Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City – Marching On

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Chelsea one, Stoke nil is a score-line which refuses to tell the full story. You would be forgiven for assuming it was a close, tight encounter, but that was not the case. The narrow score-line came as a consequence of our profusion in front of goal as we squandered many promising openings. However, a touch of class from Oscar, who scored a spectacular free-kick and produced a commendable all-round display, was enough to book a fifth round tie with Manchester City as our love affair with the FA Cup continued.

Match report

In what was a fairly commodious victory, but nervy towards the end, an astounding free-kick by Oscar was enough to seal our progression into the last 16 of the world’s oldest club competition, but it should have been more.

We were twice denied by the woodwork on either side of the interval, with Oscar coming close towards the conclusion of the first half while Andre Schurrle saw his fierce strike smash against the post. Frank Lampard failed to make contact with Hazard’s cross in front of goal during the opening 45 and David Luiz’s piledriver of a free-kick was thwarted by Asmir Begovic, who kept the Potters in contention, only a few of the Bosnian’s fine antics between the sticks.

After Juan Mata departed for destination Old Trafford, we would be grieving if we did not have a player of Oscar’s calibre in his position. Although the Spaniard will be missed around Stamford Bridge, having helped us to the FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League whilst being a fantastic man, when you have a player like Oscar in your ranks, you won’t be hurting for too long. The Brazilian was excellent in midfield today, dictating the play and was involved in everything attacking-minded we did. His work ethic is what has endeared him to Jose Mourinho, and once again he justified Jose’s faith in him with his tireless defensive duties.

Another midfielder who produced an admirable performance was Nemanja Matic. The former Benfica man, joining Ramires and David Luiz in our rank of former Benfica men, departed the Bridge as a make-weight for the arrival of Luiz in 2011 and was making his first start since re-signing, costing us £21m. However, I’ve always considered defensive midfield as an area we need to strengthen in. The signature of Marco Van Ginkel in the summer from Vitesse raised my hopes as the Dutchman fitted the bill. A ball-playing, mobile player who would sit in front of our defenders and also cover a lot of ground was required. With Ginkel ruled out for the season, Matic’s signing made complete sense and today proved the qualities the Serb will give us. He mopped up any loose balls, covered a considerable amount of ground and was assured and ice-cool in possession. His passing was sheer quality, with Mourinho singing his praises in his post-match press conference.

“Matic did very well, he was very comfortable, stole lots of balls and his passing was quality. He’s very comfortable on the ball, his left foot is sweet and he makes things simple, which lets the team fly.”

Team selection

With Mourinho declaring the FA Cup is a competition he is eager to win, our Portuguese pragmatist fielded a strong side with Eden Hazard and Oscar both starting. With one eye on the visit of our London rivals West Ham on Wednesday night, Jose made a few changes, with Lampard returning to the starting line-up while Matic, Luiz and Schurrle were preferred to Ramires, John Terry and Willian respectively, but it did not effect the quality that our eleven possessed. Following the final whistle, I became aware of the fact that we had completed the signing of Mohamed Salah from FC Basel, increasing my sense of gratification. We have signed a young, talented winger who would add a considerable amount to our tender side. If you’re an inverted winger, Jose is the man to play under, with Hazard’s huge development and improvement a prototype of the point. With our new Egyptian number 15 still at a young age, only 21, his style of play, with is mostly based around his pace and low centre of gravity, can be easily tailored and adjusted to suit Mourinho, as was the case with our Belgian Hazard.

Summary

A professional victory, secured in typical Mourinho fashion, we can look ahead to a fifth round tie with Manchester City at the Etihad. It’ll be our second game at the Etihad, where no team has left with a result, in 15 days with a immense encounter in the Premier League next Monday to anticipate. It’ll test our team and show just how good we are. Until then, it’s West Ham on Wednesday.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High! And farewell, Juan.

Press reports

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “In the end Chelsea’s progress into the FA Cup fifth round was secured at a stroll, the dismissal of Stoke City merely serving to remind that, even after a month of relative upheaval, this squad will still ease into the second half of the campaign in rude health. Very few teams can boast such strength in depth even after the sale of a World Cup winner for £37.1m. Juan Mata was the subject of one small banner held up by supporters in the west stand thanking him for two and a half years of service but, if truth be told, not overly missed. Without him, and with Michael Essien to join Milan and Kevin De Bruyne now at Wolfsburg, the hosts had rejoiced in the continued excellence of Oscar and Eden Hazard, in confirmation of Mohamed Salah’s £12m arrival from Basel, and in the leggy purpose of Nemanja Matic in central midfield.”

