The Observer, Joe Lovejoy: “Hands up who thought Terry, Lampard, Cole et al would have more trouble with Stoke than Croatia. You liars, but that’s the way it was at the Britannia, when Chelsea had to come from a goal down to win in stoppage time with a goal from Florent Malouda.”
Independent on Sunday, Myles Hodgson: “If evidence were needed of Chelsea’s capacity to overcome the impact of Fifa’s transfer embargo and mount a sustainable title challenge, Florent Malouda’s injury-time winner provided it by continuing their 100 per cent winning start to the season. Demonstrating considerable resolve against a whole-hearted Stoke City, it was a victory which set down a marker to their Premier League rivals.”
Sunday Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “Florent Malouda was once Chelsea’s forgotten man but yesterday he symbolised a reawakening as his last-minute winner propelled Chelsea to the type of start to a season of which Jose Mourinho would have been proud.”
Sunday Times, Duncan Castles: “Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda’s powered strikes allowed Chelsea to equal their 2006 record of 10 consecutive League wins. “We got what we deserved because we had to attack the whole game,” said Ancelotti. “It was more difficult for Stoke’s goal, but we had a very good reaction. We maintained good control, good pressure. We did very well.””
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “The win continues our perfect start to the new season under Carlo Ancelotti, but it could have been a different story after we fell behind to an Abdoulaye Faye header on 32 minutes, before Didier Drogba leveled in injury time at the end of the first half.”
Well it’s been a rather quiet few weeks hasn’t it? Satan’s offspring going by the name of James Murdoch revealed himself to be the American fool that he is by unleashing an embarrassingly idiotic attack on the “state-sponsored BBC”, Derren Brown somehow predicted the lottery result with a combination of “deep maths, psychology” and a truckload of bullshit and England qualified for some silly party in South Africa next year. Oh and we were given a ridiculous two window ban for the entirely correct practice of stealing a talented teenage footballer from the club who spent years coaching him. “Why us?” we may have bleated and I entirely expect Roman’s super-lawyers to reduce the punishment but it had to happen to someone at some point and are we really surprised that Fifa chose those bad boys from West London to punish first?
Anyway, today we could concentrate on continuing our serene march towards the title by travelling up to Stoke and their throw-in as apart from chucking the ball into the box from a mile away Stoke seem able to do little else which the rest of us would recognise as football.
Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, JT, Cole; Ballack Mikel Lamps; Kalou Malouda; Didier.
Bench: Hilario, Essien, Carvalho, Sturridge, Belletti, Anelka, Hutchinson.
Deco, Alex, Zhirkov, Paulo and Joe were still out injured.
On Friday, Carlo felt compelled to dispel rumours that Zhirkov needs a season ending knee operation, which is just as well seeing as we have a relatively small squad, African Nation’s Cup in January and a transfer ban stretching across the next two transfer windows. However, despite having five key injuries and only 19 or so fit regulars, our favourite Italian still continued his rotation policy. Whether the chosen XI had been influenced by the height and incredibly ugly, direct football which Stoke play or more likely the impending visit of Porto, we seemed to have gone for a hard working side which can easily change into a counter-attacking 4-3-3 if our Christmas tree wasn’t coping with Delap and co.
As for Stoke, well they showed precisely zero ambition by switching to a 5-3-2 formation, which would have made bus parking pioneer Martin Jol proud. A team able to tower above most buildings would scare most opponents but we’re not exactly small so if we could deal with Delap then we should easily take the three points home with us. Luckily, Carlo had something special in store for Delap’s missiles.
I was able to see all 90 glorious minutes, actually it wasn’t glorious as Stoke started to piss me off greatly with every passing second. But we’ll come to that later. If you only had Sky’s Football First or Match of the Day to rely on then that’s fine as apart from the end, today wasn’t exactly awe inspiring.
