Despite the absolute lack of goals, Chelsea’s match against Everton at Stamford Bridge yesterday was not one for the faint of heart. While both sides had chances to score and there was plenty of quality football on display (certainly from the home side), there were also lots of off-the-ball incidents and flash-points in what was a surprisingly physical encounter — with the referee doing very little to successfully control the game.
One of these clashes involved towering centre-back Antonio Rüdiger, and the rather diminutive midfield Bernard. The man once described as David Luiz’s little brother had a five-second angry and appeared to head-butt Rüdiger, who had called him out for play-acting. While Everton manager Marco Silva thought this suggestion was silly due to the size difference between the players, the replay makes it clear that if Bernard did make contact, he did so by using the leverage of his upward momentum while getting up off the ground (ironically, as called on by Rüdiger himself).
While it’s not exactly clear just how much contact Bernard did make, his intent was quite clear. Also quite clear is the fact that referee Kevin Friend did not see any of this, as the play happened directly behind him. But apparently after being informed by one of his assistants, he thought it wise to yellow card both players, thus “dealing with” the incident and preventing any further action on post-match review (thanks to the FA’s continually silly rules in this regard).
FA stance on Jorginho tackle & Rudiger/Bernard is that ref dealt with them at the time (all players were booked) so not retrospective issues #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) November 12, 2018
Obviously, Rüdiger thinks this is all a big joke but he ain’t laughing.
“It’s annoying because I don’t even tackle someone, do something and I get booked for being head-butted. Sorry but that’s a joke.”
“[Bernard] was diving and I told him to ‘stand up’. Then he came with a lot of speed and hit me with his forehead, so for me to get a yellow card — to me that’s a joke.”
“The referee didn’t see anything. Perhaps it’s the fourth official who was outside [the pitch], maybe he said something to [Friend] that I had provoked [the player] or something but I just said ‘stand up’.”
“If there is VAR in England, then Bernard has a problem. He would be sent off.”
-Antonio Rüdiger; Source: London Evening Standard
Rüdiger’s never been one to mince his words — he got into a trouble with Conte over them last season, briefly — and he certainly has a point here as well. Retrospective action, VAR, both needed.