London, England (Sports Network) – A dramatic Saturday in England saw Manchester United take a five-point lead on Chelsea in the Premiership standings with three matches to play, putting the Blues’ hopes of a third consecutive EPL crown in serious doubt.
United pulled off an improbable 4-2 comeback win at Goodison Park against Everton, while Chelsea was held on home soil 2-2 by Bolton.
Early on it looked as though the day would belong to Chelsea as the Blues built a 2-1 advantage at halftime while United fell behind 1-0 at the break. Lubomir Michalik scored his first EPL goal of the season for Bolton, but Chelsea quickly canceled out the advantage as Salomon Kalou scored three minutes later to level the match, and a Jussi Jaaskelainen own-goal in the 34th minute handed the home side the lead.
Chelsea supporters were in a celebratory mood early in the second half as word circulated that United had gone behind by two goals as Everton’s Manuel Fernandes gave the Toffees a two-goal lead with 40 minutes to play.
It looked as though this would be the day that Chelsea finally caught United and made it an even race over the final three games. However, that joy quickly turned to nervousness as Kevin Davies headed home a free kick from Idan Tal in the 54th minute to level the match.
Meanwhile, bad went to worse for the London club as United began its furious second-half rally in the 61st as John O’Shea poked home a rebound from close range and a Phil Neville own-goal just seven minutes later allowed United to pull level.
Back at Stamford Bridge, the pressure was mounting but Chelsea supporters still held out hope that their team would snatch another late winner as they have so many times throughout this season.
Chelsea threatened on a pair of occasions with 25 minutes remaining. Didier Drogba sent a free kick from 20-yards out menacingly close as his shot blazed just over the cross bar, and Michael Essien drove a free kick through the face of goal that came within inches of connecting with a Chelsea foot.
Bolton seemed content to play for a draw and allowed Chelsea to bring the game to them over the final 15 minutes.
While the Blues were desperately searching for a winner, United had no such trouble finding the net. Wayne Rooney continued his stellar run of play with the go-ahead goal against his former club in the 79th minute as an O’Shea cross found the young Englishman and he finished off the play by slotting his shot into the lower left corner.
Looks of shock were all around Stamford Bridge when news of Rooney’s strike reached the Chelsea supporters and no matter how much they encouraged their team, a late winner was not in the cards.
Chris Eagles added an insurance tally in the 90th minute for United, and the Red Devils now look to be in position to claim their first EPL title since the 2002-03 campaign.
In other EPL action on Saturday, Blackburn thrashed Charlton 4-1 behind two goals from Jason Roberts, Aston Villa blanked Manchester City 2-0, Robbie Keane scored twice to lead Tottenham to a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough, while Portsmouth got past Liverpool 2-1. Sheffield United earned a big 1-0 win over Watford to move three points clear of the relegation zone and West Ham pounded Wigan 3-0 to move within one point of safety.
Sunday’s lone contest features another relegation-battling team as Fulham faces a tough task in meeting Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The weekend rounds out on Monday as Reading hosts Newcastle.