Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

United close in on title

Javier Hernandez
Javier Hernandez

Manchester United moved to within a point of a record 19th league title as first-half goals from Javier Hernandez and Nemanja Vidic proved enough to defeat nearest challengers Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford.

Hernandez gave the Red Devils a flying start, putting them ahead with his 20th goal of the season after just 36 seconds.

Vidic powered home a second from Ryan Giggs' cross and although Frank Lampard pulled one back, a single draw from games against Blackburn next Saturday and Blackpool on the final day of the season at Old Trafford will secure a 12th Premier League crown for Sir Alex Ferguson and allow United to overtake Liverpool in overall successes.

The most eagerly-awaited of contests had the most explosive of starts as Giggs fed a pass to Park Ji-sung just inside the Chelsea half and Park quickly pushed the ball on to Hernandez, who was hanging on the shoulder of David Luiz, and he kept his cool to finish beyond Petr Cech with only 35 seconds on the clock.

Valencia then had a shot blocked as the hosts attempted to make the most of their sensational start and Wayne Rooney then let fly from 35 yards, forcing Cech into a full-length save.

The lead was doubled as Chelsea were caught sleeping at a corner as Park sprinted up to allow Giggs to take it short. The veteran Welshman nipped past Kalou to reach the byline, then crossed into the heart of the Chelsea box where Vidic stole in front of fellow Serb Ivanovic to power home a close-range header.

Van der Sar ensured Chelsea did not pull a goal back immediately as he pushed away Salomon Kalou's point-blank header, with Branislav Ivanovic hooking the rebound into the side-netting.

Drogba's curling free-kick brought another excellent save out of Van der Sar before the striker's next effort bounced harmlessly wide.

Almost from nowhere, Chelsea pulled one back 21 minutes from time when Ivanovic climbed to reach Ramires' cross and nodded it down for Lampard, who prodded home from close range.

United nearly snuffed out the visitors' lingering hopes immediately though as Hernandez nicked possession away from Ramires and darted into the penalty area. The Mexican's square pass seemed to have presented Wayne Rooney with a tap-in but, amazingly, Alex slid across to make a crucial goalline clearance.

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