Chelsea picked an unchanged XI as they hosted Manchester United in the last Premier League match of the weekend and Hiddink didn’t exactly throw the kitchen sink at their fellow underachievers.
The Blues managed to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat with a Diego Costa strike in added time after Jesse Lingard had hit an absolute pearler to put United ahead well into the second half. As it often is with these games, the first half was a pretty dire affair as Diego Costa’s confrontational approach provided the only feeling of any life in what looked like a typical mid-table clash.
Lingard, after Martial had gone close in the first half, hit a stunning half volley on the spin into the top corner of Thibaut Courtois’ net and United were deservedly in front.
The first half had seen an initial spell of dominance from the visitors, with over 70% possession for the first 25 minutes, but the Blues fought their way back into the game and had a couple of very close attempts. Oscar played a slick one-two with Cesar Azpilicueta inside the box before missing the target when he should have scored and John Terry had an ambitious shout for a penalty turned down.
Once United had taken the lead in the second half, Chelsea replaced Nemanja Matic with Pedro and spent the remainder of the game camped in the United half. Eden Hazard had come on earlier, in place of Oscar, and continued to his return to the sort of form that saw him become one of the most feared players in Europe. The dazzling Belgian danced down the inside left channel at one point as the winger’s rapid short steps make any potential challenge extremely perilous in the box.
After waves of pressure, and John Terry’s appearance in some sort of auxiliary number 10 role, Chelsea finally reached their deserved break through when Memphis Depay gave away possession and a hole opened up in the centre of the United defence for Diego Costa to bully his way past David de Gea. Depay will have infuriated many United fans with this mistake and, not for the first time, showed his lack of game understanding.
Once Chelsea had levelled things up, United tried to squeak time out of the game with the addition of Ander Herrera, and Chelsea continued to throw all they could at Van Gaal’s men. In what must have been an emotional day for John Terry, there was no heroic set piece header for the captain, but we can be sure to be treated to at least one more trademark Terry moment of drama before his final appearance at the Bridge.
The spirit shown by Chelsea shows how far they have come under Hiddink, but the whole occasion was soured by the horrific-looking injury to Kurt Zouma. Zouma’s knee jarred when landing and the Frenchman was clearly in agony before being stretchered off, we will have to wait on news, but it didn’t look like the former Saint Etienne man would feature again this campaign.
All in all, Chelsea are on the right path going in to the final few months of the campaign but they will need a huge improvement before they face PSG if they are to avoid embarrassment. Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic and Oscar’s performances all need greater consistency if they are to prove their worth before the arrival of a new manager in the summer.
Contribution from Sam Cox. Follow Sam on Twitter @10InTheHole