On a weekend when big names tumbled and FA Cup surprises seemed more frequent than predictable outcomes, Sheffield Wednesday succumbed to Chelsea’s superiority in a game where the biggest talking point was VAR.
The remote replay checking system was in operation at Stamford Bridge for the Owls’ visit, although the curious lottery of some matches having it and some not is still a puzzle.
Referee Andre Marriner needed it twice for two penalty shouts – one at each end – in a bizarre three-minute spell in the first half.
The visitors, egged on by 6,000 raucous and scantily dressed fans, had the first appeal, after 21 minutes. Ethan Ampadu, the young dreadlocked midfielder, brought down Adam Reach in the box, and Marriner – to the Wednesday bench’s jubilation – pointed to the spot. But the VAR appeal showed that Ampadu had been first to the ball, and that, if anything, it was a foul against the Chelsea man.
Away fans at the Shed end, and Owls caretaker manager Steve Agnew, were still protesting when Cesar Azpilicueta was felled in the box at the other end by Sam Hutchinson who, replays showed, had stood on the Blues’ captain’s foot. VAR confirmed it was indeed a penalty, and Willian calmly slotted home… though not before a brief discussion with new centre forward Gonzalo Higuain, who seemed to be inquiring if he could have a go.
“VAR is not particularly good,” sang the aggrieved Wednesday fans – or something of that ilk.
In the second half, Callum Hudson-Odoi was spotted by Andreas Christensen, who pinged the perfect upfield ball to him. H-O controlled with his right, switched to his left and fired in for 2-0.
Willian rounded everything off with a well-taken second goal, Chelsea’s third, in the 83rd minute after a neat one-two with Olivier Giroud, who had come on as sub for the new striker.
So what are we to make of Higuain? He’s certainly industrious, he runs around a lot and doesn’t spend half the match sitting on his Arsenal and complaining. So it looks promising. All forwards need goals, however, and it won’t be until he’s got his first few under his belt that we’ll really know what he’s made of.
It wasn’t a classic. It wasn’t a cracker. But on a weekend of Premier League scalps and shock defeats, Chelsea were quite grateful for that.