Giant screen at Stamford Bridge displaying a VAR message

Is it football anymore?



All eyes were on the giant screens, rather than the action, at Stamford Bridge. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

Chelsea FC blogger Tim Harrison
Chelsea FC fan and blogger, Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Stamford Bridge is no longer a fortress, it’s now a colander – letting points drain away to needy visiting managers.

Chelsea’s home form looks like costing them the last Champions League spot in the league as other clubs are poised to overtake them following Monday night’s 2-0 defeat by Manchester United.

And never mind football! All eyes were on the giant screens, rather than the action, as VAR officials Chris Kavanagh and Sian Massey-Ellis chalked off two Chelsea ‘goals’ and decided that Harry Maguire’s aimed kick into Michy Batshuayi’s crown jewels is now perfectly acceptable play.

United’s second goal, a thumping header from Reds captain Harry Maguire, wouldn’t have happened had Maguire been red-carded in the first half.

Worse, after a drought of home games, Chelsea are now playing three in a week. Next up, Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, determined to get revenge for past humiliations, followed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League; a team who must be monitoring the capers in SW6 with bewilderment and glee ahead of their midweek visit.

Chelsea flashed the ball around the pitch with ease on a chilly Monday evening, with Mateo Kovacic in good form, but after N’Golo Kante hobbled off the pitch (replaced by Mason Mount) in the 11th minute, things began to fall apart.

As Maguire and Batshuayi contested a ball at the edge of the pitch, right by the Chelsea dugout, in the 21st minute, both men tumbled to the deck. As Maguire fell, he planted his studs into Batshuayi’s groin.

Lampard and his lieutenants were outraged, and leapt up and down in fury. Ref Anthony Taylor referred the matter to VAR, and the stadium watched and waited for a decision. No red card.

As half-time approached, Anthony Martial headed Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross into the goal for 1-0.

Lampard brought on Kurt Zouma in place of Andreas Christensen in the second half, and it seemed to pay dividends. On 55 minutes, from a Chelsea corner, Willian’s floated ball fell to Zouma, who converted. That would have been 1-1, but VAR decided that Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta had commited a foul. The fact that he himself was shoved in the back didn’t, apparently, matter. Goal disallowed.

After United went 2-0 up through Maguire’s header, Chelsea went on the attack again with Olivier Giroud making a rare sub’s appearance. Mount crossed, Giroud scored. Would it be 1-2? No it wouldn’t. VAR decided Giroud had a toe offside.

Chelsea fans were pretty clear where they stood on all this. To the famous ‘Bread of Heaven’ chorus from Guide Me, O, Thou Great Redeemer, supporters launched into:

It’s not football,
It’s not football,
It’s not football anymore.

An exasperated Lampard called the game, and result, “typical of home games this season”. Chelsea are going to have to stop complaining and start shooting if they are to beat Tottenham at the weekend. All the fancy build-up play in the world is worthless if there aren’t goals at the end of it. And for Chelsea, currently, there aren’t.

Meanwhile Chelsea Women sailed into the quarter-finals of the Women's FA Cup at Kingsmeadow, with a Guro Reiten first-half goal all that was needed to defeat Liverpool and set up a tie with Everton.

First up, however, is the little matter of the journey to Manchester City's Academy stadium on Sunday, for a top-of-the-table league clash which could be critical in determining the outcome of the Women's Super League title.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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