The visitors rallied after going behind, enjoying a decent spell of possession but it was United who had the next big chance through Eric Bailly, as the Ivorian towered high to nod an Ashley Young corner inches wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s upright.
Ten minutes before the interval there as a contentious moment as Cesar Azpilicueta went to ground clutching his face following a clash with his former teammate Nemanja Matic. Replays showed the Serbian catching the Chelsea skipper with a stray elbow and VAR might have adjudged it a straight red card.
Chelsea had offered very little attacking intent in the opening period but two minutes before the break they were level. Antonio Rudiger’s hopeful effort from distance was fumbled by David De Gea and Marcos Alonso was hand to bobble the rebound in off the post.
It was another howler to add to De Gea’s recent collection. According to Opta, De Gea has made three errors leading to a goal in his last four games, as many as he had committed in his previous 23 matches. Gary Neville on commentary duty for the game conceded that De Gea ‘is having a nightmare of a time’ at present.
Midway through the second half, both sides were forced into making defensive injuries with Antonio Rudiger and Eric Bailly both having to be helped from the pitch with Andreas Christensen and Marcos Rojo respectively replacing them. Bailly’s looked particularly bad as he twisted his knee awkwardly in a tackle with Mateo Kovacic.
Just a few minutes after coming on, Rojo launched into two rash challenges in quick succession, firstly on Gonzalo Higuain and then on Willian. A high, studs-up challenge on the Brazilian was more worthy of a red card than they yellow Martin Atkinson flashed in his direction. Willian went off soon after.
A total of seven minutes added time was an accurate reflection of a second half punctuated by a spate of injuries. Rojo went close to finding a winning goal in stoppage time, nodding a corner goalwards but being denied by Pedro covering on the line.
With virtually the last kick of the game, Higuain, who appeared to be in competition with Lukaku over who could be flagged offside the most, finally managed to break United’s trap to latch onto Pedro’s cute chip, but his shot from close range was blocked by De Gea.
The result leaves United with an uphill battle to secure Champions League football next season as they are five points behind third-placed Spurs. Chelsea, meanwhile, capitalised upon Arsenal’s slip-up at Leicester to strengthen their hold in fourth.
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