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tempers flare at the bridge

The Premier League continues to be a gripping blend of the sublime, the grubby and the surreal. This terrific sporting encounter, a game spiced by the brilliance of Robin van Persie and Juan Mata, was scarred by some poor defending, some hapless decision-making by the officials and a claim from Chelsea that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, used "inappropriate language" to John Obi Mikel.

The Nigerian midfielder entered the referee's room after the match and he was not alone. Chelsea's manager, Roberto Di Matteo, and others from the home dressing-room went in to complain to Clattenburg.

Their anger was rooted in comments they believe Clattenburg made to Mikel and one other Chelsea player during the game, comments that would have been heard by the assistant referees and fourth official as they are all miked up.

Chelsea were furious Clattenburg dismissed Branislav Ivanovic (correctly) and Fernando Torres (controversially) and then allowed United's winner to stand despite Javier Hernandez being in an offside position.

Torres could have seen red, let alone yellow, for a foot up on Tom Cleverley on the cusp of half-time. In the second half, with Chelsea having fought back from a two-goal deficit, Torres ran through on goal, his journey checked by Jonny Evans, who admitted making contact.

Evans was worried before Torres looked baffled, frustrated and furious when shown a second yellow for diving. This was no dive as the mark on Torres' sock proved.

Clattenburg is one of English football's most respected officials, deemed good enough for Fifa duty. He was justified in sending off Ivanovic for clipping the heels of Ashley Young.

This was an extraordinary afternoon at the Bridge, of a myriad sights and sounds.

A compelling first half unfolded, Ferdinand paving the way for United's first by nipping in to nicking the ball, allowing Rooney and then Young to drive into the hosts' half. Young transferred the ball back to Rooney.

He picked out Van Persie with a cutback of pace and precision. The Dutchman met the ball first time, sending it against the post, before the ball bounced out but hit Luiz and rolled over the line.

United stormed forward again successfully after 11 minutes. Rafael, and then Antonio Valencia combined to catch Cole out.

Again Van Persie's movement shimmered with intelligence, losing Gary Cahill, running towards the near-post and meeting Valencia's cross with a right-footed finish.

United were rampant, Ferguson's tactics totally foxing Di Matteo for a while. Ferguson had changed the narrow system deployed against Braga in midweek. The visitors were effectively 4-4-1-1 with Rooney pulling the strings behind Van Persie, often retreating into midfield when Chelsea had possession.



MISTAKE

Yet there is such talent and determination in this team of Di Matteo's. Mata guided the ball around the pitch with his usual elegance. Rooney twice intervened to stop balls reaching Eden Hazard, then Oscar.

De Gea kept out a Cahill header with his feet, then a Torres header with one hand. Rooney then made his first real mistake of the half, fouling Hazard and presenting Mata with the type of free-kick he relishes. Chelsea's No 10 curled the ball over the wall, beating De Gea.

The momentum seemed with Chelsea. Eight minutes into the second half, they equalised following a fine zigzagging move. Cahill started it, stroking the ball left to Luiz, who slipped it forward to Oscar.

His pass was perfection, swept over the United backline for Mata to collect. He turned and lifted the ball across. Ferdinand's attempted interception merely helped it on to Oscar. Ramires, outjumping Cleverley, headed home.

Chelsea's hopes began to fade when Ivanovic was expelled for bringing down Young. Torres then departed, his face like thunder.

Chelsea's mood descended into the heart of darkness. When Michael Carrick found Van Persie, the Dutchman's shot was turned by Petr Cech on to the post. Rafael drilled the loose ball back in. Hernandez, clearly offside, turned it over the line.

Chelsea fans were now in total meltdown, chanting "3-2 to the referee". The game was over but the fallout continues.


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