Yesterday’s game between Manchester United and Chelsea has started countless debates on social networks, the blogosphere and the web in general. Great games always cause such discussions, as people will be talking about the stars who fail to shine, chances wasted and excellent play.
This game, however, is being discussed mainly for the refereeing decisions and less for the quality of football played by the two great teams.
United, who had not won a league match in Stamford Bridge since April 2002, started the game on a high note, harassing Chelsea’s defence and passing crisply playing with unusual urgency. The efforts soon paid off, after only four minutes Chelsea conceded an own goal.
Less than ten minutes later Antonio Valencia delivered the perfect cross for Robin van Persie to give United a two goal lead.
For the next fifteen or so minutes, United incessantly attacked but there were no more goals, that is, until the tables turned and Chelsea started playing like a team on home turf and forced De Gea to make a couple of great saves until they scored just before halftime.
In an uncharacteristic display of bad judgement, Rooney committed a foul on the edge of the box resulting in an amazing curling free kick from Mata.
No one complained about the referee then, despite the fact that he had let Ivanovic go unpunished for a foul on Patrice Evra. Even more shocking, Torres’ high kung-Fu challenge on Tom Cleverley only resulted in a yellow card.
From the time play resumed after halftime Chelsea were clearly the better side and they soon equalised eight minutes into the second half. Two minutes earlier, United had been denied a clear penalty after Luiz handled the ball in his own box.
Problems started when Ivanovic was finally shown red for recklessly cutting across the back of Ashley Young and sent him tumbling. The ref didn’t hesitate and swiftly sent the Chelsea defender off.
Replays clearly showed that it was a red card.
Sir Alex responded by bringing in Chicharito for Cleverley but soon after all hell broke loose when Torres was shown a second yellow and therefore sent off for diving after trying to dribble past Evans.
It seems the decision was a bit harsh, given that there was contact, though Torres went down far too easily. As a United fan I think Torres shouldn’t have received a second yellow, instead he should have been sent off in the first half for trying to murder Cleverley.
With Chelsea outnumbered by two men Chicharito scored (perhaps from an offside position) and restored United’s lead.
In less than ten minutes Mark Clatternburg went from being just another Premier league referee to a very famous and widely hated man.
I feel that his refereeing is only being questioned because Chelsea lost. On a fair scale, I think more decisions went against United than Chelsea. The only contentious points from Chelsea’s point of view are the second red card and Chicharito’s goal whereas United were denied a penalty, Torres escaped being red carded in the first half, Branislav Ivanovic’s challenge on Evra was ignored and Mikel did not receive a second yellow card for fouling Valencia- who, incidentally, was also booked for diving.
And people have to understand that it is the players themselves who lead to such decisions with their constant diving. When the player in question is a habitual diver refs are usually left with little choice. We whine about diving yet when refs clamp down on the practice we complain.
More importantly, the whining of Chelsea fans and United haters- which make up more than half of football fans- diverted our attention from the play itself. We forgot about the taunts Ferdinand endured at the hands of Chelsea fans- when they were not singing that they are European Champions- we forgot Mata’s brilliant free kick and we did not give De Gea the credit he deserved for some brilliant saves.
We forgot to mention that United finally collected three points in Stamford Bridge; we did not appreciate Rooney’s mastery, or Eden Hazard’s skill.
In the end, amid the red faces, the red cards and a Reds win, we forgot that referees, just like us, are humans and make mistakes.
The imperfections, the disputes, the errors- these are the things that make the beautiful game so exciting.