Javier Hernandez completed Manchester United’s comeback from 3-0 down at Chelsea on Sunday, with a late header salvaging a 3-3 draw that still left the champions two points off the Premier League summit
After storming into a 3-0 lead by the 50th minute, Chelsea collapsed at home by conceding two penalties that Wayne Rooney converted and then allowing Hernandez to level in the 84th.
But the failure to score a fourth goal meant Alex Ferguson’s side ended the weekend two points behind Manchester City, which beat Fulham 3-0 on Saturday.
“It’s two points lost,” Rooney said. “We understand that, but after being 3-0 down—the City players at home must have liked that—we enjoyed the way we fought back.”
The draw left Chelsea clinging onto the Premier League’s fourth Champions League qualification spot by just a point ahead of Newcastle.
But the hosts had been cruising after Jonny Evans’ first-half own goal was followed by goals from Juan Mata and David Luiz at the start of the second half.
“A lot of teams would have found it easy to put their heads down and accept defeat,” Rooney said. “But we never put our heads down.”
The fixture between England’s two most successful sides of recent years was marred by some Chelsea fans jeering every touch of United defender Rio Ferdinand, who is black. Chelsea captain John Terry, who was sidelined through injury, is facing a trial for allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother, Queens Park Rangers defender Anton, during a match in October.
“Rio, Rio what’s the score?” some Chelsea fans chanted after their third goal came off Rio Ferdinand before going into the net.
“You don’t expect opposing fans to cheer your players,” Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas told reporters. “This is a normal situation in the Premiership. You have to condemn it when there is discriminatory, aggressive behavior … If you want to give importance to situations like this, it’s up to you.”
Villas-Boas added that “what the fans were doing makes no sense.”
Responding later on Twitter to the booing, Ferdinand said: “Well done guys thanks for inspiring me & the lads! That’s like fuel to me!”
The constant jeering marred an exciting encounter at Stamford Bridge.
Evans inadvertently put Chelsea in front in the 36th minute. After racing past Patrice Evra on the right flank, Daniel Sturridge’s chipped cross from a tight angle hit a boot of United goalkeeper David de Gea and rebounded off Evans’ chest into his goal.
De Gea has looked shaky in the United goal since arriving in the offseason, but was not culpable for Chelsea surging further in front after the break.
After 25 seconds, Mata powered a first-time volley into the net after meeting Fernando Torres’ pinpoint cross from the right.
Mata turned provider five minutes later. A free kick from the Spain winger skimmed off Luiz’s head and came off Ferdinand’s shoulder before landing in the net.
The Blues were cruising—but not for long. The reversal of fortunes came following Hernandez replacing Ashley Young and two penalty decisions from referee Howard Webb.
Rooney converted his first penalty in the 58th minute after Sturridge was adjudged to have knocked over Evra. The second came 11 minutes later when Welbeck appeared to trip over Branislav Ivanovic’s leg.
Villas-Boas only disputed the second penalty, describing it as “very, very dubious” and blamed the referee for the result just as he did after Chelsea’s 3-1 loss at United in September.
“I don’t know if Howard Webb had the correct angle to make the decision, but it was unlucky from him to give it,” he said. “I’m not sure if he’s compensating from anything in the first half, but it was the wrong decision … we expect, in top games, top refs and, at the moment, it hasn’t been happening for us.
“It didn’t happen at Old Trafford with two goals offside, and maybe today a dubious decision that, in the end, shifted the running of the game.”
With Chelsea demoralized, the comeback was completed when goalkeeper Petr Cech parried Rooney’s shot and Ryan Giggs sent the ball back into the penalty area for the unmarked Hernandez to head home.
“It’s not easy coming back from 3-0 down,” Ferguson said. “That’s a massive effort.”