not like if they kept Mourinho he’d have this kind of freedom to run the club.

  8. John says:

    Ballack is a world class player that Jose couldn’t figure out how to incorporate into the lineup. Now whether that was because he honestly felt he didn’t fit or he just wanted to stick it to Abramovich for buying players he didn’t want who knows. This all said I’d pick Jose 7 days out of the week over Avram, and I am highly anticipatory of where he will land next.

  9. Sean Brown says:

    At the same time, I don’t think the performance is sustainable. If Grant is the coach for 2-3 more years, Chelsea will begin to flounder. Rifts are growing between players – witness today’s free-kick argument between Drogba and Ballack, which continued during a subsequent injury break.

    What the Man U haters like to ignore is the fact that stability has led to an atmosphere that players enjoy (I’m sure Ronaldo would have left in 2006 if this were not the case) but that also gives them discipline and an incentive to be good teammates and play according to the coaches’ strategy on the pitch.

  10. chatnoir says:

    Grant really has it hard. With significant injuries and some hard personalities, he’s put chelsea near to EPL title and champs league final.

    Even if Chelsea loses to ManU in the EPL race and to liverpool in uefa, I still think it’s a respectable season.

    Obviously Chelsea are big spenders but so are the other top 4 squads they’re competing against. I think he deserves another season to see what he can do.

  11. Isn’t there more money in winning a Champions League trophy too?

    Makes sense to rest the players.

  12. doug says:

    For me it was a very bizarre match from Chelsea. Im shocked that they came away with 3 points. Just think about it. The goals were born out of Wes Brown and Silvestre slowing down, then backing off Drogba who crossed to Ballack for the nice header. Drogba and Ballack arguing about freekicks. In Ballack’s defense, he looked as if he was saying something like “are you really going to make an argument in a big game like this? Where is your head”. Then Drogba stomps off like a baby to the assistant coach, while Avram Grant is silent on the bench. For me, it points out 2 things about Chelsea. One, Drogba has mentally checked out of Chelsea. Lack of respect for the teammates, shirt, and club. And 2, Grant is out. He shouldve hauled Drogba’s ass out of there and sat him on the bench. You have your season on the line, and Drogba wants to aruge about freekicks? FREEKICKS! You can bet that Drogba wouldnt have dreamed of pulling that crap off, in such a big game, if Mourinho was still around. To sit there and watch your player throw a tantrum all over what seemed to be nothing more than “I’m mad because Ballack you already scored, and now I want to score. Pay no attention to the fact I have teammates. Its about ME, ME,ME.

  13. doug says:

    For me it was a very bizarre match from Chelsea. Im shocked that they came away with 3 points. Just think about it. The goals were born out of Wes Brown and Silvestre slowing down, then backing off Drogba who crossed to Ballack for the nice header. Drogba and Ballack arguing about freekicks. In Ballack’s defense, he looked as if he was saying something like “are you really going to make an argument in a big game like this? Where is your head”. Then Drogba stomps off like a baby to the assistant coach, while Avram Grant is silent on the bench. For me, it points out 2 things about Chelsea. One, Drogba has mentally checked out of Chelsea. Lack of respect for the teammates, shirt, and club. And 2, Grant is out. He shouldve hauled Drogba’s butt out of there and sat him on the bench. You have your season on the line, and Drogba wants to aruge about freekicks? FREEKICKS! You can bet that Drogba wouldnt have dreamed of pulling that crap off, in such a big game, if Mourinho was still around. To sit there and watch your player throw a tantrum all over what seemed to be nothing more than “I’m mad because Ballack you already scored, and now I want to score. Pay no attention to the fact I have teammates. Its about ME, ME,ME.

  14. Michael F. says:

    Am I the only one who didn’t see Carrick’s hand touch the ball?

    That call was outrageous.

  15. Jon E says:

    @ Dante: I’ve been thinking along the same lines for a while. Maybe it’s some subconscious American playoff fetish, but I like the idea of a contingent playoff at the end of the EPL season.

    I’m thinking of something like this: 1) If the first-place team leads the second-place team by 3 or more points at the end of the season, then hooray for the first-place team, they win outright. But if they’re ahead by 0-2 points, then the two teams would play a home-and-away series in which home and away goals count equally and in which each point of difference counted as a goal in the first-place team’s favor. So if Man Utd. were up two points at the end of the season, then it would start the two-leg playoff against Chelsea with a two-goal lead.

    So this playoff would only happen if no team managed to beat any other team by at least one full win. And the team that had a better points total would have a real edge. Most years it probably wouldn’t happen. But on the years it did, it would be both more satisfying and exciting for the fans and more money-making for the FA.

  16. northzax says:

    Jon E:

    they don’t need to do a home-and-home, they have wembley.