It was Fabio Borini, who spent two years at Chelsea, who eased the title towards his parent club Liverpool. It was Gus Poyet, the scorer of that majestic scissor kick goal against Sunderland, who masterminded this sensational defeat, almost certainly kicking us out of the title race and kicking Jose Mourinho’s imperious home record of 77 unbeaten into the history books. Wonders never cease.
Ba deserves to keep his place
Before his monumental goal against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, to fire Chelsea into the Champions League semi-finals, Ba was behind Torres and Eto’o in the centre-forward pecking order. Now, he has risen to the fore.
Before winning over Jose, Ba had impressed in substitute cameo appearances, scoring two against Tottenham last month and endearing himself to the Bridge faithful with his goal against PSG on Tuesday evening.
He started at the Liberty Stadium, troubling Williams and first Flores, before the Spaniard’s needless bookings, and then his replacement Amat. His goal, with 20 minutes remaining, was clinical and crucial, effectively put the game out of reach of Swansea. Deservedly awarded Man of the Match.
Courtois will have to fight for number one jersey
Courtois is an excellent goalkeeper, tipped to strip Cech of the number one jersey as he flourishes in a powerful Atletico Madrid team, Chelsea’s opponents in the Champions League semi-finals. Yet, it won’t be as easy as that.
The Czech Republic skipper saved excellently from Bony twice, one an amazing reaction stop, and a sweetly-struck effort from Routledge. He is a world-class keeper, unworthy of assuming the role of back-up keeper.
Matic a shrewd acquisition
Mourinho had noticed the problem in pre-season, acquiring Marco Van Ginkel in the summer as he searched for a mobile, leggy midfielder. In January, he was shrewd to beat off competition from the likes of Liverpool for Matic’s signature, and the £21m invested in the Serbia international is paying dividends.
Chelsea were criticized for letting him go in the first place as part of the deal to sign David Luiz from Benfica but Matic’s incredible development under Jorge Jesus was unexpected.
His propensity to keep moves ticking over, collect loose balls and stride forward whilst playing guard in front of the Blues’ solid defence, coupled with his excellent vision to pick out Ba for his goal is what Mourinho paid for. No losses, just gains.
Swansea are underachieving
For 30 minutes after Chico’s foolish sending-off, Swansea continued to employ their keep-possession playing style, leading the possession charts. After the interval as Chelsea emerged from the break with more vigour, intensity and urgency, the hosts finally crumbled under the pressure. Garry Monk’s side are only a few points away from safety, with Newcastle, Aston Villa, Southampton and Sunderland their remaining four games. Yet, they should not be struggling at the foot of the table.
With the quality in their starting line-up, a mid-table finish should have been the minimum expected. Vorm is a decent goalkeeper, with Britton and Shelvey effective in the holding role behind the attacking prowess of Dyer, Hernandez and Routledge, supporting Bony. Play like they did here and they should retain their Premier League status without much bother.
Salah is promising
The 21 year-old, dubbed the “Egyptian Messi” for his tendency to drift past opposition defenders, impressed on only his second league start, wreaking havoc in the Stoke back-line a week ago.
He frequently found himself in behind the Swansea defence with his wonderful turn of pace, deciding to supply the profligate Eto’o on two occasions, with the Cameroonian failing to profit from his menacing incursions. Give him time and he could really flourish.
It was hardly a contest, more of a mismatch. We controlled proceedings with ease and cruised to a crucial victory which restored the Blues to the Premier League summit. Petr Cech was deprived of a save to make for 90 minutes. Sterner challenges await, for Cech too, but it was still a gratifying victory, crowned with goals from Mohamed Salah, Frank Lampard and a beauty from Willian.
Crystal Palace against Chelsea is one of the rarer London derbies, mainly due to Palace’s propensity to drift between leagues while the Premier League has been our home since its foundation. But the signifigance it holds, and the adversities Palace will present, must not be underestimated.
