Chelsea 1-1 Burnley: What exactly happened in the 30th, 33rd, 43rd and 69th minutes?
Following our 1-1 draw with Burnley at Stamford Bridge, a frustrated Jose Mourinho has spoken about four pivotal refereeing decisions that denied us a win against the second-bottom side on Saturday afternoon.
Here's what happened:
30th Minute – Branislav Ivanovic is crunched in midair by a challenge from Ashley Barnes. The Burnley striker barges into the back of the Serb with his leg extended and escapes without a booking.
33rd Minute – Ivanovic is involved once more as his fierce shot cannons into the outstretched arm of Michael Kightly inside the penalty area. Martin Atkinson and his assistant both have a clear of the incident but wave away the Blues' fervent appeals.
43rd Minute – Another penalty shout falls on deaf ears, this time as Diego Costa is shoved to the ground by Ryan Shackell just inside the box. Again, the referee and his assistant deem the challenge to be fair and allow play to go on.
69th Minute – Barnes is amongst the controversy again as he flies in with a potentially leg-breaking tackle on Nemanja Matic. The giant midfielder retaliates in rather uncharacteristic fashion as he pushes his opponent to the ground, giving the referee no choice but to send him off.
Mourinho had to say about these four incidents: "I prefer to say that this game had four crucial moments – minutes 30, 33, 43 and 69 - this is the story of the game... Minute 69 has a big relation to minute 30. Normally the player, if I can call him a player, who was involved in minute 69, and was also involved in minute 30, should be in the shower by minute 31. So there would be no minute 69 if the person in charge dealt with minute 30 in a proper way."
Rather than agreeing with the boss, I'm on the fence due to a number of reasons. There's no question this draw feels like a loss. Although we produced some fantastic interplay and intensity during the early stages of the match, we never hit top gear. This disappointing result derives from a bitter cocktail of poor refereeing and our own lack of discipline and tenacity – more so the latter. Mourinho, the players nor us fans can blame the result entirely on questionable officiating.
Yes, Martin Atkinson had a bad day at the office. Firstly, the visitors very easily could've been reduced to 10 men after half an hour following Ashley Barnes' reckless foul on Ivanovic. How the Burnley striker managed to stay on the pitch for the full 90 is beyond me; he got away with a number of other nasty fouls throughout the match, not to mention the straight red he deserved for an atrocious tackle on Matic with 20 minutes remaining.
Wild challenges of that degree deserve no place in football, simple as that. On another day, the Premier League could've lost one of the best midfielders in the competition for a year or more due to a single act of total irrationality. With this in mind, I have no qualms about players standing up for themselves or their colleagues following such a horrific challenge, but I also expect better from Matic.
Confronting your opponent with a firm message of discontent without losing your head is a delicate balance, and unfortunately for himself, his teammates and his manager, the Serbian overstepped the mark on this occasion. He was always going to see red for charging at Barnes and knocking him to the floor, but for the initial challenge to go unpunished is nothing short of ridiculous, particularly when the offender had been riling up various Chelsea players from the get-go.
Secondly, we should've been awarded at least one penalty in the first half. The Kightly handball is about as blatant as they come while Shackell's attempt to dispossess Diego Costa was hardly shoulder-to-shoulder contact. Atkinson and his assistant appeared to have an unobstructed view of both incident, and if this was the case, why was nothing given?
With the score 1-0, the fact none of these four critical decisions went our way kept the door ajar for Burnley, who, to their credit, put in the hard yards to continue frustrating Chelsea throughout the game.
But even with each contentious moment removed from the match, the Blues' overall performance was far from enough to warrant an easy three points. There are no so-called easy fixtures in the Premier League, particularly not against a side in the thick of a relegation dogfight at this stage of campaign. But as an elite European club, shouldn't we be capable of sweeping aside the likes of Burnley in our own backyard without having to rely on refereeing judgement to wrap up the result?
With the score 1-0, the match was ours for the taking, but as we've seen so often against lower table clubs in recent seasons, we were unable to make our superior quality count. Whether it was because of fatigue, complacency or whatever else can be put to blame, at the end of the day the result boils down to the simple fact we failed to create and take enough chances, keep our heads and work for the three points.
What do you think? Were Chelsea simply unlucky, or did we deserve our misfortune having failed to seal the result prior to losing Matic?