68 min After some snappy one-touch passing, Fred hits a right-footed curler from 25 yards that goes just wide of the far top corner. That was a terrific effort from a player whose long-range shooting usually has a whiff of the John Jensens.
66 min The 0-0 between these teams at Old Trafford was a stinker; this has been a much better game.
65 min A vicious long-range shot from McTominay is blocked by the falling Rudiger.
63 min: Great defending from McTominay! Mendy makes a more comfortable save from Rashford’s curler. Chelsea break and McTominay makes a vital block from a close-range shot by Mount. It was brilliant play from Mount, who played a one-two with Ziyech on the halfway line and ran all the way into the area. Then he Cruyff-turned McTominay, who recovered admirably to block the ensuing shot.
62 min Chilwell is booked for a late tackle on Greenwood, who has come alive in the last few minutes.
61 min: Good save from Mendy! Wan-Bissaka, on the right of the area, cuts the ball back to the unmarked McTominay. He curls a first-time shot that is blocked by the chest of the unsighted Mendy. That was good, unorthodox goalkeeping because he saw the ball so late.
60 min Greenwood plays a crisp one-two with James, zips away from Christensen in the D and hits a fierce shot that flashes just wide of the near post. That was terrific play.
59 min Kante’s long-range shot is blocked by Lindelof and United break three on three – but Fernandes’s pass to Rashford is slightly overhit and runs out of play. Fernandes is fuming because James was taking out by Rudiger off the ball; Stuart Attwell isn’t interested.
58 min Rudiger booms another terrific crossfield pass, this time to Reece James. His sharp cross is cut out by Fred. Chelsea are having an excellent spell though.
57 min Dan James and Greenwood have struggled to influence the game, so we might see Anthony Martial pretty soon. United don’t have many attacking options on the bench because of injuries to Cavani and Mata.
56 min Chelsea make a mess of a short corner. Mary Waltz and Big Sam (8 min) nod knowingly.
53 min Shaw’s corner is headed away by Giroud and Chelsea break. Ziyech cuts infield from the right, past a couple of players, and hits a shot that is blocked by Fred.
52 min Rashford plays an excellent long pass to James, 25 yards from goal. A good off-the-ball run from Greenwood gives James the time to turn and hit a shot that deflects wide off Christensen.
49 min: Superb save from de Gea! Chilwell surged down the left, looked up and tried to pick at Giroud at the near post with a sharp cutback. He missed it but the ball reached Ziyech, who swept a cracking first-time shot towards goal. De Gea, who was going the other way, stretched out his right hand to make a fine block. The ball rebounded to James, whose shot was brilliantly blocked by the stretching Shaw.
47 min Hudson-Odoi’s left knee is strapped, so it wasn’t a tactical change.
Chelsea substitution Reece James is coming on to replace poor old Callum Hudson-Odoi.
“I feel like letting the ref decide whether a handball was deliberate/reckless without any video reviews might work,” says Niall Mullen. “We’d all have to agree to shut the h*ll up and leave the ref alone. I can’t see that being an issue. Every year Steven Wells’ piece from 2008 resonates more.”
Ach, I wish Swells was still around to write about, well, everything.
Half time: Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United
Peep peep! As 0-0s go, that was pretty decent: there wasn’t much excitement, just one VAR controversy, but the tempo was excellent and both sides attacked with quality and intent. They also defended extremely well, which is why it’s 0-0.
44 min Lindelof’s long, angled pass is headed down neatly by Fernandes towards Rashford, who is waiting for the ball to come down when Kante appears on his blindside to put it behind for a corner.
43 min United continue to dominate possession, which is not what we expected.
42 min “Afternoon Rob,” says Tom Hopkins. “To Rick Harris’s point, the current law seems to have been designed for a VAR world of absolutes where we’ve lost the idea that to give away a penalty or get sent off you must have done something wrong (or at least made a mistake). Kind of tail wagging the dog and just intuitively unsatisfying.”
I think this is a huge problem. A combination of VAR and social media is not entirely conducive to clarity of decision-making, or sensible discourse.
41 min Fernandes’s long-range shot is deflected behind. That was another half chance that came from Fred winning the ball in a dangerous area. He has been excellent.
39 min Ziyech is down holding his head after an aerial challenge from Lindelof. He’s fine.
36 min Lovely play from Chelsea. Rudiger moves away from James and crashes a crossfield pass to the unmarked Hudson-Odoi. He puts in a beautiful cross that just evades the diving Giroud in the six-yard box and drifts to safety. Giroud’s momentum takes him into the post, and there’s a short break in play while he receives treatment to his back.
35 min Corner to United on the left. They have pinned Chelsea back in the last 10-15 minutes. Shaw’s corner is poor and Kante clears at the near post.
34 min Abraham was on the bench in Madrid, and there has been no reports of an injury, though it does seem strange not to have him among the substitutes if he’s fit.
33 min “Watching in US where Lee Dixon claims ‘the game is gone’ if that was given as a penalty,” says Stephen Taylor.
That was Niall Mullen’s point (26th min), and I’d agree with it. But in accordance with the current interpretation of the law, it should surely have been given.
32 min A poor kick from de Gea goes straight to Giroud, 30 yards from goal. He takes a touch and then launches a half-volley into Fulham Palace Road.
31 min “We need to go back to the concept of intentional handball and ignore any other instance of ball to hand,” says Rick Harris. “VAR can be the final arbiter but it is pretty clear where a player deliberately handballs as opposed to say protecting their face.”
There’s a grey area of reckless handballs that isn’t quite as easy to define, especially in a social-media age, but in principle I agree with you.
30 min This is a decent spell for United, their best of the match so far, although they haven’t yet created any clear chances.
29 min “Tammy Abraham isn’t even in the squad,” says Julian Menz. “Is he injured?”
I don’t think so.
28 min Fernandes clips another good pass over the top towards Rashford, who this time is eased off the ball by Christensen. I think Rashford was fractionally offside anyway.
26 min “Nobody knows anything but I’m glad that wasn’t given just because it’s so disproportionate to give a goal away for basically accidental handball at the edge of the box with the players facing away from goal,” says Niall Mullen. “In modern terms an xG of near 0 would have been turned into an xG of near 1 for really no good reason.”
Yes, I agree with you on that. It would have been a VAR penalty in every sense, a jobsworth’s fantasy.