The English Premier League table got a little more interesting this weekend as league leaders clashed and rivalries were renewed.
Highlighting the weekend was third place Manchester United visiting league-leading Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a matchup that lived up to the hype. With the amount of talent on the field, there were sure to be fireworks, and the stars shined as predicted. Manchester United looked to have control within 12 minutes after an own goal by Chelsea defender David Luiz and a sublime finish by United striker Robin van Persie. The home crowd was silenced by the early 2-0 deficit, but Chelsea seemed to gain urgency and dominated the remainder of the first half.
In the 44th minute, Wayne Rooney committed an egregious foul on Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard right outside the box and there seemed hope before halftime. With nearly a seven-man wall by United, goalkeeper David De Gea looked blind in net. Seeing the situation perfectly, Juan Mata fired a perfectly bent shot to same side of the keeper and caught off guard, De Gea couldn’t recover in time and watched the ball sail into the back of the net. The goal offered a huge boost for Chelsea going into halftime as they gained belief in their chances.
The second half began as the first half ended with Chelsea dominating, and the pressure paid off in the 53rd minute when Brazilian midfielder Ramires nodded home the tying goal. At this point, a Chelsea victory seemed imminent.
Unfortunately, the match was subsequently ruined as Chelsea saw two key players (Branislov Ivanovic and Fernando Torres) receive controversial red cards within five minutes of each other. With Chelsea reduced to nine men and nearly twenty-five minutes to play, a Manchester United victory now seemed all but guaranteed.
The Red Devils, now two men up, began pressing the Chelsea defense with all they had. The Chelsea defense really had no chance against such a formidable opponent that had now been given an indefensible advantage. In the 75th minute, substitute Javier Hernandez tapped home the eventual winning goal for United and Manchester United escaped Stamford Bridge thanks to an assist by the referee.
After the loss, Chelsea remains in first place, but Manchester United has crept within one point of the leaders and looked poised to make a serious move for the title. Although early in the season, this match could prove vital at the end of the season if the two clubs continue their form.
Elsewhere, rivals clashed as Liverpool and Everton clashed at Merseyside. While Liverpool looked poised for victory with an early 2-0 lead thanks to striker Luis Suarez, Everton reorganized and recharged. Leon Osman and Steven Naismith helped Everton tie the match before halftime and give the home fans hope for a classic comeback.
The second half did not live up to the first, but in the 90th minute, the visiting side looked to have snatched three points as Luis Suarez poked home a redirected header from Sebastian Coates, but the striker was called offside. After further review, Suarez was onside and as the final whistle blew with a 2-2 draw, it seemed Liverpool had been cheated from three points.
A weekend full of thrilling matchups saw questionable refereeing take top headlines. Unfortunate calls saw outcomes changed and there will surely be appeals coming.
Here is the full list of scores from the weekend:
Manchester United 3-2 Chelsea
Everton 2-2 Liverpool
Newcastle United 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
Southampton 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich City
Arsenal 1-0 QPR
Reading 3-3 Fulham
Stoke City 0-0 Sunderland
Wigan Athletic 2-1 West Ham United
Manchester City 1-0 Swansea City