LONDON: VAR took centre stage once again as Manchester United secured a 3-2 victory against Brighton.
An overturned penalty decision, combined with the hosts hitting the woodwork five times, means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side can consider themselves lucky to have secured all three points.
Early in the second half, Aaron Connolly went down under a challenge from Paul Pogba. Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot and showed the Frenchman a yellow card. After consultation with the VAR, Kavanagh overturned his decision and Brighton’s chance to re-take the lead had gone.
Bruno Fernandes scored a winning penalty for Manchester United with the final kick of the game after Brighton had equalised in the 95th minute.
Solly March’s close-range finish looked to have given Albion a 2-2 draw, the least they deserved from a match they dominated and hit the woodwork in on five separate occasions.
Graham Potter’s side also had a second-half penalty decision overturned by VAR with the score 1-1.
Brighton had earlier taken a well-earned lead in the 40th minute, Neal Maupay converting from the spot after Tariq Lamptey was tripped by Fernandes, but it lasted only three minutes as Lewis Dunk turned into his own net under pressure.
Marcus Rashford then struck just before the hour with a brilliant individual goal before the incredible late drama, which saw United given a penalty on VAR for a Maupay handball.
Brighton were playing with plenty of confidence and Trossard struck the woodwork for a second time in the 21st minute.
The Belgian again found space on the edge of the box, with his low effort flicking the outside of the right post after United’s defence stood off.
After Albion struck the frame of the goal for a third time through Adam Webster’s looping header against the crossbar, United thought they had taken the lead.
Maupay, who scored twice at Newcastle last weekend, chipped the ball home from the spot after Fernandes was penalised for a challenge on Lamptey.
The Seagulls’ lead lasted less than three minutes as United captain Maguire – under pressure from defender Lewis Dunk – appeared to prod home from close range to make it 1-1 after Matic turned a Fernandes free-kick back across goal.
Brighton were awarded a second penalty of the afternoon within two minutes of the restart.
Minutes later it was United’s turn to be thwarted by VAR. Rashford turned the ball into the net but, despite the flag not initially going up, he was clearly offside.
However, Rashford was not to be denied for long as he put Solskjaer’s men 2-1 up soon after with a fine individual effort.
Brighton, who hit the posts five times, pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages.
However, there was further drama when Maupay was penalised for handling a Maguire header goalwards after the referee had initially blown for full-time.
Fernandes dispatched the spot-kick emphatically, giving United a 3-2 victory with the final kick of the contest – in the 10th minute of added time.
Another bizarre incident marked Everton’s 2-1 win thanks to a late penalty at Crystal Palace.
Palace defender Joel Ward hAD survived one lengthy VAR check after the ball struck the sleeve of his arm, which was down by his side. He was not afforded a second let-off for another block, this time for a header from Lucas Digne even though his arm was barely out beside his body and facing downwards.
Everton fans were understandably excited by the arrival of James Rodriguez just prior to the start of the season, excitement that has so far proven to be justified.
The attacking midfielder has turned in noteworthy displays in all three of the Toffees’ Premier League games but while the collective £70m that was spent on Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure was billed as the injection of quality Carlo Ancelotti’s side needed to take them to the next level, it’s a man they signed for just £1.5m from Sheffield United in 2016 who has perhaps been most crucial to them winning their opening five fixtures for the first time since 1938.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s early goal at Crystal Palace was his fifth in the top flight already this term, adding to his opening-day header against Tottenham and hat-trick in the 5-2 demolition of West Brom.
Since Ancelotti’s first game in charge of Everton, no player has scored more than Calvert-Lewin’s 13 Premier League goals. His Boxing Day strike against Burnley triggered a run of form which saw the Toffees striker net eight times in 10 matches.
After the three-month hiatus, the Everton team that returned from lockdown was a far cry from the one seen in the initial three months of Ancelotti’s tenure. As their season pitifully petered out, Calvert-Lewin failed to score in nine Project Restart fixtures.
Now he appears the perfect No9: strong in the air, mobile and with the pace to run in behind. He can adapt to any game situation, but most importantly it is he who is adapting to his Italian manager’s style by focusing more energy on the width of the 18-yard box.
His return under a ‘real’ Ancelotti Everton is 13 goals from 14 games.
Everton’s next league match sees them host Brighton who were superb in their cruel defeat against Manchester United.
Palace manager Roy Hodgson said: “I criticised the handball rule last week when it worked for us. I said that had not been a penalty.
“I didn’t think this one was a penalty and I don’t think the game I watched on TV before this one started – when Neal Maupay was adjudged to have handled the ball – was a penalty. I think it is a nonsense.
“I think it is a nonsense when we get one and a nonsense when we get one against us and it is only serving a purpose for you guys (in the media).
“Obviously discussions and dramatic moments are what keep your work in full swing, but for us in football I find it very disappointing that the game I love and believe in is being reduced to this level.
“Every week games are being decided on so-called penalty decisions for handball which are definitely not handball.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has readily admitted that this summer’s hefty outlay on new players has raised expectation levels at Stamford Bridge.
A creditable fourth-place finish in his maiden season in charge, while restricted by a transfer ban, was certainly something to build on, but the problems Chelsea suffered in 2019-20 have not been solved by £250m of spending.
The ease at which West Brom cut through the Blues at The Hawthorns must surely have upset owner Roman Abramovich whose reputation for dispensing with under-performing managers will have had Lampard shifting uncomfortably in his own chair too.
Tammy Abraham’s injury-time equaliser completed Chelsea’s fightback from 3-0 down to secure a 3-3 draw.
It had been a tale of two halves at the Hawthorns.
Callum Robinson gave the hosts the lead after just four minutes and then capitalised on a Thiago Silva mistake to double the advantage 20 minutes later.
Kyle Bartley made the most of some poor Chelsea defending to make it three just moments later and a visible unhappy Frank Lampard knew his side had it all to do in the second-half.
Mason Mount struck from range and then substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi found the bottom corner with 20 minutes of normal time remaining.
In added time, Abraham pounced on a Sam Johnstone save to tap home.