United Kingdom– Chelsea
manager Frank Lampard told his side the “fight starts now” for a
place in the Champions League next season after suffering a 2-0 smash and grab
defeat at the hands of Manchester United on Monday.
The Blues had two goals disallowed by VAR reviews and were
furious Harry Maguire was not sent-off for an off-the-ball kick out at Michy
Batshuayi before he headed in United’s second goal after Anthony Martial’s
Lampard cut a frustrated figure as the flaws in both boxes
which have seen his side win just four of their last 14 league games were
exposed once more against ordinary opposition.
“The fight starts now,” said Lampard. “It’s
not worth me going on about it now but the reality was there for us to see.
“If we’re not going to take chances then we’re not
going to win games. When you dominate large periods you have to take your chances.”
Victory lifts United up to seventh and within three points
of Chelsea in fourth, while fifth could now even be good enough to qualify for
the Champions League next season pending Manchester City’s appeal again a
two-season ban from European competition.
However, even United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he
had not been impressed by the visitors’ performance.
“When you win 2-0 here you are delighted,” said
“Then again I didn’t think we played well, particularly
with the ball in the first half. We were cumbersome, slow, passing wasn’t great
but we got the first goal then we hung in there.”
Lampard made a bold call before kick-off by again dropping
the most expensive goalkeeper in football history, Kepa Arrizabalaga, to the
bench in favour of the 38-year-old Willy Caballero.
Batshuayi also started with Tammy Abraham ruled out by
injury and Lampard’s anger at missing out on a striker in the January window
was borne out by a poor night for the misfiring Belgium forward.
But the course of the game could have been very different
had Maguire not escaped unpunished for kicking Batshuayi after the two collided
in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him and I felt he was going to fall on
me and my natural reaction was to straighten my leg to stop him,” said
“I apologised to him and it was nice that the referee
– One-way traffic –
Chelsea’s sense of injustice increased when Willian was
harshly booked for diving as he went down under a challenge from Bruno
Fernandes looking for a penalty.
United had not made Caballero make a single save before
going in front a minute before the break when Martial planted a brilliant
header into the far corner from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross.
There was still time for Batshuayi to miss another chance
before half-time when he skewed wide from a narrow angle.
The one-way traffic continued at the start of the second
period as Mount hit the post and a brave block from Wan-Bissaka deflected
Pedro’s goal-bound effort behind.
But even when Chelsea did get the ball in the net through
substitute Kurt Zouma, the goal was ruled out by VAR for a push on Brandon
Williams by Cesar Azpilicueta.
Fernandes was unable to make much of an impact from open
play in his second United appearance since a £47 million ($62 million) move
from Sporting Lisbon.
However, the Portuguese international is a huge threat from
set-pieces and nearly caught Caballero out with a free-kick that crashed back
off the post.
Moments later, Fernandes provided his first assist for the
Red Devils with a corner which Maguire powered home.
Lampard had seen enough from Batshuayi and handed Olivier
Giroud a rare appearance off the bench for the final quarter.
The French striker thought he had given Chelsea a lifeline
with a near post header, but was ruled offside after a VAR review.