Chelsea manager Frank Lampard told his side the ‘fight starts now’ for a place in the Champions League next season after suffering a 2-0 smash and grab defeat at the hands of Manchester United on Monday.
The Blues had two goals disallowed by VAR reviews and were furious Harry Maguire was not sent-off for an off-the-ball kick out at Michy Batshuayi before he headed in United’s second goal after Anthony Martial’s opener.
Lampard cut a frustrated figure as the flaws in both boxes which have seen his side win just four of their last 14 league games were exposed once more against ordinary opposition.
‘The fight starts now,’ said Lampard. ‘It’s not worth me going on about it now but the reality was there for us to see.
‘If we’re not going to take chances then we’re not going to win games. When you dominate large periods you have to take your chances.’
Victory lifts United up to seventh and within three points of Chelsea in fourth, while fifth could now even be good enough to qualify for the Champions League next season pending Manchester City’s appeal again a two-season ban from European competition.
However, even United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he had not been impressed by the visitors’ performance.
‘When you win 2-0 here you are delighted,’ said Solskjaer.
‘Then again I didn’t think we played well, particularly with the ball in the first half. We were cumbersome, slow, passing wasn’t great but we got the first goal then we hung in there.’
Lampard made a bold call before kick-off by again dropping the most expensive goalkeeper in football history, Kepa Arrizabalaga, to the bench in favour of the 38-year-old Willy Caballero.
Batshuayi also started with Tammy Abraham ruled out by injury and Lampard’s anger at missing out on a striker in the January window was borne out by a poor night for the misfiring Belgium forward.
But the course of the game could have been very different had Maguire not escaped unpunished for kicking Batshuayi after the two collided in front of the dugouts.
‘I know I caught him and I felt he was going to fall on me and my natural reaction was to straighten my leg to stop him,’ said Maguire.
‘I apologised to him and it was nice that the referee saw sense.’
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