Cole Rescues Red-Faced Scholes  (Sky Sports)  

Andy ColeChelsea 1-1 Manchester United
Hasselbaink 24 - Cole 69
FA Carling Premiership


Steve Brenner reporting

Andy Cole signed off in style before his three-game suspension with a 69th-minute equaliser as Manchester United continued their pursuit of a third successive championship.

Cole, who will not play again in the Premiership until March 31st, notched his 12th goal of the season to cancel out Jimmy Floyd Hasselbainks first-half strike in a pulsating clash at a rain-soaked Stamford Bridge.

It was Claudio Ranieris team who had the better of the first half but in the second period the champions were at their dominant best and created enough chances to snatch all three points.

Like all games between these two arch-rivals controversy was not far away and Chelsea will rue the referee's decision to rule out a fantastic strike by Gianfranco Zola after 55 minutes. The little Italian dispossessed Raimond van de Gouw and beautifully slotted the ball home only for it to be disallowed by David Elleray, who believed the ball had gone over the line for a goal-kick.

But to their credit Chelsea stood firm in the face of a barrage of pressure and held out for a well-earned point.

The home side flew out of the blocks and Sam Dalla Bona produced a fine save from Van de Gouw, who pushed his rasping drive behind for a corner.

Chelsea, victorious in 10 of their last 11 home games, were causing United all sorts of problems and the brilliant Jesper Gronkjaer, a constant menace until he was replaced midway through the second half, was inches wide after a dazzling run from the half-way line.

And the Danish international was heavily involved in Chelseas comical opening goal. It was the former Ajax mans cross that was headed away from danger by Jaap Stam but Paul Scholes inexplicably decided to head the ball back into the danger zone, straight on to the head of Hasselbaink who nodded the ball home from six yards.

United mustered their first shot after 38 minutes but Roy Keane failed to hit the target and he steered a shot wide three minutes later to send the teams in level at the break.

The turning point came two minutes after the re-start when the exhilarant Gronkjaer, a revelation since he has been introduced to the side, beat three men and squared the ball to Hasselbaink. But the Dutchmans touch was poor and allowed Silvestre to smash the ball away from danger to keep United in the game.

For the remainder of the match United dominated and Beckham went close with a trademark free kick which was brilliantly turned over the bar by Carlo Cudicini and Cole screwed wide two minutes later.

Ryan Giggs waltzed through the Chelsea midfield with a dazzling run but the Welsh winger blasted over after the ball bobbled nastily on the uneven Stamford Bridge surface.

But Giggs redeemed himself five minutes later when his defence-splitting pass was expertly finished by Cole, via a deflection off Desailly, to give United a deserved equaliser.

Both teams went in search of the winner and Scholes capped a miserable afternoon with a glaring miss 10 minutes from time. Gary Neville sent over a pinpoint cross but the England midfielder, normally lethal from six yards, saw his header travel wide of the post.

A draw was a fair result and Chelsea will take heart from their display as they defended resolutely in the face of constant United pressure.

A constant menace all afternoon, committed to the United cause and he thoroughly deserved his goal.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Babayaro, Leboeuf, Desailly, Terry, Ferrer (Lambourde 87), Wise, Dalla Bona, Gronkjaer (Jokanovic 70), Hasselbaink, Zola (Gudjohnsen 90).
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Stanic.

Man Utd: Van Der Gouw, Gary Neville, Stam, Brown, Silvestre, Giggs, Keane, Scholes, Beckham, Solskjaer, Cole.
Subs Not Used: Rachubka, Butt, Sheringham, Phil Neville, Yorke.
Booked: Scholes, Cole.

Att: 34,960
Ref: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).

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