The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “The only aspect of this fixture that lived up to expectation was the contentiousness. The Premier League leaders, Chelsea, moved five points clear of Manchester United with a goal of murky origins. Darren Fletcher wrongly had a foul awarded against him in the 76th minute and from Frank Lampard’s free-kick John Terry headed home, although Didier Drogba may also have got a touch.”
The Times, Oliver Kay: “As the ska sound of Madness reverberated around a joyous Stamford Bridge yesterday, the beat was almost too much for John Terry to resist. Having taken his team not only one step but five points beyond Manchester United, the Chelsea captain looked ready to burst into dance, but instead he settled for a broad grin, a swagger and a couple of kisses blown to someone special in the crowd.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Terry played well, ignoring the morning’s distressing headlines about his father’s alleged activities to stand firm in the face of the Rooney-inspired storm, again protecting a goal that has now not been breached at the Bridge for 872 minutes. The way Terry shepherded Rooney away from goal midway through the first half was a masterpiece of intelligent defending, echoing Franco Baresi at his very best.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Nicolas Anelka and John Terry can argue about who is the hero of a tight and toughly-contested match at Stamford Bridge, the captain and the Golden Boot holder both in the frame for a second-half header from a free-kick that divided the teams.”
That was the week that was
As ever, it has been another reasonably eventful week down at the [insert dull but expensive blue-chip corporate behemoth name] @ Stamford Bridge (hey, get used to it).
Carlo Ancelotti raised a quizzical eyebrow at news of the temporary suspension of our Kakuta-inspired transfer ban, insisting that there was no rush to dip into the scrap and shopping trolley-strewn waters of the January window. He’s probably right; our January purchase record is hardly inspiring and, in the circumstances, the prices are likely to be more City than CFC.
Meanwhile, over in the boardroom, Ron Gourlay decided it was time to announce his arrival. He slipped perfectly into Peter Kenyon’s recently vacated cashmere codpiece by insisting on a couple of Champions League titles in the next five years or so. Chelsea fans winced, hacks smirked and Carlo Ancelotti puckered. Probably.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Following an entertaining excursion to Madrid which sealed our Big Cup last sixteen spot, Ancelotti faced his first Premiership showdown with Fergie, whose increasingly angry demeanour is becoming more angst-ridden teenage rebel than Machiavellian football manager. I’m certain that if some Sky hack just asked him “What are you upset about, Sir Alex?”, the old goat would turn his collar up and sneer “Whaddya got?”
Being entirely honest, trying to conjure up any kind of flowing prose about a game like that is about as easy as reconstructing a life-size replica of the Bayeux tapestry with dried dog shit and pipecleaners. I’ve been to more exciting health and safety briefings.
United’s approach was a crowded but efficient midfield and a formation that looked fairly 4-6-0 at times, Cole and Ivanovic were kept in check whilst Rooney raced around with the energy of a man who hasn’t yet experienced the joyous and exhausting business of a new baby vomiting over you at some unholy hour of the night. It was neither pretty nor engaging and with only the odd half chance appearing in the gloom of a fairly dour midfield scrap, a stalemate looked likely.
But as David Haye will surely confirm once he emerges from a cloud of party poppers and champagne corks, if you’re faced with a wily old heavyweight bruiser it is wise to keep the dangerous stuff at arms’ length and know that when you are able to land a blow, you make sure it counts. Ancelotti and his side did just that today, leaving at least one Russian happy with the weekend’s results.
- Five points clear. United and Liverpool beaten on our own patch, which is a big improvement on last season.
- Yes, once again it’s time to use the old “playing poorly and winning is the mark of champions…” cliché.
- Christ, help me out here, would you?
- The fixture usually throws up a fairly decent game, but not today. The first half was positively comatose, the second interesting only for the scraps and controversy.
- After much brouhaha in the media and fines from the authorities, Guus Hiddink succeeded in taming our sometimes unsightly urge to berate and harass the match officials at every turn. Ancelotti has continued the good work, but having watched United this season – today in particular – one wonders why we bothered. The officials were shocking today (more later), but the snarling, whining and incessant petulance from the likes of Giggs, Fletcher, Evra and Rooney today was more than worthy of stern words and a slapped wrist from the authorities. Will it happen? Breath – not being held.
The really quite bloody bizarre
Martin Atkinson. I could type until tomorrow morning about some of the decisions he made during the game – from the, ahem, unusual, to the unfeasibly piss-poor – and still not cover everything.
Both sides suffered; Fergie would of course argue that United’s loss was the greater, but he is obviously no stranger to a quirky home performance from the man in black. Probably wasn’t a free kick that led to our goal, granted, but how Johnny Evans remained on the pitch after his Jet Li style assault on Drogba will remain a mystery, as will the recipient’s booking for the same. Carry on with your own personal favourites in the comments section – you certainly won’t be short on choice.
Individual incidents aside, in summary it is reasonable to say that at no point did he give the impression that he was in control of an increasingly tetchy game and, at times, especially in the closing stages, he looked little more than a nervous amateur.
The player ratings
Don’t be bloody daft.
Man of the Match
It is always pleasant (again) to arrive at an international break on top of the pile with a close rival beaten. Arsene is probably quite happy this evening; his wee boys are starting to purr and frankly, it will need a considerable improvement on our part before we visit the Emirates at the end of the month.