Manchester United blanks Chelsea in VAR-heavy affair

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Manchester United took all three points from Stamford Bridge, but VAR was the star of the Red Devils’ 2-0 win on Monday.

[ MORE: JPW’s Three Things ]

Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire scored the goals, the latter getting his first PL goal for United after VAR declined to prosecute an unsavory incident by the center back on the touchline.

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United moves into seventh place with 38 points, three behind fourth-place Chelsea. It’s Manchester Unired’s first league double over Chelsea since 1987/88.


Three highlights

1. Bailly, Wan-Bissaka pass tests: Chelsea targeted the right side of United’s defense and, after an early mistake from returning center back Eric Bailly, the defenders on that side stood tall. Wan-Bissaka chipped in with an assist on Martial opener.

2. Maguire dodges VAR red card for a mindless move: There’s no debating that a prone Harry Maguire left his right foot extended and made a sneaky move to make sure he connected squarely with Michy Batshuayi‘s groin on the touchline. It wasn’t spotted by the ref, though the Chelsea bench sans Frank Lampard reacted angrily. VAR saw nothing, somehow, and perhaps was unwilling to award a yellow and not a red? Weird stuff (view video of the incident here).

3. VAR then overturns Zouma equalizer: Chelsea appeared to equalize through a Kurt Zouma header, but VAR spotted a foul on Brandon Williams that led to the goal. The problem? Manchester United’s Fred shoved Cesar Azpilicueta into the United youngster. It’s somehow more controversial given the fine margins in the race for Champions League places.

Man of the Match: It’s gotta be Wan-Bissaka for his two-way game, though Maguire was the No. 1 man of note in the contest.


Reece James belted a shot wide of the far post in the sixth minute, and Willian missed by more three minutes later.

Bruno Fernandes and Fred worked a 12th-minute exchange that led to an unproductive corner kick.

Mason Mount came on for an injured N’Golo Kante after a dozen minutes.

There was a bizarre lack of address when a prone Harry Maguire stuck his boot into Michy Batshuayi’s groin.

The first half was filled with near-misses. Willian couldn’t cue up Michy Batshuayi around the 20-minute mark. That one was the Belgian’s fault, but he was quite poor when Mason Mount set him up centrally in the 26th.

United’s Anthony Martial drove into the box and spun a shot wide 10 minutes later, but found his goal before halftime with a classy header of Wan-Bissaka’s tremendous cross.

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Chelsea appeared to make it 1-1 in the 55th minute through a Kurt Zouma header, but it was ruled out by VAR. Cesar Azpilicueta knocked over Brandon Williams, but the Chelsea defender had been shoved into the defender by Fred. Stunning.

Bruno Fernandes smashed the post in the 64th minute, and United would find its second soon afterwards when Maguire got the better of Rudiger to head home.

Giroud gave Chelsea a shout with a 77th minute header, but his front foot was offside before he headed home a Mason Mount cross.

Odion Ighalo subbed into the match in stoppage time and was deprived of a debut goal by Willy Caballero.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

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A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.