The Times, Matt Hughes: “If he could bring himself to tune into a freezing English winter from the sunshine in Setúbal, even José Mourinho would have been impressed with the resilience that Chelsea showed in holding out for three points against Blackburn Rovers yesterday. However, they will need even more fortitude in the coming weeks as a hard-fought win came at a huge cost.”
Daily Telegraph, Mark Ogden: “Having lost John Terry and Didier Drogba to injuries that will sideline them until well into the new year, Chelsea will wait to discover whether goalkeeper Petr Cech faces an equally costly spell off after limping out of this crucial victory at Blackburn with a worrying hip injury.”
The Independent, Nick Harris: “A goalkeeping crisis also appears to be looming. Peter Cech was forced off in agony with a strain to his side yesterday, and Carlo Cudicini is unavailable as his deputy for the moment after injuring his ribs in training. Both players will be assessed in the coming days. Their absences meant Chelsea played the last half an hour with a man between the posts – Hilario – who had not featured at all since January.”
The Guardian, Stuart James: “Hilario’s fingertip stop came seven minutes after he had supplanted Cech, the Portuguese diving full-stretch to turn Roque Santa Cruz’s header behind. It had been impossible to visualise such brilliance moments earlier when Hilario, making his first appearance in more than 11 months, came off his goalline to punch clear David Bentley’s corner and made no contact with the ball.”
- A well-earned win to start the Christmas period. With our closest rivals all picking up 3 points (Spurs proving that losing their bottle is almost a way of life for them), the win was crucial. And even Avram didn’t mind about the method – graft and endeavour above all else made this one possible.
- Carvalho – with Terry and Cech out, his influence in defence will be crucial over the next few games. See his part in the goal for how important he can be further up the field too. Welcome back.
- Joe Cole – having tipped him as the man ‘due a big game’ in yesterday’s Observer preview, I thought I’d probably scuppered his chances of a decent game but thankfully not. Hard working, well taken goal, not too many attempts to get himself on board the ‘Showboat’. A crucial player for us when he’s on form.
- In general – Blackburn have some serious problems at present but Ewood Park is no easy place to get a result (although we have a good record there in recent years); despite the lack of some key players and a hammering during the first 20 minutes, we rode the storm and put in the kind of performance that the title wins were built on.
- The injury to Cech. No Cech, no Terry – it must be Christmas then. Hilario’s introduction immediately made the defence a little more jumpy (although his superb save from Santa Cruz kept us in the game), but he isn’t the man you want between the sticks for any length of time. Quite who will be on the bench as our second keeper for the Boxing Day game with Villa is anyone’s guess.
- The first 20 minutes. A less profligate (and arguably luckier) team would have been out of sight after the opening quarter of an hour or so. Had Mark Hughes started with a front two instead of leaving Santa Cruz on his own, things could have been somewhat different.
- Not much else really – it is Christmas after all…
Man of the Match
Ricardo Carvalho. Joe Cole gets an honorable mention.
Hope you all enjoy the festive season – thanks for all your contributions this year; never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure…!