Fallen powers Manchester United, Chelsea slip further in English Premier League
A second stalemate of the season between Chelsea and Manchester United saw the fallen powers slip further from relevance in this unusual Premier League season.
The 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge did little to help either team yesterday, which began with Arsenal beating Bournemouth 2-0 to rise to third.
United remain lodged in fifth and the gap to the fourth Champions League place has grown to six points. Chelsea remain in the lower reaches of the standings - 13th - closer to the relegation zone than their usual place among the top four elite.
The one positive for Chelsea is that the ailing champions remain unbeaten since Guus Hiddink was brought in as manager until the end of the season in December to replace the fired Jose Mourinho.
The Blues left it late to rescue a point against United. The game had entered stoppage time when Cesc Fabregas threaded a pass beyond a slipping Daley Blind to Diego Costa, who rounded goalkeeper David De Gea before netting the equaliser.
United had dictated the pace of the game, showcasing a newly discovered vigour and passing precision, but only scored in the 61st minute. It was a passage of play that demonstrated the potential in Louis van Gaal's side. The build-up involved interplay between Juan Mata and Anthony Martial. Then Cameron Borthwick-Jackson's cross was teed up by Wayne Rooney for Jesse Lingard to volley on the turn into the net.
"We continued with our good, attacking football," said Van Gaal, whose side held Chelsea 0-0 at home in December. "We have created a lot of chances here at Chelsea. It's a nasty away game, I think, and one that's not so easy.
"The last few years Manchester United haven't won here, so it's not an easy match and we took the lead with a fantastic goal. A fantastic cross also. Then you can control the game, but in the last quarter we gave it away."
On the south coast, though, Arsenal emerged from their January slump. Arsenal had failed to win in four league games and not scored in three of them until travelling to Bournemouth.
Mesut Ozil scored his first goal since December's reverse fixture against Bournemouth and within 90 seconds Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ended a 17-month league goal drought.
"We had four games without a win when you play at the top that's a long period, so your confidence drops a little bit," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Arsenal moved behind second-place north London rivals Tottenham on goal difference. Coming up for Arsenal next Sunday is a home match against Leicester, the surprise leaders which sent Manchester City tumbling to fourth by winning their encounter 3-1 on Saturday.
"Leicester running away and us playing them next week, (makes) the game interesting," Wenger said. "It was very important for us to win today."