This was the day the history books were mercilessly torn to shreds. Not only did Chelsea rain on Arsene Wenger’s parade, his thousandth game in charge of Arsenal, the Blues whipped up a typhoon to emphatically record their biggest victory under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship.
We were excellent throughout. Our back four were solid as usual, with Michael Owen, on his live TV duties, highlighting Cesar Azpilicueta for distinguished praise as the Spaniard was deservedly nominated Man of the Match, an accolade in which many a player in blue would have advanced cases for.
The labelling of this historic fixture as monumental would not be an exaggeration. The stakes riding on this game are hugely significant. Vital points, bragging rights and Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the Gunners – Chelsea versus Arsenal is never dull.
Manchester City revelled in our first defeat in 14 games. Liverpool and Arsenal celebrated. The outcome they craved finally arrived.
We had been beaten, with Chris Foy partially to thank for that. Our performance was itself not of the highest order, but Foy’s officiating certainly was horrendous.
The sensation after beating our north London rivals is one of gratification, further enhanced by the fact that we had given them hope in the first-half of securing their first victory at Stamford Bridge in 24 years, only for it to be cruelly obliterated in the short space of three second-half minutes. And for Spurs to be the masters of their epic downfall, it was an evening the Chelsea supporters will fondly recall.
SW6 derbies are typically not the most fiercely contested in England, but this one had to be, with both sides desperate for all three points for very different reasons. But one man clinically decided the destination of the points in just 16 second-half minutes.
Jose Mourinho has never lost a title race in which one of his teams has occupied top spot at the end of February. He has proven his expertise in the negotiation of the final straight, and our remaining 11 games will be an examination of his know-how as our “little horse” attempts to continue its charge to the title. Our 27th game of the season, however, turned out to be a close run thing.
Trips to West Brom have proved arduous for us in recent years. We had suffered defeat in our last two visits to the Hawthorns, and our fortunes did not improve on Tuesday night as the Blues were held to a 1-1 draw in an outcome that gifted Arsenal and Manchester City (on goal difference) the opportunity to leapfrog Jose’s men.
Following our gratifying victory over Newcastle on Saturday, we are once again in action just three days later as we travel to Birmingham to face a struggling West Brom side at the Hawthorns. This match presents us with an opportunity to extend our lead at the Premier League summit to four points for a minimum of twenty-four hours before Arsenal and Manchester City feature on Wednesday.
“A little horse that needs milk and to make a jump.” That “little horse” acquired its dairy liquid in the shape of the once-again incredible Eden Hazard to “make a jump” above rivals Arsenal and Manchester City following the Gunners’ demolition at Anfield earlier in the day while Manuel Pellegrini was left frustrated at Norwich. Subsequently, we moved a point clear of Arsene Wenger’s side and two ahead of City as we swept past a depleted Newcastle side at Stamford Bridge.
It was a fantastic performance from the Blues and Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese pragmatist got everything spot-on. The team, the strategy, the tempo, the mood. He knew the stakes, he knew how to win, he knew when to risk, when to gamble, when to hold. It was a masterclass in management, emphasising why he has uniquely mentored coaches who have gone on to become Premier League managers (Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke).
Our bore draw on Wednesday night, courtesy of West Ham’s “19th century” football, coupled with Manchester City’s 5-1 win over Tottenham, left us three points behind Manuel Pellegrini’s aesthetically pleasing side. Jose Mourinho may say we are not embroiled in a title race, but we inevitably are. To be three points off the leaders at this stage of the season leaves you in a position where a title tilt is in your reach. However, we face a daunting task to evict the Manchester club from top spot, and Monday night presents us with a game we simply cannot afford to lose as we prepare for our first of two games at the Etihad in the space of 15 days.
A little preamble
Time huh? Bloody hell. To paraphrase a rather well known purple-nosed old soak currently bothering young athletes in the halls of Old Trafford, shuffling around corridors yelling ‘D’ye know who I am?’*