One of the many things that did not go right for Chelsea on Sunday was the defending on either of Manchester United’s two goals. While the first one was started by a blatant uncalled handball on Ander Herrera, the second one was finished by the same player after N’Golo Kanté failed to clear the ball and instead turned it over 16 yards from the Chelsea goal. Definitely not a good place to do that.
Meanwhile, behind the play, Gary Cahill was busy helping Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to his feet. Except it turned out to be not behind the play at all, but rather right on the periphery of it. And while it’s debatable whether there was anything Cahill could’ve done to change the outcome of that specific play from the moment Kanté turned the ball over, it was still not a good look, especially on replay.
BANTER ERA IS IN FULL EFFECT WHAT WAS CAHILL DOING pic.twitter.com/fLiCtbG9E7— Bardia (@TheChelseaUnion) April 16, 2017
Sure, sportsmanship is wonderful, but there’s a time and place for everything. And as it turns out, it had nothing to do with sportsmanship at all. After the match, Cahill explained that he was worried that the referee (inept as he was) would interpret that situation as a foul and thus award a penalty. On the replay, Cahill’s first clearly annoyed that Lingard went to ground, before pulling him up to his feet. That said, given Cahill’s insistence on addressing the situation, did he actually commit a foul?
“I don't see how it could have cost me (picking up player from ground), my instinct was I was nervous it could have been a penalty, the sooner I get him on his feet I can stop the ref thinking otherwise, maybe it looks silly in hindsight.”
-Gary Cahill; source: Sky via Mail
Cahill was asked about the incident a bit later in the mixed zone as well, by which time he seemed quite tired of having to answer for it.
“What could I have done differently? I always reflect on goals and will do so again, but I'm not sure what picking him up had on the goal. In hindsight I wish I hadn't done it, but that was the way I reacted.”
“I just want to clarify things because people love to pick up on incidents that aren't really relevant in the game.”
"All I can be is honest. My natural instinct was the ball came in and I grabbed him with my arm. I felt there was a slight chance he could get a penalty, it wasn't me being Mr nice guy by lifting him back up again.”
"Listen, I'd do absolutely anything to win, from now until the end of the season. The pure instinct was worrying about the penalty and I wanted him to get back on his feet as quickly as possible so the referee didn't think otherwise. In hindsight it probably looks a bit silly on TV, but I can only react to my instinct and that's what I did. I wanted to make sure no penalty was given.”
-Gary Cahill; source: Evening Standard
As Cahill says, even if he leaves Lingard sprawled on the ground, the sequence of events quite possibly plays out the exact same way as it did. So it’s probably a bit irrational to be too angry with him, though the way he handled that particular situation does make him an easy target. And it’s not like he (or anyone else, really) played particularly well.
Once the anger and disappointment subsides, and presuming that we see out the task of winning the league successfully, we can probably relegate this whole incident to the garbage heap of discarded memories.