Diego Costa struck at the death yesterday to deny Manchester United a first victory over Chelsea in ten attempts.
Jesse Lingard’s goal looked to have earned United a first win over Chelsea since October 2012, but Costa capitalised on Daley Blind’s stoppage-time error to tuck in his seventh goal in nine games in the 1-1 Premier League draw.
The result extended the Blues’ current unbeaten run to 11 games. Guus Hiddink remains undefeated as Chelsea caretaker manager, with the champions’ most recent loss at Leicester under Jose Mourinho on 14 December.
Mourinho has been repeatedly linked with succeeding Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and the visitors’ Dutch boss was deeply disappointed to see the lead lost.
United had been on course to move within ten points of leaders Leicester and five points of second-placed Manchester City, but now Van Gaal’s men are 12 and seven points behind those two, respectively.
Chelsea – and John Terry, in particular – felt they should have been ahead before Lingard’s goal. The Chelsea captain believed Blind handled his shot in the box late in the first half and that the Blues should have had a penalty. Referee Michael Oliver disagreed.
Lingard’s goal, which came just after the hour mark, was a cracker. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson crossed from the left, Wayne Rooney laid the ball off and Lingard held off Cesar Azpilicueta to shoot high into the net on the turn. It was a lead that the visitors deserved.
Chelsea, who lost Kurt Zouma to what appeared to be a serious knee injury, had opportunities to level, only for the impressive David de Gea to keep out Branislav Ivanovic’s volley and Cesc Fabregas’s near-post effort.
But, with six minutes of injury time to be played, the hosts kept pushing. Blind fell over as Fabregas stabbed the ball forward, and Costa took advantage, rounding De Gea and squeezing it over the line to rescue a point.
“We were the better team. Again. And we didn’t win,” said a frustrated Van Gaal at full-time. “We had the better chances but we didn’t win.
“We played a superb game until the last quarter. Then we did not keep the ball in the way we have to. Then, we were unlucky and we get a goal against us. It is unbelievable. We don’t reward ourselves. When you play such a game against a team like Chelsea, you have to reward yourself.”