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11.26.2006

Chelsea and Manchester United fought for a 1-1 draw

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This was a good point for Chelsea, one they are convinced will be a turning point in the title race. All draws are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Indeed, Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford by Mourinho's side on Sunday. United opened the scoring just before the half hour through Louis Saha, while Ricardo Carvalho equalised for the visitors on 69 minutes.

It was a game of two halves, United dominating the first 45 minutes while Chelsea took a deserved point by bossing the second period.

Michael Ballack played an important role in the midfield, covering the strikes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Giggs.

Ferguson's team created the first chance on two minutes, a Ryan Giggs free-kick whipped into the box from the right, Rooney rising with the header which looped over the bar.

Portuguese talent Cristiano Ronaldo forced a save from Carlo Cudicini on 18 minutes, hammering a free-kick over the wall from 30 yards, and it was United's early pressure that finally told on 29 minutes when Saha buried the ghosts of his injury-time Champions League penalty miss against Celtic midweek with a fine finish from the edge of the box after good work from Ronaldo and Rooney.

In fact, Chelsea's only real shot on target in the first half fell to Geremi, who cracked in a powerful shot from distance that forced Edwin Van de Sar to parry.

We must say that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho changed things around at half-time, taking right-back Geremi off for Arjen Robben, moving Michael Essien into defence.

And it was a good thing that his move paid dividends, in terms of possession and opportunity at least, with Chelsea dominating possession and United sitting back and hoping for counter attacks and even moving Rooney to a left-midfield position to try to stifle Robben.

It was United, however, who created the two best chances of the opening phase of the second part despite Chelsea's dominance, first on 48 minutes when Louis Saha mis-hit Rooney's cross to Ronaldo who could not quite reach the ball with the goal at their mercy.

Then the same players combined again, Gabriel Heinze's great left-wing cross chested down by Ronaldo at the far post but Chelsea defender John Terry doing just enough to put the Frenchman off.

Midfielder Frank Lampard had a vicious shot flash wide just before the hour and after two more chances to Drogba and Lampard again the Champions did eventually make their statistical advantage count in typical fashion ten minutes later, Lampard sending a corner to help Carvalho's header, the thumping finish going in off the bar via a helpless Saha on the far post.

Paul Scholes then went close with a drive that was deflected wide by team-mate Saha who was lying on the ground after he initially tried to shoot on goal, before Andriy Shevchenko - anonymous again - came off with 15 minutes remaining for Joe Cole.

Soon after Lampard sent a shot over after neat interplay with Robben, while Drogba credited himself by staying on his feet when nudged by Heinze in the box with 12 minutes left.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a late effort deflected wide, but the second half was Chelsea's as the first was United's, the 1-1 a fair result and Sir Alex Ferguson's men staying top three points clear of Chelsea Football Club.

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