MAN UNITED 1, CHELSEA 1
Robin van Persie’s dramatic injury-time equaliser for Manchester United put the break on Chelsea’s charge at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
It looked as though Chelsea would move six points clear until van Persie struck in the 94th minute go cancel Didier Drogba’s goal which had given Chelsea the lead.
United won a free kick near the corner flag for a foul which earned Branislav Ivanovic a sending off for a second booking.
And United inflicted further punishment when Angel Di Maria’s free kick was met by Marouane Fellaini whose header was brilliant saved by Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois only for van Persie to lash in the rebound.
It ensured Louis van Gaal didn’t come second best to Jose Mourinho, his former pupil at Barcelona for a second time, their only other meeting as managers being in the 2010 final of the Champions League when Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich.
It was a blow for Chelsea, though they remain unbeaten in the league. Both draws, ironically, had been in Manchester as they were also held by City.
Mourinho was disappointed with the draw saying: “We had a good first half and fantastic second half. And to come here and not be happy with a point showed how good we were and how well we were playing.
“I am so happy with my players. It is the same result as last year but, compared to last year, it shows clearly the evolution of this team.”
Van Gaal, by contrast, was delighted with the way his side battled back to snatch a draw at the death.
He said: “My boys fought to the end and at the end scored and it was very, very deserved.
“We could have finished the game before half time and then Chelsea scored. They are the best club in Europe to kill the game, but we still had one or two chances.”
There was a lack of firepower as United were without the injured Radamel Falcao while Wayne Rooney completed his three-match ban while Ander Herrera was only fit enough for the bench.
Chelsea were also without their leading scorer Diego Costa while Loic Remy was also injured as Drogba was again thrust into the starting line up.
There was a warm embrace before the game between managers van Gaal and Mourinho, a sign of an enduring friendship which began when the two worked together at Barcelona.
Once battle began, it was United who made marginally the brighter start, though the absence of so many strikers had clearly left both sides lacking a cutting edge.
The first chance of the match fell to van Persie midway through the opening period when he was put clean through on goal by Adnan Januzaj only for Courtois to race from his line to make a vital block.
Chelsea’s first clear-cut chance came four minutes before the break when Oscar cut the ball back for Drogba whose low shot was blocked by the legs of keeper David De Gea.
They had not long before had a shout for a penalty rejected after Ivanovic claimed he was wrestled to the ground by Chris Smalling.
The breakthrough came in the 52nd minute when Chelsea took the lead moments after De Gea produced a phenomenal save to deny Edin Hazard who was clean through on goal.
Cesc Fabregas produced his eighth assist of the season as his corner was headed home by Drogba at the near post, his first Premier League goal since returning to Chelsea.
United produced a spirited fightback as van Persie’s angled shot was kept out by the legs of Courtois while Januzaj and substitute James Wilson also went close.
And their perseverance paid off deep into stoppage time when van Persie struck the goal which earned United a deserved draw following a much improved and spirited display.