London, England, United Kingdom (4E Sports) – A deflected late shot by Juan Mata carried Chelsea to a close 1-0 victory over 10-man Manchester United Sunday at Old Trafford, strengthening its bid for a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
The game looked headed for a goalless draw until Mata’s 87th-minute shot hit Phil Jones and into the net, giving Chelsea crucial three points that vaulted it to third place, one point ahead of fourth-running Arsenal.
With the win, a victory for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge Wednesday will seal a top-four spot, thanks to its superior goal difference.
“It was a difficult game in terms of tempo, we didn’t have the tempo, they didn’t have tempo. We had chances, they had chances, then in the second half it was the same,” said Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez.
After Manchester United, Benitez expects a tough outing against Tottenham and Everton as the Premier League season winds down.
“For us every game is massive now. Playing against the champions was tough and we did very well, but now we must focus on the next game. We have to beat Tottenham Hotspur. It will not be easy. Then we play Everton,” Benitez added.
Manchester United had several scoring chances but Rafael, Jones, Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley all failed to deliver for Sir Alex Ferguson side.
Frustrated by the team’s lack of scoring, Rafael was sent off in the final minute for chopping down David Luiz.
“We took our foot off the pedal in a big way – Chelsea deserved to win. There are often controversial incidents when we play Chelsea, but we can’t complain, we didn’t play well enough,” Ferguson said.
Meanwhile, Liverpool and Everton battled to a scoreless draw at Anfield despite several scoring opportunities for both teams.
Despite failing to end a 14-year winless run at Anfield, the draw strengthened Everton’s bid to finish above Liverpool for a second straight season. Everton is in sixth place with 60 points while Liverpool is next with 55 markers.