Manchester United recorded a 2-0 win over Chelsea amid VAR controversy at Stamford Bridge on Monday night to move within three points of Premier League spot. The Red Devils claimed their first League win at the Bridge since 2012.
United striker Anthony Martial scored before half-time and Harry Maguire doubled the visitors’ lead on 66 minutes to seal all three points for the Red Devils to move up the table to seventh. Chelsea, meanwhile, saw two goals cancelled after VAR reviews.
The hosts started well when midfielder Mateo Kovacic drove forward and created two early chances with Reece James firing just wide of the far post and Willian bending one over the bar from the right-hand side.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was, however, dealt an early blow when N’Golo Kante was forced off with a groin injury. Mason Mount replaced Kante and then set up their best chance of the game as he broke into the box and squared for Batshuayi on 26 minutes, only for the Belgian striker to fire wide from a great position.
United captain Harry Maguire was, however, fortunate not to have been sent off when his boot caught Michy Batshuayi in his groin as the pair slid off the pitch. After the VAR review, it was adjudged that the England defender’s kick was not a violent conduct.
The Blues were then punished for not converting their chances when Martial headed home the first goal when he connected to whipping cross from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. It was brilliant work from the right-back to beat Willian then tee him up with a perfect cross, and the Frenchman rose in the box before nodding past the helpless Willy Caballero.
Chelsea’s problems without Abraham continued as Batshuayi, having been sent through by Pedro, scuffed another finish across the mouth of the goal. The striker has been criticized for wasting chances this season and his lack of goals.
Lampard opted for a change at the break, Christiensen hooked in place of Kurt Zouma and it had looked a moment of inspiration from Lampard when, just shy of the hour mark, the Frenchman whacked home an equaliser from a corner, only for VAR to highlight a shove from Cesar Azpilicueta in the build-up and correctly rule out the goal.
Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United’s marquee January arrival, was starting to have his say into the second half and nearly claimed a first goal in English football in bizarre fashion, his low freekick catching Caballero out but striking the near post.
He may not have found the back of the net, but moments later he steered a corner onto the head of captain Maguire who rammed home the advantage of avoiding a red card by shrugging off Antonio Rudiger and powering a header home to notch his first Premier League goal for Manchester United.
Lampard reacted, finally ending Batshuayi’s nightmare and sending Olivier Giroud on for his first appearance since November. The World Cup winner quickly looked more of a presence, backheeling the ball through to Kovacic who was only denied by a fine last ditch Eric Bailly challenge.
Giroud thought he had a first Premier League goal of the season moments later, stooping to head home a wonderful Mount cross only for VAR to crop up again, this time picking out the Frenchman’s big toe in an offside position.
Chelsea continued to battle but could not find that finishing touch, Mount cracking a devilish freekick against David de Gea’s near post. Abraham cannot return soon enough.
Speaking after the game, Lampard was unhappy with VAR decisions, adding that Zuma’s goal should have stand. He also said that Maguire should have been sent off for his kick out at Batsuayi
“The decisions were crucial. Maguire should get a red and he scored the second goal,” he said.
“I think that’s what VAR was brought in for – a second viewing and more angles. But if [the referee] doesn’t look at the monitor you won’t see it.
“The Zouma goal should have stood. At first, I didn’t because I thought it was a shove, but it certainly wasn’t clear and obvious. The VAR check happens and you’re trusting they make the right decision.
“But the wrong decision is harder to take with the presence of VAR than it was before. Love it or hate it, that’s why it was brought in. If they see that and then don’t make the right decision it’s very confusing. It could just be my opinion here, but everyone I’ve spoken to has said the same.”
Reacting, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he is delighted with the victory.
“When you win 2-0 here you’re delighted,” said Manchester United boss Solskjaer. “I’d take that any day of the week. But I don’t think we played particularly well.
“In the first half we were cumbersome, our passing was slow and cumbersome, but we got the first goal and we hung in there.
“We’ve got a good team with quality. We’ve come here and defended really well. We’ve kept four clean sheets on the bounce, which is a great foundation to work on, and we’ve found a way to play against some of these teams that has worked really well.”
Check out the game highlights below