Chelsea rallies to draw 1-1 with Man U

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{image-mancheter united_22092008.jpg www.oneindia.com}London, Sept 22: Unlikely hero Salomon Kalou salvaged a point and preserved Chelsea's 85-game unbeaten home record at the end of a breathless clash with Manchester United.

The visitors had led for much of the contest following Park Ji-sung's first-half tap-in. But ten minutes from time, after Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole and Michael Ballack had tried and failed to break down United's stubborn defence, Kalou beat the offside trap to nod home John Mikel Obi's free kick. Not for the first time in his illustrious career, Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection caused an outbreak of head scratching among many observers. Yet his choice of Park and Darren Fletcher worked a dream, especially with the Scotland international switching to the middle of midfield, a move that saw Owen Hargreaves take up a right-wing station.

Identifying Chelsea's full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole as major attacking threats, Ferguson chose to put his two most energetic men in direct opposition, keeping the home pair occupied defensively and stifling their threat in attack. "We played with great tempo in the first 20 minutes – the real shame was that we didn't go for the jugular at 1-0 up." Ferguson said. "We had control of the match at that point but we eased off and allowed them to get to half-time."

United enjoyed the best of the early exchanges and seized the initiative after 18 minutes when Park was on hand to bundle home the rebound after Petr Cech had parried Dimitar Berbatov's effort.

Having spent nearly half an hour on the back foot, Chelsea finally got into their stride and created a few openings, but it was not until the arrival of Drogba that the home side really upped the ante. Ferguson responded by sending on Cristiano Ronaldo, who put the Chelsea defence on red alert with his direct running but also shamed himself with a blatant dive as Frank Lampard made a tackle.

But Chelsea remained a live threat, and United's sub goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, who had earlier come on in place of the injured Edwin van der Sar, was quickly emerging as one of his side's key men.

There would have been nothing the Pole could do to keep out Anelka's effort 18 minutes from time though as, from four yards out and with the goal at his mercy, the Frenchman inexplicably failed to make proper contact with Bosingwa's cross.

But just as a wobbling Chelsea had eventually crumbled in the first-half, so United did the same ten minutes from time. In chopping down Ashley Cole, Rooney not only picked up his side's fifth booking. He also provided Mikel Obi with the opportunity to float over a free kick to the edge of the United six-yard box where the visitors, getting their marking and offside trap hopelessly wrong, left Kalou on his own to nod home the equaliser. The game ended in bad-tempered fashion as United, who had seven players booked, complained bitterly to referee Mike Riley over his handling of the game as Drogba was receiving treatment after being clattered by Ferdinand.

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