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Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United, Champions League Quarter-Finals: Match Report

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Well that didn't go particularly well. Chelsea were downed 1-0 at home by Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League after a first half Wayne Rooney goal, and try as they might they just couldn't find the equaliser. Although two extremely contentious penalty decisions went against them at the death, had Chelsea played better throughout the match they wouldn't have had to worry about an injury time penalty, so it's probably best to focus on the game than go into a murderous rage at the mere thought of a certain Alberto Undiano Mallenco.

Also, this seems like as good a time to make a site announcement as any - I've taken over as head editor and overall manager of everything football for the entirety of SB Nation, which a) is awesome and totally fun and b) meant I was covering Barcelona-Shakhtar Donetsk for the front page while I had this game on in the background. I had planned on watching this match on replay, but considering what actually happened I'm not sure that's a good idea. I have breakable objects nearby.

Anyway, Chelsea and United both opted to start the match in a 4-4-2, which makes me wonder what Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti know that I don't. The absence of David Luiz forced Cheslea to field Jose Bosingwa at right back, despite impassioned pleas from WAG community members to play Michael Essien there instead, and Ancelotti instead threw Essien into midfield alongside Frank Lampard. They were opposed by the less than impressive duo of Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, and so the midfield partnership wasn't too much of a problem.

Bosingwa at right back however was a problem. The Portuguese is an attacking force, but a defensive liability, and it was (surprise) his mistake that led to Rooney's goal, having failed to adequately with a long ball forward from Carrick and allowing United to tear through the defence once Giggs had controlled at the edge of the area. There wasn't a thing Petr Cech, John Terry, or Branislav Ivanovic could have done about the goal - the time to cut it out was when Carrick's pass was in the air, and Bosingwa didn't bother.

There's been a lot of talk about how Manchester United were the better side, which I'm not entirely convinced is true. They were certainly more purposeful going forward, but Chelsea dominated possession, had more shots and shots on target, and had significantly more clear opportunities to score, at least by my count. I accept that my attention was elsewhere for much of the contest, but it certainly didn't look like the Blues were being dominated.

Possibly the most telling moment of the whole match came at the very end of the first half, when Fernando Torres just failed to get a boot to a cross from Didier Drogba. Instead, the ball hit the post, came back off Frank Lampard as the midfielder tried a weak volley goalward, then was blocked somehow by Patrice Evra on the line. Chelsea were impossibly close to scoring and somehow didn't manage it, which basically sums up the whole match.

Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda, and John Obi Mikel all came on in the second half, with Michael Essien pushed to right back (too little too late, says I), and Chelsea again had most of the ball and most of the attempts on goal. Torres was denied his first Chelsea strike thanks to the firm hands of Edwin van der Sar (who was superb all night), but that was probably the closest the hosts came to scoring in the second half despite having most of the ball. Manchester United defended excellently, and much of the Chelsea build-up play seemed thoroughly pointless. If there's an argument against Ancelotti using a 4-4-2, this was it.

The game ended up being decided by the referee, however, as Chelsea were twice denied penalties in injury time. The first, which occurred when Patrice Evra brought down Ramires with some sort of flying scissor challenge that got none of the ball, was a stonewall case. The second was earned by Fernando Torres, who was fouled by Rio Ferdinand, made the most of it, and was booked for his troubles - that was less obvious but on replay appears to be a clear foul. I don't think it's ludicrous to say that we should have gotten a call in one of those two incidents, and more or less everyone agrees with me.

However, we shouldn't be relying on last-minute penalty decisions to draw Champions League matches at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had the chance to make a big statement and instead completely failed to deliver. That's not entirely their fault, considering that the difference between the two sides apart from those penalty calls was about an inch of post, but it is what it is and we have to live with it. There's a chance - a pretty small chance, if you ask me - that the Blues can salvage this tie by winning at Old Trafford, so don't get too down. But this sure wasn't what I was hoping for.

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