More poor officiating in England... just what they need. This time it was Michael Oliver screwing up penalties in a huge game. Joy. Also, the title race, if you want to call it a race, is pretty much over.
Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea
It was another highly hyped Chelsea match that failed to live up to its hype as the Blues defended their way to another scoreless draw against a top four opponent.
The race for the top of the Premier League has more or less been over for quite a while, as Chelsea had already built an insurmountable lead. They had one last real test about them this afternoon, and they passed it.
The Blues had very little interest in winning this match. They came out with a plan to defend, defend, defend, and only press forward when they saw a clear chance. That is exactly what they did, and they did it well. Arsenal was mostly useless in the final third with Chelsea's constant defending. The Gunners only managed to get one of their 12 attempts on target.
Referee Michael Oliver managed to spew his influence on the match in more ways than any of us would like. First off, he failed to call a penalty against David Ospina after he plowed into Oscar in the box. The hit clearly concussed the Chelsea attacker, yet he stayed in the game until halftime when he was subbed out and taken to the hospital for a head injury.
Not long after, he booked Cesc Fabregas for diving in the Arsenal box, but there was clear contact on the play. While I think a penalty would have been a hard decision against Arsenal, I don't think a yellow card for flopping was exactly justified either. Chelsea have now been warned for simulation five times this season, more than any other side. That makes me think this call was based partly on that reputation.
Oliver missed another penalty in the fist half, this time against Chelsea. Gary Cahill slid to block a shot from Santi Cazorla and the ball clearly struck his outstretched arm. Oliver was right on top of things and incorrectly waved the play on.
I understand refereeing is tough work, but getting three calls wrong in one game is outrageous. Premier League officiating is not having a strong year, and this just adds to the pile of criticism coming in from all over the world.
This wasn't a case of not enough eyes on the field, either. All three incidents happened right in front of Michael Oliver and should have been called. Nothing short on an impractical instant replay system could help here. The only viable, albeit vague, solution is that the referees need to be better. The calls are right in front of their noses, they just aren't making them correctly.
Any who, the title race is pretty darn closed up now. Chelsea are ten points clear with five matches to play. Five points are all they need from those final five to claim the championship. Arsenal are currently level on points with Manchester City for second. They are the only side who can catch Chelsea in the event of a miracle.
Everton 3-0 Manchester United
James McCarthy started it within five minutes. John Stones headed home the second just after a half hour, and Kevin Mirallas finished the job towards the end of the second half. Would have been nice if Manchester United got off the bus to play this one, but they mentally stayed in bed.
The blowout win lifts Everton into tenth place and United falls to fourth. They still have a firm grip on their Champions League place, however. They are seven points above Liverpool for the fourth and final spot.