Manchester United lost to John Terry’s late header at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea has referee Martin Atkinson to thank for the victory. Atkinson and his assistants made not one, or two but three glaring errors in the lead-up to the Londoners’ goal to hand Chelsea a five point lead at the top of the Premier League.
The manner of defeat, coming after an impressive United display, is particularly galling but Sir Alex Ferguson’s men leave town in the knowledge that the home side was forced to rely on luck – and officialdom – for the win.
Ferguson, without injured central defensive pair Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, predictably selected Wayne Rooney to plough a lone furrow up-front. Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia offered support in wide areas with Dimitar Berbatov also absent through injury. Ferguson, often the gambler, chose to play safe and United produced a disciplined performance against a Chelsea side unbeaten at home.
United edged a tense first half that offered few chances from a solid midfield foundation. Indeed, Brown and Evans, so haphazard against CSKA Moscow in midweek, soaked up everything Diddier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka threw at them.
The officials were to have an early hand in Chelsea’s victory though. Prior to their involvement in the home side’s goal, Atkinson and co. twice denied United in the first half. Firstly when Anderson put Rooney through on goal, only for the assistant to incorrectly rule the striker offside and then Atkinson failed to blow when Terry hauled Valencia to the ground in the area.
Darren Fletcher, dominant in midfield, saw a shot blocked by Ricardo Carvlho while Giggs and Michael Carrick also tested the Chelsea ‘keeper in the opening period.
Rooney twice went close after the break as United continue to ask more questions than the home side. First the Scouser drove inches wide of Petr Cech’s post then the former-Everton striker forced a top class save from the ‘keeper with a curling shot.
But all United’s work was undone as the officials gifted Chelsea a late winner. Fletcher, winning the ball cleanly from Ashley Cole, was harshly judged to have fouled the former Arsenal left-back on United’s right. Frank Lampard swung over the free kick for Terry to head home.
The officials, perhaps blinded by their unity with an insulted colleague, ignored both Drogba’s foul on Wes Brown and the offside position of the Ivorian.
Ferguson sent on Michael Owen and Gabriel Obertan to retrieve the situation but it was too late as United slipped to yet another away defeat to a ‘top four’ side.
Finally, Chelsea’s plastic fans – most of whom only discovered the club existed in 2003 – sprung into life. Meanwhile, United’s travelling army leave town beaten but proud that their team was worthy of much more.
Predictably Ferguson attacked the referee post match, blaming the Yorkshire-born official for failing to spot Fletcher’s clean challenge.
“The referee’s position to make the decision was absolutely ridiculous, he can’t see anything,” said the Scot.
“It was a bad decision. You lose faith in refereeing sometimes, that’s the way the players are talking in there.”
“That goal should never have been allowed,” added Ferguson.
“We’ve dominated the game; we’ve had great chances to win the match and not taken them – and that’s our fault.
“We had great opportunities to get to the edge of the box and some really good chances in and around the box, but we should be finishing it off.
“We’ve only ourselves to blame in that respect. But you do need a break – and we never got the break we needed.”
8 thoughts on “Proud Reds lose at Chelsea”
I am a Chelsea season ticket holder and was there today. You’re probably not too far off the mark with your analysis. However, Fergie is now just like the boy who cried wolf. He has whinged unjustifiably about so many referees no one will care what he says about this one.
Unfortunately, Stan, I think you have a point, and have said as much on the Martin Atkinson thread.
I was also worried by United’s reaction to the goal. Sure, make your point to the official, but once you’ve done that, you need to concentrate all your energies on finding the equaliser you deserve. Instead, a lot of players got involved in personal tussles with the Chelsea players, while others spend too much time putting pressure on the referee to punish the opposition.
I am loath to criticise Darren Fletcher – who must feel that the world’s officials are against him. In the space of around 10 games, he’s been unfairly banned from the Champions’ League final, denied (and accused of cheating) the clearest penalty in the world and then yesterday wrongly penalised for the game-changing free kick.
However, superb as Fletcher was yesterday – how different were the midfield yesterday as opposed to the Liverpool game – unfortunately he was particularly culpable for this attitude after the goal.
Actually one other thing I didn’t really say in my piece but I think you’re making here (and I agree with) is that United’s response to the goal was pretty limp. Didn’t smack of a team that’s full of confidence. It took Fergie nearly 10 mins to get some subs on – I’d have had Macheda, Owen and Obertan on within a millisecond of going behind.
I thought United were excellent today. For supposedly such as good side Chelsea didn’t produce much and United were really unlucky with some of the decisions. I think Fergie’s rant at the fat ref is causing problems now. Against Chelsea and Liverpool United got some really bad decisions. Terry’s foul on Valencia was obvious and the free kick an absolute joke.
i belive man united deserved a win at chelsea and it’s club we all should be proud ofinstead criticism, chelsea on the other hand hard everything 2 win three season back,bcs they have players nd coaches past and present, but they lack the spirit of the game, this is what man united has that have keep them going now and ever, if u watch the game at chelsea, you will no what team, club man united is, we galantory to club that can never do what man U has down and will still do, the referee made it a bad day for football funs.
The coach and players all got caught complaining and were “reacting,” not responding. The match against CSKA shows that attitude and a “get on” approach can do wonders in the current squad – but squibbly over free kicks will shortcircuit any offense