I don’t even know what to say, or write as the case may be, in regards to the Manchester United and Chelsea match yesterday at Stamford Bridge. There were goals, and hard tackles, and slick passes, and yellow cards and red cards and good calls and bad calls. I guess when I break it down like that all that is left to say is that it was a football (soccer) match.
United got off to a flying start. Unlike the previous games where they’ve allowed the other team to score first, this time the first goal was an own goal. So, the other team still scored first, just the column the point showed up in was different: for United, rather than against. Then United pulled ahead with a beautiful goal from Robin Van Persie after an end line run by Antonio Valencia where he drilled a cut back to the penalty spot for the waiting striker to sweep home.
I was off my couch, fists pumping the air, and cheering in whispers. (As excited as I was I didn’t want to risk waking my sleeping wife on her one day of the week to sleep in.) Joy. Pure joy. Two goals up in 15 minutes away to Chelsea. This was the United I knew we could be.
Then it all fell apart. Chelsea found their passing game and camped out in the United half for a very long stretch. David DeGea made some saves. United went on the odd forray forward on counter attacks. Chelsea looked dangerous, and after a foul by Wayne Rooney in a dangerous position, Juan Mata curled home the free kick superbly passed the outstretched fingertips of DeGea to finish off the first half.
Some of my previous elation had subsided. But, my beloved Red Devils were still a goal to the good and though we’ve had some hard luck at The Bridge before, perhaps we could hang on to that for the next 45. Perhaps we’d come away with the 3 points and close the gap at the top of the standings. I still had hope.
The second started much as the first half had ended and Juan Mata, Oskar, and Ramires combined well to slot home the equalizer. Mata and Oskar showed impressive ball control to keep a dying play alive and then pass in an exquisite ball for Ramires to head home.
Looking for the silver lining I at least noted that DeGea wasn’t at fault for either of the goals scored against him. He has improved in his time with United and hopefully he will continue to do so. But, I found myself hoping for us to just hang on. I’d settle for splitting the points.
Then everything completely fell apart. Ivanovic was sent off with a straight red for tackling Ashley Young from behind as the last defender – thus taking away a clear goal scoring opportunity. This temporarily brought Chelsea down to 10 men. Yes, temporarily. Very temporarily as less than five minutes later Fernando Torres was sent off for receiving a second yellow for simulation. That was a harsh call as it appeared that Johnny Evans may have clipped him or if Evans didn’t clip him than Torres was just trying to avoid getting his legs broken and had gone to ground in the process. He didn’t dive. But that’s not how the ref saw it and off he went. Chelsea was down to 9.
At this point I was very conflicted. I thought we might have a chance to snatch the winner but a referee had once again ruined a football match. Then it got worse. I know what you are thinking, “How could it have gotten worse?” Right?
Well, super sub Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored the winner for United. In all fairness to the assistant referee and the main referee the play happened, bam, bam, bam, but he was offsides when the ball was played to him and the goal shouldn’t have counted. That’s not what I wanted.
I’m happy with got the 3 points and are now a single point behind Chelsea. I’m glad United got their first victory at Stamford Bridge in a decade. I’m happy with how the team played. But, I wanted us to win on our own merits. I’m tired of the stories claiming we have the referees in our pockets. I’m tired of the great plays from either team on the pitch being pushed aside so the talking heads and other pundits can berate the performance of another referee.
But, in the end, it was a football match: there were goals, and tackles, and cards, and saves, and slick passes. The ref got some calls right and the ref got some calls wrong, and despite it all, I was still entertained. I guess I can’t ask for more than that, can I?