Eden Hazard netted a late, late penalty to make it 3-3 at the end of normal time as the Blues flirted with elimination before goals from Daniel Sturridge and Ramires were enough to make the quarter-finals.
We came from behind three times having gifted two goals to the opposition, David Luiz with a penalty and Gary Cahill the earlier scorers. A performance in which character shone through deserved the win with Roberto Di Matteo’s men the better team in the second half and in extra time.
Petr Cech, as captain, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, John Mikel Obi and Juan Mata were the players who started Sunday’s match against Man United and were retained in the 11 for this one.
Daniel Sturridge was handed his first start of the season and there was a second game for Lucas Piazon on the left wing with Victor Moses on the right. Cesar Azpilicueta also began his second match. George Saville, a 19-year-old midfielder, was on the bench for the first time.
Rafael at right-back was the only Man United player who began both games. Javier Hernandez, a substitute on Sunday, began this one, as did Danny Welbeck. Ryan Giggs was their captain and played in a deep midfield role.
A Stamford Bridge full house (Man United fans having the whole Shed End for this one), was full of anticipation for this third round tie as it kicked off. The sides may have been much-changed but there plenty of international footballers on the pitch to whet the appetite.
A promising but ultimately too-high cross by Azpilicueta and a shot spooned well over by David Luiz were the limit of either side’s attacking in the opening five minutes, but then Sturridge was gifted the ball just inside the Man United half, only to lose it on the edge of the area as he tried to play a ball wide to Mata. Then the England striker was found by a superb cross from deep by the charging Moses but unfortunately stumbled over as he tried to bring it under control.
Eleven minutes into the half came the first card and it was a Chelsea player booked. Romeu had tripped Man United left-back Alexander Buttner. On this occasion the ref’s decision was understandable.
Cech had two shots from distance to save in the first quarter of an hour but they were straight at him as the visitors were slow to find their rhythm.
Romeu, making his second start of the season, then shot wide at the other but the Spanish midfielder’s next involvement led to Man United’s opening goal. Cech’s kick-out may have found him under more pressure than he would have liked but instead of playing it back to the keeper, Romeu opted to keep the ball as two red shirts swooped. Giggs came away with it and was able to stroke the ball past the unprotected Cech.
Chelsea, although not flowing, had up to that point looked the team more dangerous in attack. For the second time in four days we would now have to come from behind.
There was annoyance when Piazon wasn’t awarded a free-kick as he ran towards the area and appeared to be blocked off before Mikel was booked on 24 minutes for a late trip on Welbeck.
Six minutes later an important decision did go Chelsea’s way. Moses had been taking on players at every opportunity and when he did so again on the right of the area he drew a foul from Buttner.
David Luiz strode forward from the back and blasted the ball in low down to level the tie. The half drifted on with both sides looking exactly what they were – players unfamiliar with playing together. Chelsea again looked the side more likely, Mata buzzing around in the middle, but yet again we were undone by our own lack of care.
David Luiz was the culprit this time, initially gliding forward with the ball – but when he lost to Rafael on halfway there was a big space for Man U to exploit behind him, and they did so when Anderson found Hernandez just onside. The Mexican was not going to miss the opportunity to score in the same net as his weekend winner. It was a highly frustrating way to end the half.
Both sides made a change for the second half. Ramires was a straight swap for Mikel and Sir Alex Ferguson had presumably seen enough of Buttner up against Moses. He took his young full-back off and moved Rafael to left-back with Darren Fletcher moving back to right-back.
Nick Powell was the player introduced into midfield and within two minutes he forced Cech into a diving save. Chelsea then nicked the ball off the visitors on the edge of our own area and Mata launched Sturridge on the counter-attack. He left his marker for dead but Rafael did well to get back and tackle in the nick of time.
The Chelsea equaliser came from a set-piece – Mata’s corner that was met by the head of Cahill high above his markers. The ball was over the line by close on a yard as Rafael headed it out and the linesman correctly flagged for the goal. It was the England central defender’s fifth goal of the season.
Parity lasted just seven minutes, Chelsea this time falling behind to a well-crafted goal. Man United’s Portuguese pair of Nani and Anderson exchanged passes in a crowded area before Nani floated the ball beyond Cech. It was 3-2 and Hernandez could have put daylight between the sides soon after but shot over.
