Stamford Bridge, London – With Wilfredo Caballero starting in goal for the home side and Batshuayi getting a rare start up front, it was always going to be an interesting game. Eric Bailey returned in defence for the away side as both teams look to gain the upper hand in the race for a champions league place next season.
The home side started on the front foot as right back Reece James flashed a shot narrowly wide of De Gea’s goal from the edge of the area and soon after Willian did something almost identical. It would be bad new though for Chelsea as N’Golo Kante pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury with only ten minutes played and he was replaced by Mason Mount.
Manchester United foraged forward and created some chances but failed to test Caballero in goal as both teams look like they will have a go at each other. Batshuayi almost broke the deadlock on 25 minutes after some brilliant combination play from Pedro and Mount but saw his effort miss the goal by a slim margin.
The Londoners controlled the game for most of the first half but Harry Maguire and Eric Bailey who were both having an excellent match was always there to snuff out danger almost everytime as Batshuayi struggled to get the better of them.
Willian got booked on 35 minutes for simulation and rightly so and the subsequent play saw Anthony Martial flashed a shot past Chelsea’s goal but failed to trouble the goalie. But he soon made up for that with a brilliantly taken headed goal against the run of play from Aaron Wan Bissaka’s cross from the left flank in the 45th minute.
Mitchy Batshuayi had a chance to draw level on 48th minutes but dragged his shot wide when he should have really hit the target and United took their lead into the break.
Frank Lampard had no option but to make another unwanted change after the brake with Kurt Zouma replacing the injured Christensen. The second half struggled to produce much rythm from either side that is, until Kurt Zouma found the back of the net on 55 minutes only to be ruled out incorrectly for a foul on Fred by Azpilicueta after he himself had been shoved into Fred. And VAR decided not to award the foul on Azpilicueta but instead ruled in United’s favour.
Bruno Fernandes almost made it two nil on 63 minutes with a direct free kick that rattled Caballero’s left post but the Argentine could do nothing to stop Maguire from doing just that two minutes later as the England center back headed home Fernandes’ corner kick.
Olivier Giroud soon replaced the disappointing Batshuayi as the blues searched for a goal and it came in the 76th minute when Giroud raced unto Mount’s cross but it was again ruled out for offside by the slimmest of margins and this time, VAR got it right.
Chelsea took the game to United in hopes of a comeback with Mason Mount again rattling De Gea’s post from a free kick on 88 minutes as Odion Ighalo becoming the first Nigerian to play for Manchester United came on for his debut on a day when nothing seems to be working in Chelsea’s favour. Caballero although denied the Nigerian a debut day goal from close range in the second minute of added time.
Games like these are what ultimately shapes a season and with United doing the double over Chelsea for the first time in almost 32 years and subsequently closing the gap between both clubs to three points, Ole Gunner Solskjaer would have been delighted at his players as whatever plan they had payed off on the day.
As for Chelsea, there seem to be something not quite going well in this football club. They should have done everything in their power to get a striker that can score goals and take some pressure of youngster Tammy Abraham during the January window and that failure may yet be the difference between finishing in the top four come the end of the season.
As for VAR, it seems to be doing more harm than good in the Premier League and every club at some stage this season has been affected by it. In most cases, it’s done irreparable damage and it remains to be seen whether the referee come next season, will be provided with a pitch side monitor to look at replays for themselves instead of having someone else do it for them all the way in Stockley Park.