Terrible Ref cost Chelsea the Game (or at least the draw)
Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3: Crazy red card for Torres and Hernandez offside goal hand United victory at Stamford Bridge
By Martin Samuel
Games as good as this should be decided by a moment of magic, a sliver of sublime skill, an act of bravery or great daring. Sadly, Manchester United won here courtesy of one of the worst performances by a referee in Premier League history.
In fact, make that the worst. Even without the incredible allegations that followed, Mark Clattenburg had already lowered the bar. For while some may recall the odd match that plumbed murkier depths of ineptitude, Clattenburg’s display was such a hellish combination of incompetence and arrogance that it warped the narrative of the match and, perhaps, the title race.
These things even themselves out over a season? Really, do they? So Chelsea can recover three points the next time Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this season, can they? Or was this their only chance? Alternative outcomes are purely hypothetical and maybe United would have won even without the travesty that was the second Chelsea dismissal, or the winning goal that was plainly offside, but few impartial observers would have supported that bet with total confidence.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Hazard (Sturridge 82), Oscar (Azpilicueta 66), Mata (Bertrand 72), Torres.
Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Moses, Marin.
Booked: Torres, Mikel. Sent off: Ivanovic, Torres.
Goals: Mata 44, Ramires 53.
Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez 65), Young, Rooney (Giggs 74), van Persie.
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Anderson, Nani, Welbeck, Scholes.
Goals: Luiz (OG) 4, Van Persie 12, Hernandez 75.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
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At the time Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for fouling Ashley Young, United had passed the previous 50 minutes without a noteworthy attempt at goal. Within five minutes the home team were reduced to nine by a false judgment that left them to overcome insurmountable odds, and from that point there was only one winner. It helps if you can score from an offside position, too.
From a blistering start – Manchester United deservedly 2-0 up, Chelsea rightly back in the game through Juan Mata – this match then evolved like a car crash watched in slow motion. In the 45th minute, Clattenburg booked Fernando Torres for a high, reckless challenge on Tom Cleverley that some feel was worth more. The replays looked painful for the young man, but also revealed a genuine, if misguided, attempt to win the ball on Torres’s part. A yellow card seemed fair.
Clattenburg was still carrying the popular vote – although not at Stamford Bridge, it must be said – when he dismissed Ivanovic after 63 minutes. Robin van Persie put Ashley Young through on goal, and the full back got the wrong side of him. In attempting to make amends, he clipped Young’s heels. Again there is an argument that the contact was accidental, yet equally a cynical defender could be quite adept at making the deliberate appear unfortunate. The benefit of the doubt should be with the attacker here and, as the last line of defence, Ivanovic had to go.
And then Clattenburg’s reign of terrible began.
The score still tied at 2-2, Torres burst through. Jonny Evans lunged at the approaching forward, who made to take evasive action. It was too late, Evans hit him and Torres fell. It was a blatant foul, as clear as anything seen all afternoon. The home support chanted vengefully for Evans’s dismissal. Instead, it was Torres who was banished, a second yellow sending him mystified towards the tunnel.
It was an abysmal decision. Not just wrong, but full of the alienating arrogance of modern officialdom. There is no way Clattenburg could have been sure, 100 per cent sure, stone-cold guaranteed beyond all semblance of doubt sure, that Torres had cheated. He knew the consequence of a booking would be a red card. Yet he ploughed ahead, altering the balance of power beyond repair, convicting an innocent man on a hunch. He ruined the game, there and then. It was now a matter of time before United found a way through.
It took seven minutes. Van Persie shot, Petr Cech got his fingertips to the ball and, as it edged towards the goal-line, recovered to kick clear. His desperate attempt found only Rafael, however, who drilled a shot into the area to be turned in by substitute Javier Hernandez. If the sense of injustice inside Stamford Bridge was already palpable it exploded when replays showed Hernandez standing in an offside position when Rafael shot. He was almost on the goal-line, level with Cech at best, but behind every blue shirt. It was not a difficult offside for a linesman to spot. To be fair, Lemon Jefferson could have taken a fair swing at it. Using Ray Charles’s spectacles.