The start of the match could be described as being typically Chelsea. We were controlling possession, as always, but one suspected that we were still inevitably in sleep mode. We were knocking the ball about pretty aimlessly until our slumber was broken by Ivanovic’s lazy chest control and Beattie’s game ending wonder strike. It was so good that it ended up dribbling towards the corner flag as he lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. The fact he was stretchered off only added to the scene’s hilarity. The game continued with yet more ineffective Chelsea pressure only for two idiots to liven up proceedings. Idiot number one was Mike Dean who decided that 20 minutes was just too long a period to go in a game before he felt the urge to ruin it with his notebook and yellow card. After adding to his already immense twat levels at Old Trafford by sending Wenger to the stands he decided to enhance this reputation by picking on Kalou for blocking a throw-in. To Mr. Dean every infringement requires a yellow card and this Kalou booking was verging on ludicrous. Firstly, I thought that Carlo’s plan to have a man stand in the face of Delap whilst he took the throw-in was brilliant. But apparently you’re not allowed to put off a throw-inner (is that a word?) so unless you perform your best ‘Antony Gormley – Event Horizon’ impression then you’re screwed. But did it really require a booking?
Idiot number two was Mr. Cech. He’d obviously grown bored of Stoke’s awful long ball football and decided to get involved. A regulation Stoke corner should have been claimed by Cech but he decided to weakly punch it back to the taker who then did a few pirouettes before lumping it back in to the box towards Faye who was lurking on the 18 yard line. Most of us would think that with one Stoke attacker being marked by both JT and Ivanovic there would be little danger but Cech rushed out to the penalty spot before realising that he was fucked as he wouldn’t be able to reach the ball. He froze and Faye easily nodded the ball into the empty net. An embarrassingly poor goal to concede and the replay showed all four defenders turning to Cech in amazement at his sheer stupidity. Cech meanwhile was just seen with his head in his hands on the verge of tears (well I hope he was). The rest of the half followed a pretty boring pattern really. We retained possession for ages and ages, Stoke retreated deeper and deeper and were soon playing a 9-1 formation but every Blue wave would be ended by another awful final ball, usually from Bosingwa’s boot and Stoke would hoof it clear to no-one. We were desperate for some real quality and three minutes into the eight being added on, three of our best players decided enough was enough and proceeded to carve open Stoke. Cole ran down the left wing, jinked inside and fed in Lamps. He spun brilliantly and slipped in Didier with a perfectly weighted pass. Didier turned his marker and fired in a stunning strike from 18 yards into the top corner. A stunning end to a drab first half.
The second was very much a mix between the Hull and Sunderland second periods. Carlo had given the team a bollocking, the players were running and passing a lot quicker but without Deco we didn’t seem to have that little bit of magic which would allow us to run out comfortable winners. We were dominating possession and racking up corner after corner but our final ball let us down on virtually every occasion. Carlo sent on the big guns (Essien and Anelka) to try and change things but as Stoke’s 9-1 changed into a 10-0 there seemed little else we could do to break down their wall of immovable lumps. Time was slipping away and our rhythm was being disrupted at every opportunity by Stoke’s systematic fouling, diving and time-wasting (more on that later) but our attacking dominance and ambition would be rewarded in the 93rd minute. Yet another goalmouth scramble led to a Belletti long-throw and as the ball fell to Essien he set-up Malouda to fire in the winner. It was a great ending and the final whistle brought back memories of that famous night in Blackburn in 2005 when the team started to believe that they could be Champions. As on that night our manager celebrated on the pitch as the players threw their shirts to the travelling fans. And after yet another win who can stop us?
- 100% record – We’re five out of five in terms of wins and are sitting pretty at the top ahead of Spurs’ visit next week. United showed everyone how easy it is to beat Spurs and we are playing some great stuff at the moment. Our control of the play, power and belief will lead us to the title in my opinion and not even a transfer embargo will change that.
- Didier Drogba – Absolutely awesome today. He was a powerhouse in defence and attack for all 103 minutes and without him we would never have come away with a victory. A stunning left foot strike was crucial and when he’s in this form he’s “simply unplayable” as every sports writer puts it.