The Daily Telegraph, Ian Winrow: “Chelsea quickly put Juan Mata’s departure to Manchester United, moving comfortably into an FA Cup fifth-round tie (against Manchester City) thanks to an outstanding first-half free-kick from Oscar. Oscar’s emergence as Jose Mourinho’s preferred choice for the central attacking midfield role was the major factor in Mata’s fall down the Stamford Bridge pecking order and ultimately his exit from the club and the Brazilian offered a clear demonstration of his worth with his goal.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A brilliant free-kick from Oscar in the first half was enough to send us through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, as we recorded a seventh consecutive win in all competitions. A strong Chelsea performance probably merited more goals, with Oscar and Andre Schurrle hitting woodwork either side of the break. Frank Lampard, going clear as our second-highest appearance-maker in this competition, also went close on three separate occasions. Stoke nearly levelled soon after Oscar’s fabulous opener but Stephen Ireland could only find the side-netting from close range. It was the closest they would come on an afternoon when Nemanja Matic made his full Chelsea debut, the Serbian impressing in midfield with his aerial power and tidiness in possession. We face Manchester City away in the next round, due to be played the weekend of the 15/16 February.”




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  1. Cunningplan

    Good report Ahmed, I too thought Matic made an excellent re-debut (is that a word?) yesterday. He had all the hallmarks of a certain Claude Makelele in the way he broke up the play, admittedly he’ll have tougher opposition and tests ahead, but it bodes well.

    Oscars free kick was quite special, and of course as you’ve mentioned the scoreline flattered Stoke somewhat who had no ambition other than attempt to keep the score down. Wet Spam up next, and hopefully we can convert a few more chances to improve our goal difference, which might yet prove important come the end of the season.

    • Ahmed Osoble

      Thanks Cunningplan. I agree West Ham on Wednesday night would be a good game to boost our goal diff, it will be important in a title race this tight.

  2. Blueboydave

    Another decent addition to our recent Mourinho-like run of wins, based on an increasingly solid looking defence and growing confidence. Agree that Matic looked very impressive this time around.

    Is it just me, or is The Happy One losing his touch a bit in press conferences though?

    I thought in the one before the Stoke game his explanation for the Mata transfer was the most unconvincing guff I’ve ever heard from him. His claim that this club respects its players and wants them to be happy probably came as a bit of a surprise to Florent Malouda and Alex for instance, who were both banished suddenly to train with the youth team till they found another club a few seasons ago, apparently for the heinous crime of their face not fitting any more . Similarly, the endless heel-dragging over offering Lampard a new contract for this season doesn’t exact zing with respect for a club legend, either.

    Or, if he’s claiming this is an ethos he’s insisting on now, what about poor old Demba Ba who has been very publicly on the verge of being offloaded in the last two transfer windows, until suddenly it didn’t suit the club to complete the deal. Then The Happy One talks up his chances of making his mark while Torres is injured, only to give him 5 minutes as a sub at the end of the game.

    • WorkingClassPost

      Not sure that we’re any worse, or better, than other clubs when dealing with players, the main difference being that we tend to pay well in the first place. What I do see, though, is that players who are deemed dis-loyal or in any way mercenary tend to get lots of stick, both from fans and media, but mostly the club’s conduct goes unnoticed, or at least, is quickly forgotten.

  3. WorkingClassPost

    Yes indeed, some very good performances all round.

    I don’t recall seeing anyone fit in to a new team as quickly and seamlessly as Matic did, especially a system as precise and disciplined as JM’s. If it’s taken nearly six months for others in the squad to gel, his performance was all the more remarkable.

    It might be just luck, or coincidence, but given his previous involement it may also mean that there’s a bit more substance and longevity to the ‘Chelsea Project’ than we perhaps reallize.

  4. limetreebower

    This seemed to me to be like an old-style Mourinho victory, in the sense that however hard I tried to make myself nervous, once we were ahead the victory felt completely inevitable.

    Although I was surprised to see Stoke allow us so much time in possession. Just too easy for that class of player to take you apart if you give them time to think about it.

    Hazard was literally unstoppable and will rightly be everyone’s MotM, but goodness me, doesn’t Matic look like a good fit? He’s got wonderfully easy and deft touch for a big fellow. And as CP says he’s got that Makalele knack of always showing up in the right place. Only one game, against feebly compliant opposition, but I think he may just have doomed Obi as a Chelsea player.

    A shout out to Mata. His open letter to the fans was charmingly gracious and mannerly. Fingers crossed that the Mancs fail to qualify for the CL for the next couple of seasons and he insists on a move to a club in whose colours it won’t be so painful to see him play.

  5. WorkingClassPost

    Is my browser playing up, or are we just not commenting on the latest match?

    I know that big Spam Alerdyce is bit of a pain, but they did what they had to do and we’ve gotta move on. We created plenty of chances and even if we don’t need/want to play ugly, perhaps scoring the odd ugly goal, from time to time, wouldn’t go amiss.


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