In Depth

‘Soul destroying’ for Chelsea and Lampard: reactions to Man Utd’s VAR-cical victory

Harry Maguire avoided a red card then scored the second at Stamford Bridge

Premier League Chelsea 0 Manchester United 2  

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard described the video assistant referee (VAR) as “soul destroying” after three crucial calls were made in the Blues’s 2-0 defeat against Manchester United last night.

United defender Harry Maguire got lucky in the first half when he escaped sanction from VAR after it appeared he had kicked Michy Batshuayi in a particularly sensitive area.

Maguire later scored for United, adding to Anthony Martial’s first-half effort, but the scoreline could have been different had VAR not ruled out two Chelsea goals, one for a shove in the penalty area and the other for offside.  

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Manchester United captain Harry Maguire scored his side’s second goal against Chelsea

Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Fred foul first?

The first incident was particularly contentious given that replays suggested that while Cesar Azpilicueta had laid a hand on Brandon Williams, United’s Fred had been the first to make contact with the Chelsea captain. Had Kurt Zouma’s goal been allowed by VAR official Chris Kavanagh the score would have been 1-1.

Olivier Giroud then had his header chalked off when VAR ruled that the Frenchman’s foot was in an offside position as he moved towards Mason Mount’s free-kick.

So United left Stamford Bridge having completed their first league double over Chelsea since the 1987-1988 season. 

Of far greater significance, however, were the three points that move United to seventh in the Premier League table, three points behind Chelsea, who remain fourth.

Game changer

“It’s a bit soul destroying,” said Lampard, when asked about the controversial decisions. “I’ve seen it again and VAR is there for that and they didn’t get it right. Harry Maguire should have been sent off, that’s clear, and that obviously changes the game.”

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a different take on the incident, saying: “Was Harry Maguire lucky? I don’t think so. He was fouled first and Batshuayi was going to fall on top of him so he put his leg out and hit him where it hurts.”

Reactions to the VAR decisions

Harry Maguire, Man Utd captain, speaking to Sky Sports

“I felt he was going to fall on me and my natural reaction was to straighten my leg to stop him. It wasn’t a kick out and there was no intent. I think it’s the right decision.”

Chris Sutton, former Chelsea striker, on BBC Radio 5 Live

“Fred shoves Azpilicueta into Williams - the goal should stand. That’s ridiculous! That’s absurd, that’s crazy stuff. They want their heads banging together. I’m bamboozled by that decision.”

Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea captain 

“I pushed Williams but I was pushed. At least go to the monitor - it takes 30 seconds. The referee on the pitch has to be the one to take the decisions... I’m not saying the push from Fred was a penalty but my push is a consequence of his push.”

Henry Winter, The Times

“Atmospheres in grounds are becoming that frustrated, almost toxic, particularly here where there were three VAR calls against Chelsea, one correct, but two of them horribly, almost laughably, wrong.” 

Jason Burt, The Daily Telegraph

“There was confusion as to how Harry Maguire escaped sanction, and probably a red card… it was fair enough that referee Anthony Taylor did not see it, but what about Chris Kavanagh, the VAR?” 

Today’s back pages

Chelsea are left feeling blue and Wenger backs Uefa over Man City ban

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Start your trial today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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