In the 86th minute of Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United on Sunday, Cesc Fàbregas chipped a lovely ball to Álvaro Morata, who neatly tucked it inside David De Gea’s far post.
And then the offside flag went up. Video replays show that Morata was onside and had broken his scoreless streak.
You are offside if a body part with which you can legally score is offside. Morata's left arm is the only part of his body closer to De Gea's goal than Lindelof's right boot. United profit from dodgy decision at Old Trafford #932 of the season. pic.twitter.com/CSgcWjoDY8— Don Kopleone (@donkopleone) February 25, 2018
In the tunnel afterwards, when the interviewer suggested as much, Antonio Conte confessed he couldn’t tell from his position on the sideline. But...
“I must be honest I haven’t seen the situation but if you tell me Morata wasn’t offside, I think VAR is especially important here in England because in game there are many times when you need a super check.”
He revisited his enthusiasm for Video Assistant Referee in the full post-match press conference.
Conte on Morata disallowed goal: "This type of situation can change the final result. Fot this reason I am positive to introduce VAR. In England I think we need to have this system to avoid these mistakes."— Dan Levene (@danlevene) February 25, 2018
Be that as it may, this was a game that Chelsea had within reach, having the better of play in the first half and taking a 1-0 lead before giving up an unfortunate equalizer a few minutes later (match should’ve been stopped for Christensen’s head injury). The second half saw Manchester United assert themselves and score the inevitable winning goal, as Mourinho’s team slowly and methodically ground down a tiring Blues side. Conte, ever the emotional one, was downcast about his team’s performance.
Conte: "We had every chance to get three points. At the end we are talking about another defeat. We must be disappointed because in this type of situation you have to manage the game better. But again we are talking about a loss." #MUFC #CFC— Kris Voakes (@krisvoakes) February 25, 2018
It’s a loss that throws Chelsea into another crisis, fresh from the last one. Out of the top four by two points behind Tottenham and with another brutal trip to Manchester next Sunday, Conte repeated the obvious: we could yet miss out on the Champions League, for the second season out of the last three. It’s a possibility that he’s acknowledged at the start of both of his seasons at Chelsea, just as most others have (with six teams vying for four spots, two will end the season very unhappy).
Conte on finishing outside the 4: "This is a possibility for sure, and I am repeating the same concept many many times. In this league to get a place in the CL is not easy. In this country it's the only championship where 6 teams fight for CL from the start." #MUFC #CFC— Kris Voakes (@krisvoakes) February 25, 2018
So for now Chelsea are on the outside looking in. There are ten games remaining. There is a good possibility Chelsea will be five points off fourth place after next weekend. Conte left the press conference with his familiar refrain, work and fight.
Conte: "There is the risk to stay out of the Champions League. I think we must be waiting to fight, must be ready to understand this."— Dan Levene (@danlevene) February 25, 2018
It’s not as if next Sunday’s trip to the Etihad was ever going to be unimportant. But with this loss, it’s taken on even more significance. We can only hope that when Conte holds his next post-match presser, he’ll cut a much happier figure than he did today.