Van Persie rescues 1-1 draw for United vs Chelsea
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Robin van Persie rescued Manchester United with a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to earn a 1-1 draw with leader Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Netherlands striker rammed home a loose ball from 10 meters to make amends for his error that helped Chelsea take the lead in the 53rd minute through veteran striker Didier Drogba.
Drogba met a corner from Cesc Fabregas with a towering header that should have been kept out by Van Persie, who was supposed to be guarding the near post.
Chelsea looked like seeing the game out until right back Branislav Ivanovic was sent off in stoppage time for picking up a second booking for a foul on Angel Di Maria. United scored from the resulting free kick, with Van Persie pouncing after Marouane Fellaini’s header was parried out by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea’s lead has been cut to four points by surprising Southampton but Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten team is now six points ahead of third-place Manchester City, arguably its biggest rival for the title.
Still this was an opportunity lost by Chelsea, which threw away two points in Manchester like it did a month ago a month ago when conceding late in a 1-1 at City.
“Is it a good result? I don’t think so,” Mourinho said. “Was it a good performance? Yes.”
United stayed 10 points behind Chelsea but is showing great fighting spirit under Louis van Gaal, having also scored late in a 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
“I’ve said to the players we could have won,” Van Gaal said. “And when you can do that again the best team in this league at this moment it is a good sign.
“I am pleased that they are fighting to the end.”
A draw was arguably a fair result in a match that pitted two of world football’s best tacticians in Mourinho and Van Gaal, who mentored the Portuguese coach during their time together at Barcelona from 1997-2000.
They shared a warm embrace before kickoff for their first head-to-head meeting since the 2010 Champions League final. On that occasion, Mourinho’s Inter Milan beat Van Gaal’s Bayern Munich for a win for the pupil over his master.
Four years on, they are widely regarded as two of the most wily, respected managers around and it was always likely to be a tight, tactical affair at Old Trafford. That was how it turned out.
The first half ebbed and flowed with each goalkeeper having only one genuine save to make. Courtois spread himself well to deny Van Persie, who had run onto a through-ball from the lively Adnan Januzaj in the 23rd minute as United made the faster start.
At the other end, Drogba — starting a league game for the first time in his second spell at Chelsea with top scorer Diego Costa and Loic Remy unavailable — drove a shot at goal from Oscar’s cut-back but it was kept out by the feet of David de Gea.
De Gea did even better to deny a low shot from Eden Hazard at the start of the second half after the winger dribbled through the heart of the United defense. However, the goalkeeper wasn’t helped by the defending from the resulting corner.
Drogba drifted to the near post and leapt above the diminutive Rafael de Silva to meet an inswinging cross from Fabregas with a header that flew between Van Persie and the near post. Van Persie had left his position on the post, only to belatedly retreat and was off-balance when the ball went past him.
The Dutchman made up for it with his late intervention in the final scheduled minute of injury time.
“It was not our best performance. That’s a pity, because at this moment you have to show yourself against the better teams,” Van Gaal said. “But we have created more chances than Chelsea.”