Chelsea were beneficiaries of a massive stroke of luck on Sunday afternoon in Cardiff when César Azpilicueta’s equalizer six minutes from time was allowed to stand despite the Chelsea captain being several steps offside as Marcos Alonso flicked-on the corner from Willian.
But the linesman’s flag did not go up and Chelsea rode the momentum to a much more legitimate goal from Ruben Loftus-Cheek in added-on time to collect all three points. It’s a small miracle Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock didn’t explode on the spot.
Warnock, in a rare moment of quiet reflection since the final whistle, has actually admitted that he hasn’t treated referees with much kindness in the past, so it’s tough to feel too sympathetic for him, but the fact remains that the linesman blew the call and it could prove decisive not only in Chelsea’s top four aims, but Cardiff’s hopes of avoiding relegation.
The linesman has apologized for missing the offside, but as fans on Twitter pointed out afterwards, there might have been a reason other than just plain old incompetence and human error for that.
After taking the corner, Willian made sure to get back onside as all good corner-takers should, just in case the ball came back out to him again (Cardiff didn’t have anybody on the posts). In a fortuitous bit of coincidence, he happened to be right in front of the linesman (in-line with the last defender, presumably), blocking his sight and preventing him from seeing where exactly Azpilicueta was positioned at the time Alonso made contact with the ball.
Now we know why the linesman missed the Azpi off-side— Nouman (@nomifooty) March 31, 2019
That assist should be given to Willian and not Alonso pic.twitter.com/VapuTlzzzD
If that sounds a bit far-fetched, during Sky’s Monday Night Football coverage, Jamie Carragher actually strapped on a VR headset, which simulated the linesman’s perspective. And sure enough, all he could see was Willian’s glorious big hair. While the linesman theoretically could’ve peered around the afro, in real-time, as the play was unfolding, that was not something that was a real possibility. Carragher could only do it as they paused the simulation.
Willian probably didn’t “knowingly” do this. He wasn’t facing the linesman; he was simply trying to get back onside and get even with the last defender. Both he and the linesman were moving at the same speed, and thus Willian set a very effective moving screen, which allowed Azpilicueta to score.
Alonso might’ve gotten the official assist, but Willian’s afro deserves plenty of credit as well. And not just for looking fine as ever.