Chelsea Rallies to Force F.A. Cup Replay Against Manchester Utd.

Defending champion Chelsea fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Manchester United in their F.A. Cup soccer quarterfinal. Millwall and Blackburn will also need a replay after tying 0-0.

Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney scored in the first 11 minutes for United at Old Trafford yesterday. Eden Hazard and Ramires got Chelsea’s goals in the 59th and 68th minutes and the Blues had chances to win in the closing moments, goalkeeper David De Gea saving Juan Mata’s shot with an outstretched foot.

“In the second half we had so many chances to score,” Mata told ITV. “It’s a day to be proud of the team. United scored two in the first minutes, but we tried very hard and came back. We have a replay at home, we are strong at Stamford Bridge with our supporters.”

A date for the replay is yet to be fixed, with the winner drawn to play 2011 Cup champion Manchester City in the final four. That opens up the possibility of an all-Manchester semifinal at Wembley Stadium in London on April 13 or 14.

United, which won the last of its record 11 F.A. Cups in 2004, is still in the running for an English league and Cup double, with the Red Devils 12 points ahead of City in the Premier League. Chelsea is seeking its eighth F.A. Cup title.

Rooney began yesterday’s game after being left out of the starting lineup for last week’s Champions League defeat to Real Madrid in the round of 16. United manager Alex Ferguson has said Rooney will be offered a new contract before his current deal ends in 2015, the Mail on Sunday reported yesterday.

Rooney Scores

After Hernandez put United ahead in the fifth minute by heading Michael Carrick’s pass over goalkeeper Petr Cech, Rooney doubled the lead when his free kick from the left evaded several players and ended up in far corner of the net.

Hazard got a goal back for Chelsea in the 59th minute, curling a right-footed shot past De Gea from the edge of the penalty area. Ramires tied it nine minutes later, slotting the ball past the goalkeeper after a counterattack.

In the 90th minute, De Gea managed to deflect Mata’s close-range shot wide. Hazard and Fernando Torres also had chances to win it for the away team before the final whistle.

“We’re lucky to still be in the cup,” United manager Alex Ferguson told MUTV. “We just ran out of legs and Chelsea were far the better team in the second half.”

Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez, who previously clashed with Ferguson when in charge at Liverpool, said United’s manager had snubbed his attempt to shake hands before the game.

“I was waiting at the beginning,” Benitez told reporters. “It was his decision. I was ready and waiting. I have some education because I know a lot of people are watching so I know what I have to do.”

At the New Den in London, Millwall couldn’t convert its greater share of the possession and seven shots on target into a goal against fellow second-tier team Blackburn. Rob Hulse had a chance to score for the Lions, though shot over. Andy Keogh also hit a post and Blackburn goalkeeper Jake Kean saved Danny Shittu’s shot.

Millwall or Blackburn will play Wigan in the other semifinal. Two days ago, Wigan won 3-0 at Everton and Manchester City defeated Barnsley 5-0.

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