Ross Barkley makes game-changing impact as Chelsea save a point
Ross Barkley's last-gasp equaliser salvaged a point for Chelsea in a pulsating 2-2 draw vs. Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Maurizio Sarri's side controlled the first half, playing with swagger and poise and taking the lead through Antonio Rudiger's header. However, in a game littered with cynical fouls and yellow cards, United raised themselves and Anthony Martial twice capitalised on poor defending. The visitors looked set for three points until Barkley drove home a loose ball in the sixth minute of injury time to maintain Chelsea's unbeaten record.
The psychological importance, tied to the never-say-die attitude that brought the dramatic equaliser, cannot be underestimated. In a way, although a home draw could be viewed as two points dropped, there was a palpable sense among fans that this was a victory, in moral terms at least.
The arrogance of Chelsea's play in the first half deserved a slap in the face, simply because -- again -- tippy-tappy possession football frustratingly yielded little from open play. Complacency and lackadaisical defending is a cocktail for defeat and Sarri must address both issues or his side might not be as fortunate in the future.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Sarri's persistence with misfiring striker Alvaro Morata is becoming infuriating, while the Italian manager's apparent reluctance to initiate substitutions could have proved costly. He will need to be hard on his players to avoid a repeat scenario that saw Chelsea guilty of complacency after taking the lead.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- A spectator for much of the first half, Kepa made a superb reaction save from Juan Mata after the break but had no chance with either of Martial's goals.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 5 -- Composed in the first half when United offered little going forward, it was a different story in the second period as Martial twice took advantage of poor marking on the part of the Chelsea skipper.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 8 -- Cannot be absolved of blame during the period of shambolic defending that saw United storm into the lead, but that he scored a towering header and almost levelled in the build-up to Barkley's equaliser is reason enough to applaud Rudiger for a John Terry-esque performance.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Had the run of the ball in the first half, timing some neat passes out of defence, but was increasingly troubled by the hulking presence of Romelu Lukaku after the break and lacked composure when United rattled Chelsea. Commendably, like Rudiger, Luiz was there at the death foraging for an equaliser.
DF Marcos Alonso, 6 -- Saw plenty of the ball from an attacking point of view, but was unable to deliver sufficiently weighted passes to trouble United's backline. Defensively, he was down injured when the visitors levelled, but Alonso also needs to put his hand up and admit lacking concentration at times.
MF Jorginho, 7 -- The architect-in-chief of "Sarri-ball," Jorginho played some delightful passes over the top of United's defence; alas, they were largely squandered.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- Given the disarray that saw Chelsea's defence squander a convincing lead, the question remains as to whether it would have been the same story had Kante been stationed as a defensive shield. He stung David De Gea's hands with a rasping shot at 1-1, but the jury is out about his effectiveness as an attacking midfielder.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Battled hard in midfield to win the ball and played some decent give-and-go football with Eden Hazard. Kovacic was replaced by Barkley in the 69th minute as his legs began to tire.
FW Willian, 6 -- Delivered a pinpoint corner for Rudiger to head the opener, having earlier disappointed with a wasteful free kick from an excellent position. Ran out of ideas and perhaps should have been substituted before the 75th minute when he was replaced by Pedro.
FW Eden Hazard, 7 -- Influential without being decisive, he might have benefited from having Olivier Giroud to work the United defence with from the get-go.
FW Alvaro Morata, 5 -- The day's biggest surprise was how he remained on the pitch for so long when he was clearly not fit for purpose, let alone scoring goals. Another frustrating performance.
MF Ross Barkley 9 -- A fitness issue saw Barkley confined to the bench, but once unleashed by Sarri, the England international midfielder gave Chelsea added an attacking spark that culminated in his second goal in as many games.
FW Pedro, NR -- Replaced Willian and gave Chelsea more impetus as they endeavoured to rescue the game.
FW Olivier Giroud, NR -- Gave Chelsea a more physical presence up front that had been previously lacking with Morata.