Ballack, Chelsea Level ManUtd

Michael Ballack scored twice as Chelsea drew level with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League after a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

Ballack headed the Blues into the lead on the stroke of half time before Wayne Rooney levelled matters after an error from Ricardo Carvalho, only for Ballack to grab the winner from the penalty spot with four minutes to go.

The two teams are now level on 81 points but United have a far superior goal difference with two games remaining in the title race.

The home side flew out of the traps with Michael Essien twice going close in the opening 90 seconds while United were forced into a reshuffle in the 14th minute when Nemanja Vidic was forced off after taking a knee in the face from Didier Drogba – Wes Brown switching to the centre.

Avram Grant’s men were unlucky not to take the lead in the 21st minute when Joe Cole burst through the middle but, after initially losing the ball, he lashed an effort against the post when it rebounded to him just inside the penalty area.

Cole fired wide again from an acute angle on the half hour while John Terry headed well over from a Ballack free-kick as Chelsea continued to dominate the champions.

And they deservedly broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time when Drogba worked an opening on the right edge of the area before crossing to the far post where Ballack was lurking to head across Edwin van der Sar.

United showed more intent at the start of the second period and drew level in the 56th minute after a shocking blunder from the normally reliable Carvalho.

The Blues were awarded a free-kick just inside their own half but the Portugal international blindly played the ball behind him where Rooney took control before racing through on goal and dispatching a clinical finish across Petr Cech – although the England star was injured in the act of scoring and replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Van der Sar had to be at his best to push out Drogba’s fierce free-kick with 18 minutes to go while at the other end Ronaldo’s set piece effort was well held by Cech.

But home side were awarded a penalty with five minutes to go when Michael Carrick was adjudged to have handled Essien’s cross and Ballack sent van der Sar the wrong way from the spot.

Ashley Cole was on hand to clear Ronaldo’s shot off the line in the last minute while Andriy Shevchenko did likewise to deny Darren Fletcher in injury time as United piled forward in search of an equalizer.