Chelsea came from behind to beat Manchester United 2-1 and move up to fourth place by sending the Premier League leader to its second defeat of the season.
Frank Lampard scored the winning goal from the penalty spot with 10 minutes left at Stamford Bridge last night after David Luiz volleyed the equalizer following Wayne Rooney’s opener. United leads Arsenal, which has played one fewer game, by four points with defending champion Chelsea 12 points behind.
“We’re not firmly back in it, it’s still a lot of points,” Lampard said in an interview with Sky Sports. “Manchester United are deservedly top, but we’ve got some fight, as we showed.”
United manager Alex Ferguson disagreed with referee Martin Atkinson’s penalty call against Chris Smalling and said Luiz should have been sent off moments earlier for tripping Rooney. United captain Nemanja Vidic was red-carded in second-half stoppage time and will miss the game at Liverpool in five days.
“These are decisions that change the game,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “But I’m proud of the players. They’ve endured a lot of decisions against them, but they’ve come through it, they’ve done their best. They didn’t deserve that.”
It was United’s second loss in 28 league matches this season. Chelsea moves one point ahead of Tottenham into fourth place, the final qualifying spot for European soccer’s elite Champions League.
“We are still alive,” Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said. “It’s far to Manchester United, but our performance was important, there are a lot of matches and we are ready to play at our best.”
Chelsea’s Florent Malouda put the first chance straight at United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in the opening minute and Luiz cleared Darren Fletcher’s cross in front of goal after an errant pass from John Terry.
Rooney, who escaped Football Association punishment for elbowing a Wigan player four days ago, fired United ahead in the 29th minute. The England striker took a pass from Nani and, left alone by the Chelsea defense, drove a low shot from about 25 yards inside the left post.
Van der Sar kept United in front in the 41st minute when he dived to get a hand to Lampard’s long free kick. The rebound went off Branislav Ivanovic and van der Sar reached up to twice claw the ball away.
Chelsea tied the game nine minutes into the second half as Michael Essien’s cross fell to Luiz, who composed himself before blasting a shot from 10 yards past van der Sar for his first goal since joining the Blues in January.
Rooney then shot wide of the far post after going in alone on goal and had another shot knocked away by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. Luiz, on a yellow card, then wasn’t penalized by Atkinson for a trip on Rooney that may have led to a red card.
“It was incredible,” Ferguson said. “He does Rooney clear as day, (the referee) is six yards from it and doesn’t do anything. That changed the game.”
Chelsea took the lead moments later after Atkinson gave the home team a penalty when Smalling tangled with Yuri Zhirkov in the area. Lampard slammed his kick past van der Sar.
Zhirkov almost added a third with a shot that deflected off the inside of Vidic’s leg and then the post for a corner kick.
Vidic then received his second yellow card in the third of four added minutes for pulling down Ramires on the edge of the penalty area, ruling the defender out of the trip to Liverpool.
Wes Brown will be drafted in to play alongside Smalling at Anfield because Rio Ferdinand, United’s other first-choice center-back, still isn’t fit, Ferguson said.
“Wes will take over,” Ferguson told MUTV. “He has great experience.”
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