Billed as the tie of the UEFA Champions League so far, the game lived up to the pre-match expectations. Chelsea and Man United among them have won all of the last six league titles on the home front, so this was undoubtedly a wonderful advert for the English game. In the battle between John Terry’s chance at redemption and Wayne Rooney’s attempt at silencing his detractors, it was the man from Croxteth, Liverpool who came up triumphant. Sir Alex’s men went home with the advantage as the Red Devils defeated the Blues by a solitary Rooney goal at the Bridge.

Ferguson’s Team Sheet: Energy Over Fineness

Second guessing the wily Scot’s team is a herculean task. However, one would have thought that veteran midfielder Paul Scholes would definitely start as he hadn’t done in almost a month. Also, one would have thought Ferguson would use Rooney as the lone man upfront as he had done previously in big European nights. However, Ferguson never ceases to surprise one and all with his wily team selections and this occasion was no different. The Scot went for the industry of Park and Valencia over the more skillful and flamboyant Nani. Ryan Giggs got the nod ahead of Scholes in the middle of the park. United’s energy levels never dropped even once for the whole game as it had on their previous trip to the home of the English champions.

The Perfect Timing – Rio Ferdinand’s return to match fitness

The Return of Rio Ferdinand:

United’s European success has always been built on a solid defense. Rio Ferdinand’s timely return from injury proved a major boon in thwarting Chelsea’s star-studded forward line. Rio Ferdinand had an outstanding game along with skipper Nemanja Vidic at the heart of United’s defense. Rio made an early interception to calm United’s nerves as Fernando Torres launched himself into a diving header. Fernando Torres didn’t have any joy against Ferdinand all evening as the Englishman kept the Spaniard on a tight leash.

Rooney’s Unconventional Positioning:

As the team sheet’s were out, it looked like United would be lining up in their customary 4-4-2. However, Wayne Rooney popped up all over the pitch – on the left, on the right, upfront and even in midfield to make the extra man count and help his team retain the possession. Michael Essien couldn’t mark him well as Rooney kept making dangerous runs from all over the pitch. So, when Michel Carrick produced a sumptuous cross field ball to Giggs on the left flank, who took out Bosingwa from the equation with a brilliant first touch to deliver a low cross into the Chelsea box, Wayne Rooney had made an excellent off-the-ball run from deep and was at the right place at the right time to guide the ball into the back of Chelsea net.

The Devil’s Day Out

Ancelotti’s Substitution: Why Drogba Over Torres?

There are days when Didier Drogba is up for it and then others when he couldn’t care less. Yesterday, Drogba looked in the zone, at least twice as much as his strike partner. Drogba was the lone Chelsea player causing some grief to the United backline, so it was a surprise to see Carlo replacing Didier rather than the hitherto dormant Torres. It’s difficult to predict the impact Drogba would have caused had he stayed on, however he had looked the more likely to break United’s defense till he was substituted. With Roman in attendance, was this a case of pleasing the boss?

Lady Luck Returned For Sir Alex At The Bridge:

In their previous trips to Stamford Bridge, United’s players and fans had felt aggrieved by some of the controversial refereeing calls. Sir Alex had hoped their luck would change for good and finally it did. With time almost up at the Bridge, Ramires found himself through on goal but Evra put out his leg to thwart the marauding Brazilian. The whole stadium erupted in unison for a penalty appeal as United fans and players feared the worst. However, the referee awarded a goal kick and no foul, much to the dismay and astonishment of the entire Chelsea team and the Blues in attendance. Replays showed that Sir Alex men had got out of jail as it was a clear penalty kick. Moments later and with almost the last kick of the ball Torres went to ground in the penalty area, however the referee wasn’t conned and showed him a yellow for simulation to compound the misery of the struggling Spaniard.

What’s The Point of Having The Extra Officials?

Yesterday, once again illustrated the point already gaining strength – the uselessness of the officials behind the goal line. Is there any reason why there’s an extra referee behind the goal if he can’t even point out a blatant penalty to his clueless colleague in the middle? Well, as we know, common sense is hardly UEFA’s forte.

However, there is still hope for Ancelotti’s blue army. The Blues have a good record of late at the Theatre of Dreams and with United’s attention diverted on possibly three fronts, all is still not lost for Chelsea. Man United on the other hand couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. All they need is a draw at fortress Old Trafford, so Sir Alex Ferguson should be pleased with how the tie has unfolded so far.

For now, well begun is only half done.