VAR took centre stage at Stamford Bridge as Manchester United ran out 2-0 against Chelsea. Goals from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire have lifted United to within three points of their opponents and the top four. Maguire’s goal came with controversy as he could have been sent off for a foul in the first half. Meanwhile, Chelsea controversially had two disallowed, leaving Frank Lampard’s men winless in four.
VAR Causes Controversy as Manchester United Beat Chelsea
Anthony Taylor was the man in the middle on the night; he and his team had a lot to do. When Harry Maguire kicked out at Michy Batshuayi in an off the ball incident, all eyes were on the referee. Eagerly anticipating a red card to be brandished, spectators were shocked when no action was taken. It certainly seemed as though the Englishman forced his studs into the Belgian angrily. However, it wasn’t to be, and the decision had a considerable impact on the result, given Maguire’s goal later on.
Going in at the break 1-0 down, Chelsea had work to do at half time. Frank Lampard made a change, swapping Andreas Christensen for Kurt Zouma. This decision looked to be perfect as on 55 minutes, Zouma hammering home a volley from a corner to equalise. Step in VAR, which judged that Cesar Azpilicueta committed a foul, though replays did show that he himself was pushed by Fred. The Stamford Bridge crowd was once again stunned by the VAR’s decision against them.
The final key decision by VAR, though this looked to be correct, was the decision to disallow Olivier Giroud’s goal in the 77th minute. The Frenchman made a trademark run towards the front post and was picked out perfectly by Reece James, and it seemed like a great goal. Chelsea were back in the game, ready for a grandstand finish. Yet again, VAR had the last laugh, showing that Giroud was half a foot offside. This time, the decision was justified and no-one could argue, though Chelsea fans were still aggrieved from the earlier decisions.
Solskjaer Trumps Lampard Yet Again
The game of football overall was rather intense throughout. Chelsea pressed with intent, especially in the first half, with Batshuayi wasteful with multiple good opportunities going astray. Manchester United were reliant on the excellent defending of Eric Bailly, on his first start since April, to keep Chelsea at bay.
Despite being on the backfoot and quite lifeless in the first 45 minutes, United went in at the break ahead. Aaron Wan-Bissaka whipped in a cross to Anthony Martial who headed the ball in at a tight angle across Willy Cabarello’s goal. Martial looked isolated for the most part but came alive at the perfect time for his side.
A fascinating battle commenced in the middle of the park with Mateo Kovacic trying to be a driving force for Chelsea, but being constantly pressed by Fred. The Brazilian was tenacious at every opportunity, winning the ball back countless times and playing it on to more talented playmakers. Although Kovacic looked dominant in the first half, Fred certainly came out on top in that particular battle.
After the break came further controversy. Kurt Zouma had his goal disallowed before Harry Maguire doubled United’s lead. Bruno Fernandes rounded off an impressive display by sending in a pacy corner for Maguire to thump home, much to the disgust of the Stamford Bridge faithful. Bruno’s urgency in possession was a driving force for United on the night, injecting some much-needed pace when the midfield otherwise seemed laboured.
The Battle for Champions League Intensifies
Although Chelsea pushed until the end for a consolation, United held on for a clean sheet and could even deputise their newest signing. Odion Ighalo entered the fray on 88 minutes and could have scored. Fred’s aggression won the ball back high up the pitch before playing in the Nigerian who couldn’t besat Caballero.
Victory for Solskjaers’ men leaves them in seventh, just three points behind Chelsea, who remain fourth. The result means there is just five points between fourth and ninth and places huge pressure on Chelsea, who play fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur next week. For United, consistency is needed in the final 12 games if they are to join Europe’s elite next season.