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Mar 10, 2013

Chelsea earns replay with 2nd-half rally

Wayne Rooney ended a long week by scoring, but David de Gea turned out to be the hero for saving Manchester United's FA Cup hopes after Alex Ferguson's team threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 in its quarterfinal clash with Chelsea.

Second-half goals from Eden Hazard and Ramires had pulled the visitors level after Javier Hernandez and Rooney struck early.

It seemed certain Juan Mata would complete a memorable comeback when he stepped inside Jonny Evans in the final minute. But De Gea, so often the target of criticism, stuck out a leg to keep Mata out and United in the tournament.

"The emotions and the intensity of Tuesday night took their toll on some of the players," Ferguson said.

It had all been about Rooney before kick-off, given the intense speculation that followed his omission from the United side that faced Real Madrid on Tuesday. Yet from the moment he was captured bouncing off the United team bus with a wide smile of greeting for the security staff in attendance, it seemed certain this would be a day of redemption.

Hernandez, someone with just as great a claim on a starting berth and whom did not appear for a single minute against a team held in so much affection in his native Mexico, had already struck in quite spectacular fashion before Rooney found the net.

Lining up a free kick wide on the United right, level with the penalty area, Rooney aimed for the far corner. David Luiz and Evans both jumped but missed it and by the time Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech could react it was too late. The ball flew into the corner and Rooney had his goal.

Amid all this, Chelsea had done quite well. Frank Lampard came close on a couple of occasions, Mata teased the United defence and rolled an inspired backheel into the path of Victor Moses, only for the former Wigan man to screw his shot so badly wide it actually hit the corner flag.

The vitriol from the away contingent to their own "interim" boss was even worse when Rafael Benitez took Lampard off as part of a double change nine minutes after the re-start. But Benitez's tactical switch worked a treat as one of the men introduced, Hazard, injected fresh hope into the Blues by curling a superb effort into the far corner beyond De Gea.

The impetus it gave Chelsea was marked, and when Rooney lost possession deep in the visitors' half, United were caught out with a classic counter-attack that ended with Ramires expertly drilling home.

It was the second time this season the Brazilian had completed a Chelsea comeback from two goals down against United. On the first occasion Chelsea then had two men sent off and were beaten by Hernandez. This time they managed to keep everyone on the pitch and they would have been the ones to claim victory had it not been for De Gea.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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