Manchester - Juan Mata struck an 87th-minute winner as Chelsea won 1-0 at
champions Manchester United on Sunday to reclaim third place in the
Premier League and tighten their grip on a Champions League place.
lacklustre game at Old Trafford was drifting towards a goalless draw
when Mata collected a pass from Oscar and dispatched a low shot that
took a slight deflection off Phil Jones on its way into the bottom-right
Mata's goal means that Chelsea will now go into
Wednesday's crunch clash against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge
with a three-point lead over their London rivals, who are bidding to
crash into the top four.
Arsenal are sandwiched between the pair in fourth, a point behind Chelsea, having played a game more.
had right-back Rafael da Silva sent off late on and although their lead
over second-place Manchester City remains 13 points, they have failed
to win in two games since clinching their 20th league title.
made five changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Arsenal last weekend,
with Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and goalkeeper David de Gea among the
players dropping to the bench.
Chelsea were missing Eden Hazard
due to a calf strain and made four changes from their Europa League
semi-final second leg success against FC Basel on Thursday.
visitors made a bright start, with United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard
touching a shot from Oscar onto the post and Demba Ba curling a shot
wide from the left.
United came to life slowly and did not pose a
threat until late in the first half, with Robin van Persie diverting a
glorious Ryan Giggs pass wide and then heading straight at Petr Cech
from Nemanja Vidic's cross.
The second half was similarly
underwhelming, with Frank Lampard blazing over for Chelsea and United
substitute Rooney heading over the bar at the other end.
finally settled things with three minutes to play with a low shot that
nicked off Jones and trundled past Lindegaard, before Rafael was sent
off for kicking out at countryman David Luiz.
Everton remain on
course to finish above Liverpool for the second season in a row after
holding their city rivals to a 0-0 draw in a scrappy Merseyside derby at
Anfield earlier in the day.
Liverpool's best chance saw a
goal-bound effort from man-of-the-match Steven Gerrard cleared by
Everton defender Sylvain Distin, who had a goal controversially
disallowed at the other end.
It meant Liverpool stalwart Jamie
Carragher failed to finish on the winning side in his 30th and final
Merseyside derby, while Everton are still without an away win in this
fixture since 1999.
The draw left Everton somewhat marooned in
sixth place in the table, five points above their neighbours and five
points below the European qualifying positions with two games to play.
don't want to be a whinging manager, but we scored a legitimate goal
today. It should have counted," said Everton manager David Moyes.
still in there - we picked up a point again today. We've got two games
to go and we'll keep pushing to try to get in there (the top five) if
Gerrard thought he had put Liverpool ahead in the second
half, but after rounding visiting goalkeeper Tim Howard, he saw his shot
cleared off the line by Distin.
Distin had earlier seen a header
ruled out by referee Michael Oliver for a foul that was far from
evident, but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers felt defeat would have
been harsh on his side.
"I can have no complaints," he said. "The players gave everything and the very least we deserved was a point."