Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United
Manchester United blew the race for the top four wide open with a 2-0 win at Chelsea amid more VAR controversy at Stamford Bridge on Monday night.
Anthony Martial struck just before half-time and Harry Maguire doubled the visitors’ lead on 66 minutes to send United on their way to victory, as they moved up the table to seventh – just three points behind Chelsea in fourth.
There was yet more VAR controversy in the Premier League encounter, however, and Chelsea will feel aggrieved that Maguire didn’t see red when the game was still goalless after an incident with Michy Batshuayi, while substitute Kurt Zouma was denied an equaliser early in the second half.
More frustation was to come for Chelsea as another substitute, this time Olivier Giroud, appeared to pull a goal back after 77 minutes, but it was ruled out for a fractional offside by VAR.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set United up in a 3-4-1-2 to try and stifle Chelsea and play on the counter, but it was the home side that started the brighter. Twice they went close in the first 10 minutes as Reece James and Willian hit shots just wide and over respectively from the edge of the area.
Frank Lampard’s side then lost N’Golo Kante to injury but his replacement Mason Mount set up their best chance of the early proceedings 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.
Chelsea’s misses would then prove costly on the stroke of half-time as Martial put United in front with the first shot on target of the game. It was brilliant work from Aaron Wan-Bissaka 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.
Lampard was forced into a second change at half-time as Zouma came one for Andreas Christensen, and it looked as though the replacement centre-back had levelled when he fired in from a corner on 56 minutes, but VAR intervened to adjudge that Cesar Azplicueta had pushed Brandon Williams in the build-up – even though it appeared that Azpilicueta had himself been given a little shove by Fred to push him into United’s young left-back.
And 10 minutes later United would double their advantage from their own corner. Maguire – who could easily have been sent off by VAR in the first half for appearing to kick out at Batshuayi in an off-the-ball incident following a coming together in the Chelsea dugout – was given the freedom of the 18-yard box to charge in and head home a Bruno Fernandes corner.
Chelsea’s third and final substitution Giroud looked to have got Chelsea back into the game on 77 minutes as he headed home Mount’s cross, but the striker’s foot was fractionally offside before he nodded in. There would be no way back from there as United secured their third win over Lampard’s side this season.
The current drama surrounding Manchester City may well end with fifth place in the Premier League qualifying for the Champions League, but both sides will want to finish in the top four to ensure their spot next season.
Chelsea still occupy fourth place after Monday night’s game, but the race has been blown open now, with Tottenham just a point behind in fifth, Sheffield United a point further back in sixth, and United yet another point behind in seventh.
Then comes Wolves and Everton (both 36 points) just five behind Chelsea, while Arsenal and Burnley are two points behind them.
Manchester United face a quick turnaround before heading to Belgium to face Club Brugge in the first leg of their last-32 Europa League tie on Thursday night, while Chelsea meet Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime.