Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0

30th November 2003
Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea took a major step towards winning the Premiership for the first time in their history with a win over main title-challengers Manchester United. They now lead the league by one point after 14 games, leading many pundits to believe that it is possible to 'buy the league.'

The most expensively assembled Premiership game kicked off in fine weather, with the pitch a little greasy from rain overnight.

It was the Reds who had the first attack, with Van Nistelrooy's clever control and pullback giving Diego Forlan his first chance to extend his scoring run. His weak shot bobbled towards the far post. Defender Melchiot flung a leg out at t, but failed to clear the ball, before Cudicini pushed the ball away unconvincingly.

Chelsea had done little or nothing before they won their crucial penalty. It was Roy Keane, so often the hero, who was adjudged to have pulled Joe Cole down. Cole, to his discredit, went down. Fergie complained that not only had Cole lost control of the ball, but he was also heading away from goal. A penalty was harsh, and the punishment amounted to a goal when Lampard rolled the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Howard the wrong way.

United tried to regain their composure for the next ten-minutes, having been so incensed at the amateurish referee's decision. Chelsea had a few close shots, with Lampard notably shooting wide twice in the match.

Half-time brought a chance to reflect on the lack of passion in the United boys, and the talk obviously helped as they began the half at a fast pace and with fire in their bellies. Geremi turned up late for the start, having had to stop at the toilet on the way down onto the pitch.

Diego went close, but the boys seemed to lack fluency, amongst other things, and were unable, at times, to get the ball out of their own half.

It was with the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo that United started to enjoy greater time on the ball. His willingness for the ball, along with his quick feet and fancy touches, inspired United to put one last fight on. He linked up well with fellow substitute Kleberson to provide half-chance after half-chance for the Reds to squander. The fact that United failed to get a shot on target proved that they were at far from their best.

Chelsea were the more threatening side, with their counter-attacks often scaring the back-four. Crespo's removal helped the United side, as the defence were suddenly more comfortable on the ball.

Howard made his first mistake for the first-team, palming the ball to Melchiot only to pull off a stunning reflex save second time round. He was the busier of the two 'keepers, but was more than capable of dealing with the pressure.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Gallas, Bridge, Geremi, Cole (Duff 58), Lampard, Makelele, Crespo (Gronkjaer 61), Mutu (Hasselbaink 79).

Subs not used: Desailly, Ambrosio.

Booked: Cole, Melchiot, Lampard, Mutu.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville, Ferdinand, Fortune (Ronaldo 72), O'Shea, Silvestre, Giggs, Keane, Phil Neville (Kleberson 77), Forlan, Van Nistelrooy.

Subs not used: Butt, Bellion, Carroll.

Booked: Keane.

Attendance: 41,932.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).