Chelsea hosted Manchester United at Stamford Bridge over the weekend and the match proved to be one of the most exciting games of the young season, complete with impressive goals, questionable red cards, and resounding controversy. Manchester United came away 3-2 winners in a stadium where they haven’t won in roughly a decade, and Chelsea were left to rue the questionable decisions of referee, Mark Clattenburg.
Manchester United came out soaring and quickly established a two-goal lead from some lovely play by Robin van Persie. Chelsea settled into the game and actually established a dominance in time of possession, but the Manchester club was the more effective in the early stages of the game.
However, Chelsea was able to get back into the match shortly before half time, when Juan Mata directed a superb free kick into the side of the goal. It was the perfect way to go into the break for Chelsea, and one could feel the momentum shift after the goal.
Early in the second half the teams were level when a succession of crosses finally found the head of Ramires, who guided the ball into the net and set the fans alight in celebration. Chelsea now looked the stronger side and would have been the bettor’s choice to go on to victory.
However, the decisions of the referee soon took the game elsewhere. Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a soft foul on Ashley Young. In Clattenburg’s defense, Young was free in on goal and his foul denied him a goal scoring opportunity.
Only minutes later, the red card made a second appearance as Fernando Torres received a second yellow card for diving and was sent off. This was a very questionable decision as replays showed that Jonny Evans had made a slight touch. Torres probably embellished the foul by falling so hard, but his sending off was a very harsh move by Clattenburg.
As Manchester United took hold of the game with a two-man advantage, they pressed forward and finally scored with Javier Hernandez from a short distance after a great cross by Rafael. Replays showed that Hernandez was slightly offsides at the time of the pass, but he was moving back and was behind defenders when he scored. In real time the decision would have been nearly impossible to see, but in examining the highlights, Chelsea should rightly feel slighted.
Controversy erupted from here on out. The managers were shown exchanging less than friendly words on the sideline, and a steward was injured late in the match. Reports surfaces that he was injured by items thrown from the stands, and this could be an embarrassment for Chelsea. Further accusations erupted soon after the final whistle when Chelsea filed an official complaint to the FA that Clattenburg had not only ruined their chances, but had also used inappropriate language towards Chelsea players, including using a racial slur. Time will tell if these accusations are well-founded or arose from resentment over how the game enfolded, but this truly has become a match of supreme controversy.
Regardless of the findings of these investigations, Manchester United came out to play, and were well-deserving of the victory. The race at the top of the table has now tightened, and hope has been given to all of the other title contenders this season.