Monday 17 February 2020 10:43 pm

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United: Blues can't hide behind VAR excuses after blunt performance in front of goal

As a Chelsea fan there are two ways you can look at tonight’s 2-0 defeat by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. 

Firstly, viewed emotionally, it was a night of pure frustration. A night on which N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen were forced off injured.

A night on which the opposition’s captain and goalscorer got away with a possible red card offence.

A night on which two goals were ruled out by VAR. And one on which the opponents scored with two of their three shots on target and did everything in their power to get under the skin of Chelsea. 

But it was also a night on which Chelsea’s failings were laid bare. Somehow they remain in fourth place in the Premier League, but their blessed run now appears threatened, their margin down to a single point with the chasing pack closing in.

Frank Lampard
Lampard’s side lost for the fifth time at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this season (via Getty Images)

Playing in front of their own fans, after 16 days off, Frank Lampard’s side mustered a solitary shot on target. They created chances through Mateo Kovacic’s drive from midfield and crosses into the box, and yet they looked blunt in front of goal. 

A fifth home league defeat this season is concerning and the discussion around VAR should not distract from that. 

VAR frustrations

Having said that, Chelsea’s protestations are well-founded. Harry Maguire was fortunate not to be sent off after kicking out at Michy Batshuayi following a clash on the touchline, with VAR dismissing an incident which Maguire later described as a “natural reaction”. 

The decision by VAR to chalk off Kurt Zouma’s volley from Willian’s corner, with the score at 1-0, was also dubious. Cesar Azpilicueta was penalised for a push on Brandon Williams, but it appeared as though the Chelsea captain might have been propelled into the youngster by Fred. 

Zouma’s goal was ruled out for a foul (via Getty Images)

As frustrating as it might be, the hosts can have no qualms about the final VAR decision, which saw them become only the second side to have two goals ruled out in a single Premier League match this season.

Olivier Giroud’s front-post diving header from Mason Mount’s cross was fantastic, but he was marginally offside.  

Ruthless United

United have now won three games against Chelsea in all competitions this season, and although they were far from fluent, they got the job done.

New signing Bruno Fernandes was once again influential, dictating the play, sending in dangerous set pieces and showing why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears happy to cut Paul Pogba loose.   

But it was Aaron Wan-Bissaka who crafted the opening goal, beating Willian to send in a peach of a cross for Anthony Martial to glance into the far bottom corner just before half-time.

Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Martial glanced in a header just before half-time (via Getty Images)

After Fernandes had struck the post with a free-kick, the Portuguese midfielder landed a corner on the head of Maguire, who powered a second goal into the net.

Two shots on target, two goals, and in truth it should have been three from three had debutant substitute Odion Ighalo beaten Willy Caballero one-on-one late on. 

Blunt Blues

Chelsea’s inability to take chances and control a game has been a feature of their season and the negative aspects of their play were evident on Monday evening. 

Shorn of the injured Tammy Abraham, Batshuayi was given a rare chance to impress. He did not take it, side-footing wide from Mount’s cut-back and scuffing an opportunity laid on by Pedro in the first half.

Aside from their two disallowed efforts, the closest Chelsea came to beating David de Gea was when Mount struck the post with a free-kick in the final minute of normal time.

Chelsea had 61 per cent of the ball and 34 touches in United’s penalty area, and yet they completely failed to work the United goalkeeper. 

With fifth-placed Tottenham arriving at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, ready to take their top-four place, Lampard’s side can’t afford a repeat performance.