Ballack keeps Blues in race
Midfielder converts late penalty to haul Chelsea level with United
Michael Ballack sent Chelsea level on points with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table after a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
The German midfielder converted a late penalty to clinch the points for Avram Grant's side, who exacted revenge for a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford in the Israeli's first match at the helm.
United suffered an early setback when Nemanja Vidic was stretchered off with a facial injury and Joe Cole struck the angle of bar and post for Chelsea.
The home team's first-half dominance was rewarded in injury-time when Ballack ghosted in at the far post to head Didier Drogba's cross beyond Edwin van der Sar.
But United levelled on 56 minutes after Ricardo Carvalho gifted possession to Wayne Rooney, who burst clear to rifle a shot beyond Petr Cech.
With four minutes to go, though, Chelsea claimed the points when Ballack converted from the penalty spot after Michael Carrick had handled Michael Essien's cross.
Chelsea set about United in the opening minutes and Essien brought a diving save from Van der Sar.
United, who left Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez on the substitutes' bench, were rocked in the ninth minute when Vidic was stretchered off with a facial injury.
The United defender was caught by Drogba's knee as he stooped to head the ball clear and he was subsequently replaced by Owen Hargreaves.
Chelsea should have taken the lead in the 20th minute when Joe Cole got clear of the United defence but after initially losing the ball, he lashed the ball against the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.
In the 23rd minute a neat combination between Drogba and Essien ended with the Ghanaian's cross eluding everyone in the six-yard box.
Rooney's lone role in attack was clearly not working as Ryan Giggs and Nani were often slow in supporting the England international.
Chelsea continued to press for an opening goal and were unlucky when Joe Cole dribbled his way into the penalty area only for Van der Sar to grab the ball at his feet.
A free-kick from Ashley Cole caused minor panic in the United defence when the giant frame of John Terry rose to meet it, but the Chelsea captain could not direct his effort anywhere near the target.
The Blues took the lead in the 45th minute when Drogba's cross was headed home at the far post by the unmarked Ballack.
The goal sparked emotional scenes as all the Chelsea players held up Frank Lampard's No.8 shirt with the message 'Pat Lampard - R.I.P'. Ballack who had taken his shirt off, was then booked by Wiley.
United were still struggling to create anything despite a better share of possession at the start of the second half.
But United got themselves back into the game thanks to a mistake by Chelsea defender Carvalho.
The Portuguese defender passed the ball straight to Rooney who accepted the gift by firing beyond Cech into the net.
There were a flurry of substitutions, but chances were at a premium until Chelsea were awarded a penalty in the 84th minute.
Essien's cross struck Carrick's arm and Ballack kept his cool to score from the spot to keep the title race on the boil.
In the dying stages, Ashley Cole hacked substitute Ronaldo's effort off the line before Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko cleared from underneath his own bar after a combination of Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher had forced the ball towards goal.
Chelsea Team Statistics Manchester United
2 Goals 1
1 1st Half Goals 0
8 Shots on Target 5
7 Shots off Target 3
4 Blocked Shots 1
8 Corners 3
15 Fouls 18
0 Offsides 6
3 Yellow Cards 4
0 Red Cards 0
81 Passing Success 69.3
9 Tackles 27
88.9 Tackles Success 81.5
59 Possession 41
58.7 Territorial Advantage 41.3