Wootton fouled Ramires to earn Man United’s first booking before Hazard, who had come on for Piazon, received a short corner and planted the ball on the forehead of Moses. It flew agonisingly close to the crossbar. Then Mata found Azpilicueta unmaked with the perfect ball to the far post but he too headed over. He should have scored.
On 71 minutes Chelsea had a blatant penalty denied, Mata’s pass stopped by a clear handball by Keane. The bad decisions against us had just mounted up further.
We continued to turn the screw but Bertrand couldn’t connect cleanly when teed-up by the clever Mata and substitute Oscar was just off-target from distance. Then Moses from a very good position struck his shot straight at Lindegaard.
When Man United did counter-punch, David Luiz swept up well.
The Mata, Oscar, Hazard combination had been re-established and Hazard was fouled to give Mata a free-kick opportunity from a near identical spot to his goal on Sunday. This time he clipped it to the opposite side of the goal and wide. Hazard then toe-poked a shot at the keeper as that third equaliser continued to prove elusive. Oscar hit a swerving shot that Lindegaard reacted to late but still punched clear.
Hope had all but evaporated as the Blues worked the ball into the area with just seconds left on the clock. Inexperience showed in the Man U backline however when Wootton barged into the back of Ramires and the ref could only give one decision – a second Chelsea penalty. Hazard rolled it in and the whistle blew almost immediately after.
Extra time first period
The Blues continued on the front foot but Sturridge was guilty of going for goal from a difficult angle when Mata was well-placed for the pass. He was then denied by a very good block by Keane after Hazard had opened the visitors up.
Sturridge’s time was about to come however, and this time Man United were guilty of giving the ball away in the danger zone. A long pass forward looked comfortable for Wootton to cushion to his partner in central defence but he misdirected to the Chelsea centre-forward who kept his nerve to bypass Lindegaard and score. It was Sturridge’s second of the season.
Oscar and Nani were both booked after a squaring-up in the corner.
Man United were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men shortly before the interval when Michael Keane tripped goalbound Sturridge just outside the area. A yellow card was shown and possibly the only difference from Ivanovic’s foul on Sunday was that the ball could have been considered heading away from goal.
With the resultant free-kick, David Luiz shook the crossbar.
Extra time first period
Sturridge was a whisker away from a second goal with a curler from the edge of the area and then hit a shot much further off-target soon after. There were some tired legs out there now and Mata was limping a little. Another goal now would be most welcome.
It really should have come when Sturridge lofted a pass over the defence to Moses but he could only hit the keeper’s legs.
Ramires was carded for a foul on Powell and Giggs followed into the book later on for chopping down Moses from behind.Between those fouls came Chelsea’s fifth goal and the one that ultimately was the winner.
Hazard was just the player we wanted to be counter-attacking at that point and having carried the ball half the length of the pitch he was patient before supplying Ramires. The Brazilia side-stepped Lindegaard to send the Matthew Harding Stand into rapture.
There was still life in the tie though and with 119 minutes played Azpilicueta pushed Hernandez in similar fashion to the Wootton foul and the third penalty of the game was awarded, scored by Giggs.
Two minutes stoppage time now needed to be negotiated and Hazard raced away near the end but shot wide. Enough time had been exhausted and the whistle blew on another game of high drama.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz, Bertrand; Romeu (Oscar 71), Mikel (Ramires h-t); Moses, Mata, Piazon (Hazard 54); Sturridge.
Unused subs Hilario, Ferreira, Saville, Marin.
Scorers David Luiz 30 pen, Cahill 51, Hazard 90+2 pen, Sturridge 96, Ramires 115.
Booked Romeu 11, Mikel 24, David Luiz 90+2, Oscar 100, Ramires 114.
Man United (4-2-3-1): Lindegaard; Rafael, Keane, Wootton, Büttner (Powell h-t); Giggs (c), Fletcher; Nani, Anderson (Tunnicliffe 80), Welbeck; Hernández.
Unused subs Johnstone, Lingard, Vermiji, Brady, Macheda.
Scorer Giggs 21, 119 pen, Hernandez 42, Nani 58.
Booked Wootton 63, Nani 100, Keane 105, Giggs 117.
Referee Lee Mason