Football at the top level is often decided by very small margins. (Which then usually lead to massive consequences and fine-toothed analysis, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
A bounce here, a (no-)call there can decide seasons, fates, legacies.
Those involved intimately in it know this, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating when those small margins go egregiously against them.
And that was precisely the case today for Frank Lampard, who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) hide his frustration after the 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, in which a blatant penalty was completely ignored by the referee and VAR as well.
On a Chelsea corner, Harry Maguire put César Azpilicueta in a literal headlock in the penalty area to head clear, which may not have been eminently visible in live time — there’s always plenty of jostling and tussling in the area — but was immediately clear on replay.
“It was a clear penalty. Clear penalty.
“I didn’t see it from where I was standing at the time and I know it’s a hard call for the referee on the pitch but that’s why we brought VAR into the game. VAR was very quick to dismiss it in my opinion. It should take time, the referee should watch the monitor. If he watches the monitor he has to give a penalty. It’s very confusing in my opinion.”
Combined with VAR not piping up when Bruno Fernandes put his hands on Jorginho’s neck, but apparently conducting a check when Marcus Rashford’s boot was brushed in the Chelsea penalty area after he had completed his pass, it was indeed not a great day for technology, certainly not from our perspective (and perspective really shouldn’t be a factor with technology).
If Jorginho dropped to the ground from that Fernandes ‘slap’, I'm quite confident the referee would ask for a review and, via VAR, Fernandes would've been sent off.— UtdArena (@utdarena) October 24, 2020
So many things go unnoticed by referees because players don't react.
“There’s a frustration at the fact when something moves seemingly in the right direction, we’re all pretty happy with referees going to the monitor. It happened a bit more at the start of the season. The players on the pitch should always say it and the referee should always take responsibility. We have that back to the referee with the monitor but for some reason we’ve come off that. I don’t understand it.
“It was an easy decision, not a difficult one for the VAR to give anyway but the referee on the pitch should make the main call. Ask him to review it and if that happened today it would have been a penalty. [...] They brought VAR in to assess it, tell the referee to have another look. You get a chance to review it.”
Unfortunately, it was also not a great day for the Chelsea attack, again, despite plenty of possession, especially in the first half. Of course, possession alone doesn’t win you games, and the Blues offered very little, if any actual threat on David De Gea’s goal.
In that sense it was a very similar to the match on Tuesday, which was Chelsea’s first 0-0 draw of the Frank Lampard era. Now we have a second one in just as many games — and our fifth draw of any kind in the last six games in all competitions. Clearly, the balance we’re striving for between attacking and defending has not been found yet.
We have found a good goalkeeper however, if early returns are any indication, with Édouard Mendy pulling off two key saves, including one at the very end of the match. Lampard was at least pleased with that.
“Yes his performance was very good. You rely on your goalkeepers in those moments in a tight game, not full of many chances. Rashford’s first chance was a mistake from us, the one at the end was a moment of quality from him. He showed us what he is there for.
“We brought him in for his quality. He showed great composure in the games he’s played already and with the saves today in a tight you rely on them moments.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
So, the work continues. Maybe we can find a midfield in the near future, too. (And at least we didn’t lose?)