- Frank Lampard – A quiet opening but as time passed his class and ability to play the killer ball began to create chances. Not many goals so far but yet another assist. Will 20 of those count this season as him reaching his 20 goal target (a weak link I know but I’ll praise Lamps at every opportunity if I could).
- Carlo Ancelotti – He’s the best we’ve had since Jose and just as in the 2004/5 season, I have total faith that in any situation he’ll have the answer to turn the game around in our favour. Someone has to come up with a new name for him as Special One Mark II sounds silly.
- Stoke – Utter bollocks. Yes I know that you can only maximise what little resources you have when you’re at the bottom but they’re a worse version of Big Sam’s Blackburn in my mind. A team devoid of any ambition who are especially dirty and who specialise in kicking their way to the final whistle in the hope that an inept referee won’t spot their dirty tactics. They can’t be expected to play our beautiful football but a little more than sticking eight or nine at the back and simply lumping it forward to Kitson isn’t too much to ask is it?
- Ricardo Fuller – As soon as he came on he started rolling around and performed some of the worst bits of play acting this season. At least put in some effort when trying to con the ref but today he just looked like a pillock.
- Ancelotti – I know I’ve just praised him but one minor gripe on my part is his apparent refusal to give Sturridge a go. We’ll need him in January and with only six minutes under his belt this season we’re at risk of turning one of this country’s best young talents into the next Scott Sinclair. Belletti turned out to be an inspired sub (what a long throw) but this kid deserves a shot soon.
- Cech – 4/10 – Claimed some throw-ins and corners nicely but his part in the goal was so bad that it’s almost laughable.
- Bosingwa– 6/10 – Provided a constant threat down our right but still can’t cross the ball to anyone in a blue shirt so points off for Jose today.
- Ivanovic – 6/10 – A sloppy start but defended well alongside JT and with Alex still out injured he’s definitely moved up to third in our centre-back table.
- Terry– 7/10 – Another committed and passionate performance from our Captain Fantastic. I especially enjoyed the return of the ref hounding after the Kalou incident and any number of Stoke challenges. A further sign that we are nearly back to our title winning best. Many hated it but I loved the fact that under Jose we would do anything to get the win and if that meant surrounding the ref then so be it.
- A. Cole – 8/10 – Simply the best left-back in the world. Another brilliant display from Ashley.
- Mikel – 7/10 – A slight improvement and nearly lasted the 90 minutes but still got hooked by Carlo. Moved the ball a little quicker than usual but still too slow for me.
- Ballack – 6/10 – His height was key in defending Stoke’s lumps forward but they had so many men in their own half, our favourite German struggled to display his class.
- Malouda – 7/10 – A plus point for his goal but apart from that he was quiet. Yet more terrible deliveries but he got the winner so fair play to the lad.
- Lampard – 8/10 – After a stunning week for England he seemed a little jaded but still had the class to set up Didier and run the show in the second half.
- Kalou – 6/10 – I prefer him to Anelka in the Christmas tree because he understands the role of a second striker better than Le Sulk. Made some promising runs but there wasn’t really the space for him to exploit and his crossing rivalled that of Bosingwa for worst of the day.
- Drogba – 9.5/10 – Awesome. He’s unstoppable at the moment and his goal was a stunner. I’m not looking forward to January as Anelka was again anonymous after he came on. Didier was up for the fight in both boxes today but Anelka seemed to wet himself every time he was expected to challenge for a high ball.
Man of the Match
There could only be one and if Didier can continue leading our charge at the top then his month’s break in January won’t harm our chances in the slightest as we should have a big enough lead by then.
Not the best performance from us but strangely it probably strengthened my belief that we will be Champions the most out of all the games so far. A last minute win always pleases the fans but as the cliché goes, “that’s the stuff of Champions” and after five games I haven’t seen anyone capable of stopping us.
Overconfident? I would have said that I was going a little over the top after two or three games but with 15 points out of 15 why not start believing that we can be Champions again?