Chelsea suffer controversial loss at United

Manchester United 3 Chelsea 1

Manchester United moved two points clear at the top of the Premier League with a clinical but controversial victory.

A Chris Smalling header put United ahead from an offside position early on and although Chelsea looked lively, another debatable goal – this time from Nani – and a third from Wayne Rooney made it 3-0 at half-time.

Chelsea regrouped and a glorious Fernando Torres strike pulled a goal back seconds after the break.

Both sides continued to make chances at will, notably a fluffed Rooney penalty and an embarrassing Torres open-goal miss, but somehow the score stayed at 3-1.

Chelsea will have no idea how they ended up three down at the interval after having the better of much of the opening 45 minutes.

Juan Mata once again looked bright and lively, Daniel Sturridge posed a regular threat on the right and Torres, who retained his starting spot after setting up both goals in the midweek win over Bayer Leverkusen, showed glimpses of his undoubted talent.

Despite Chelsea’s encouraging start, the hosts went ahead when Ashley Young’s delightful free-kick found Smalling, who headed in. Replays confirmed the England international was offside, but the goal stood.

Unperturbed, the visitors continued to impress and create chances.

The energetic Ramires, who almost fired Chelsea ahead when he got on the end of Ashley Cole’s volleyed cross, missed a glorious chance to level. His overly cautious strike after a fabulous sweeping Blues move and unselfish pass from Torres allowed the sprawling de Gea to save.

Chelsea certainly bossed the midfield, and had mustered 10 shots on goal by the half-hour mark.

Torres scuffed a shot wide following a terrible Anderson blunder, Branislav Ivanovic headed straight at de Gea from a corner and Frank Lampard was off target with a shot.

But the champions were always a threat out wide despite not creating many chances and they doubled their lead with a second controversial goal after 37 minutes.

And although Nani was marginally offside when he came back towards goal and collected the ball, his finish was sublime. The Portuguese cut inside and smashed past Petr Cech from 25 yards.

With half-time survival in sight for the visitors, another fortunate break saw Rooney sidefoot home a simple third when a hacked clearance by John Terry rebounded off Nani and straight into the England forward’s path.

Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas brought on Nicolas Anelka at half-time and the Frenchman made an immediate impact.

Anelka’s slide rule pass found Torres and the Spaniard produced a wondrous finish, switching feet in the blink of eye and flicking the ball beyond his international colleague de Gea.

The goal gave Chelsea belief after a deflating first period but Rooney should have ended their hopes from the penalty spot after Jose Bosingwa was harshly penalised for a foul on Nani after the midfielder’s initial shot had hit the bar.

This time however, Rooney’s luck deserted him and he slipped and put his kick wide.

United should then have had another penalty when Cole fouled Javier Hernandez moments after a Rooney attempt hit the post.

And Torres missed a chance of staggering simplicity, blazing wide of an open goal from six yards after rounding de Gea.

Dimitar Berbatov, on a substitute, could have added a fourth in injury time but his shot was cleared on the line by Cole after more good work by Rooney.