At this point it is customary to trot out the cliche about refereeing being an impossible job and its protagonists deserving of sympathy. No it isn’t and no they aren’t. Not here, anyway. It is not impossible to use common sense, as Clattenburg should have done over Torres, or to spot no blue shirt between a red shirt and goal. Yet Clattenburg’s bravado continued to the bitter end. In stoppage-time, he booked Antonio Valencia for diving when he plainly ran into Mikel. He should not be near a match as big as this for a very long time.
At 2-2 and 11 versus 11, Chelsea were the better team. Yet with 12 minutes gone, thoughts of a home victory would have appeared far-fetched. United started like a team looking to take advantage of the absence of John Terry, as Ferguson had demanded, and were a goal up after four minutes. Young found Wayne Rooney and his shot was met powerfully by Van Persie, striking a post, ricocheting out and hitting David Luiz before rebounding in. It was unfortunate for the Brazilian, although he could have asked for 50 other instances when he should have cost a goal and got away with it to be taken into account.
Soundly beaten in Donetsk last week, the game could have run away from Chelsea, but instead they rallied. They dominated the 40-minute period prior to Ivanovic’s dismissal, David de Gea making several good saves, including a smattering with his feet.
Maybe it was more good fortune, perhaps it is evidence of his individual approach but three times De Gea saved in the manner of a 12-year-old going in goal for the first time. He kept out a 30-yard free-kick from Luiz, a close-range header from Gary Cahill and a one-on-one with Eden Hazard in this manner. It hardly inspires confidence, but it certainly makes for excitement.
As do Chelsea these days. Torres, Mata and Hazard all had opportunities go close, while Evans nearly put through his own net, Luiz-style. Chelsea finally got back into the game with a fantastic left-foot free-kick from Mata, after Rooney had fouled Hazard, and eight minutes into the second half Ramires headed in an Oscar cross, after an initial effort from Mata was over-hit.
The draw a fair result? Not really. Off levels, Chelsea at least deserved to maintain their ten-year unbeaten home record in the league against United. It is the club’s misfortune that in Clattenburg, they had an official channelling the spirit of the notorious Tom Henning Ovrebo who as good as handed Barcelona a Champions League final place here in 2009. Chelsea must hope, long-term, that this result will not prove as influential for United and the title.
Chelsea need to look at their own players when it comes to explaining Sunday’s 3-2 defeat against Manchester United.
Let’s get a few things straight about Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge. Referee Mark Clattenburg was officiating what is always a feisty encounter between two teams desperate not to lose against one another.
We should also appreciate that diving has been on the agenda practically since the season began, with referees now looking to punish simulating players. Clattenburg should be forgiven for brandishing a second yellow card to Fernando Torres after minimal contact from Jonny Evans in the second half.
It seems as though everyone forgets that Torres’ first yellow card was for something resembling a drop-kick on Tom Cleverley towards the end of the first half which could have seen the Spaniard receive his marching orders. If Di Matteo is going to be balanced with his criticism, why not point the finger at his striker for an inexplicable foul after Chelsea had got themselves back into the match?
Clattenburg also correctly sent off Branislav Ivanovic for fouling Ashley Young when the United winger appeared to have a clear run on goal, with the Serbian attempting to disguise the foul as a coming together although the referee was able to make the correct call nonetheless.
As for the Red Devils' winner, it really was a borderline call for the linesman to make and how anyone can blame Clattenburg for that decision is beyond belief. A referee relies on his assistants to make judgements and Javier Hernandez was only marginally offside before retreating to score past Petr Cech.
The simple fact is that Chelsea were sucker-punched by Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the first twelve minutes of the game and were left chasing for much of the match, something which led to Torres’ first yellow card, which was an outburst of frustration after the Blues nearly scored an unlikely equaliser before half-time.
The home side conceded two early goals, their striker drop-kicked Cleverley which meant he was on a yellow card for the whole of the second half and Ivanovic denied Young a goalscoring opportunity. So the referee is not really to blame for Sunday’s defeat - Chelsea need to look at themselves.
Freckin' bullshit....I will concede the Ivanovic sendoff of just and technically the right call...and I can forgive the missed offside call...BUT the Torres Yellow and ensuing sendoff was complete crap...not only was the call horrible...even Jonny Even was shocked the call don't come his way...but by taking us down the only 9 men we were screwed...at 10 we had a fighting chance to preserve the draw, but not at 9...hard to be a team AND a ref...
A great match ruined by a lousy ref...