Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea: Blues stage remarkable fight back to force replay

Second-half goals from Eden Hazard and Ramires ensured that Chelsea remain in the FA Cup as a comeback cancelled out first-half Manchester United goals from Wayne Rooney and Chicharito.

The first half was dominated by the Red Devils as Chelsea endured a torrid first ten minutes, with Chicharito opening the scoring with a header, before Rooney extended the lead with a fortuitous free-kick.

It was truly a tale of two halves though as Chelsea controlled the second period, eventually getting their just rewards with a stunning effort from Eden Hazard and a smart finish from Ramires, though they were unable to complete the comeback, despite some late pressure.

Sir Alex Ferguson chose to retain the bulk of the side that fell to a disappointing Champions League exit on Tuesday, though he made four changes as Jonny Evans, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Chicharito came in, at the expense of Nemanja Vidic, Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie.

Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, made wholesale changes as only Petr Cech, David Luiz, Oscar and Frank Lampard remain from the side that fell to a 1-0 defeat against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday, with John Terry, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres amongst those notably excluded.

It took just four minutes for the deadlock to be broken and it came virtue of a Chicharito header as the home side took an early lead. Michael Carrick played a magnificent through-ball into the diminutive Mexican’s path and the striker took it early on his head, surprising the advancing Petr Cech by looping the ball deftly over his head and into the far corner.

With Chelsea still shellshocked, The Red Devils manage to extend their lead mere minutes later. After Victor Moses felled Nani out wide following a typically rapid counter-attack, Rooney stepped up to swing in the free kick. Despite seemingly attempting to find a teammate with an inswinging cross, no-one managed to get a touch on it and it found its way past Cech into the far corner, leaving the Blues chasing a two-goal deficit with just ten minutes gone.

Chelsea continued to struggle as the half wore on as both Chicharito and Rooney spurned chances to extend their lead further, with the away side’s opportunities in the first period limited to half-chances; Moses should have done better after cutting inside in the area, instead slicing his shot well wide, while David De Gea was called into action after a dangerous Juan Mata cross.

Though Manchester United’s impetus continued into the second half, Chelsea began to come into the game and it took fifteen minutes and a moment of brilliance for their pressure to show. Hazard, after receiving the ball to the left of the penalty area, took one step inside and curled the ball into the far corner with a great deal of finesse, leaving De Gea with no chance.

With twenty minutes remaining, United attempted to put themselves out of distance with a third goal and, in doing so, committed too many men forward and Ramires was the men that made them pay. Luiz intercepted an attack on the edge of his area and set the counter-attack in motion, which eventually ended with Ramires bearing down on goal and, after the Brazilian turned into his left, he stroked the ball into the opposite corner, levelling proceedings.

The Red Devils started to exert some pressure with fifteen minutes remaining as substitute Robin van Persie had his shot blocked, before Carrick’s effort from the ensuing melee suffered the same fate.

Chelsea had the better of the last ten minutes but were unable to capitalise on their pressure as Mata had the best chance to win the game, though De Gea was at hand to produce an excellent save from his sidefooted effort, meaning that a replay beckons for both of these sides.

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