Benfica 0-1 Chelsea – Eagles Tamed

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The preamble

A recall to duty for me tonight. To be honest I nearly pulled out, the thought of extending the ride on my trusty steed in the glorious evening sun was very tempting. Luckily it’s March, so when the sun drops the temperature plummets faster than Katie Price’s underwear when she’s offered a free drink. So a full on downhill 50kph sprint from the summit of Butser Hill gets me in front of the TV with 10 minutes to spare. The travails of a tough Podding Shed session the previous night had left no visible scarring. What goes on inside maybe very very different.

Of course, midweek games mean work the next day as rather annoyingly I have not recently won any of the national or EuroMillions lottery rollovers. Hence the report is shorter than normal, but you’re such a greedy bunch the Blog Committee Star Chamber has authorised this report.

After every man and his dog probably turned it down. Oh my God, I’m the blog equivalent of Paulo Ferreira, the last resort when no one else is about.

The first thing that then hit me was the either BRAVE or STUPID team selection from Roberto Di Matteo. In what seemed a homage to AVB’s last Big Cup game versus Napoli, no Lampard, no Essien, no Drogba, no Sturridge, no Bosingwa but Ferreria instead. I’m torn at this stage between fear, loathing and admiration.

To the game.

The game

A feisty first half which at points looked like it may collapse into a card-fest for the Italian ref. In the end he was quite good. So good I don’t even recall his name. In truth there were few clear chances but Benfica edged it slightly. Although there were the worrying indications that Benfica may be spending the summer competing against Tom Daley. Our least effective player was Kalou who spent his first few touches either giving up possession or giving away silly fouls. But he was to improve in the second half. The other worry was Meireles, who for a short while seemed to be playing in an alternate universe where he is wearing a green and white hooped shirt playing a team in blue and someone’s just accused him of being an atheist. He was very angry and in the end a yellow card was inevitable as he lunged into another deliberately mistimed tackle. At this point it’s worth noting that Torres, Ramires, Mikel and Luiz were really standing out amongst what was a very reassuring overall performance from the whole team.

Half time arrives. To the dressing room. It’s 2012, my name’s Tony Glover and it’s dinner time. I’m having fajitas. As would Gene Hunt had he been set in the now.

Second half – starts like first half finished with Bendivers… sorry Benfica piling on some pressure but with little to show. Suddenly a loose ball gets fired in and Crazy David stops it with a combination of his hand and body. Not a penalty in a million years but have seen them given. Kudos to the ref again, surely now to be demoted to Europa League qualifiers for disobeying UEFA orders (allegedly). One noticeable player causing us issue was Gaitan who is surely skilful enough to stay on his feet. Despite this and with slight signs of panic showing in Chelsea constantly misplacing passes and giving up possession we were holding on and rather pleasingly breaking up the moves and disrupting in the game in an 11 man Makelele display. We looked like we had a plan and we’d done our homework. Of course this just prompted more dives but the ref equally surprisingly started to ignore them. Similarities to recent away-days at Napoli and Citeh spring to mind briefly but as each minute passes we lose that air of vulnerability and the reason is a shining display from the back four with Crazy David looking for all the world the solid gold Rolls-Royce player we suspected. Riccy Carvalho. Your heir apparent is here and safe with us. Ironically despite the pressure the best chance comes to us with Torres in full ‘assist’ mode crossing to Kalou for a free header that he puts high and wide. No worries though because on 76 minutes, the impressive Ramires starts off on a run and despite being knocked off the ball, recovers enough to send Torres on a supercharged run down the wing, beating the Benfica defender to slot a lovely simple cross to Kalou to tap in. The all important away goal is safely banked. A few subs later and we created another gilt edged chance for the terrier like Mata who was unlucky earlier, hitting the post, to uncharacteristically shoot over the bar.

The last few minutes are a stoic display of defending from us in the face of Benfica desperation. The whole team deserves a bow for seeing out five minutes of Fergie time (five minutes? Was that a UEFA directive the ref did follow?).

The game finished amidst collective sighs of global Chelsea fan relief. A win, an away win. A valuable away win with an away goal.

Note for Manchester: watch and learn my friends, watch and learn.

Playing a harp in the clouds

  • John Mikel Obi. A world class showing from a player maturing in talent and confidence with each game. If you don’t rate him, you’re not watching the right sport.
  • Crazy David. Man-love does not get much better than this.
  • Fernando Torres. The new Anelka. The goals will come but not in droves and what he does now is so much more valuable.
  • Ashley Cole. Yes he may just be back with us.
  • Ramires. Tireless running and some proper Brazilian skills.
  • Juan Mata. By rights he should be knackered but he still put in a shift.

Burning in fire and brimstone

  • The Benfica Olympic diving team.
  • That is literally all.

Subjectively inaccurate player ratings

  • Petr Cech – 7/10 – Solid of late. Safe. Zafira.
  • Crazy David Luiz – 9/10 – Purrrrrrrr. Yes I’m purring at him. Rolls-Royce.
  • John Terry – 8/10 – Solid, committed. Usual. Ford Transit.
  • Paulo Ferreira – 8/10 – Reliable and still better than Bosingwa. Volkswagen Golf.
  • Ashley Cole – 8/10 – Busy. Snarling. Hungry? A Mini with a 2-litre sports engine.
  • John Mikel Obi – 9/10 – Calm, efficient, unruffled. BMW.
  • Raul Meireles – 6/10 – Busy, snarling, angry? A stolen XR3i.
  • Ramires – 9/10 – Brazilian, nippy, hard working, creative. A Seat Leon Cupra.
  • Juan Mata – 7/10 – All over the pitch at the same time. Impossible. Another Mini.
  • Salomon Kalou – 7/10 – Improved over the game. Scored. Mondeo.
  • Fernando Torres – 8/10 – Impressive. Creative. Hard working. Got stuck in. Freelander.
  • Frank Lampard (sub) – 7.5/10 – A good backup. Not the fastest but generally reliable. Volvo.
  • Jose Bosingwa (sub) – 6/10 – Not around long enough to make an impact or rate. Renault Avantime.
  • Daniel Sturridge (sub) – 8/10 – Not around long enough to make an impact or rate but would no doubt be a 3-litre Ford Capri Ghia X with furry dice.
  • New manager rating – 9/10 – Damned if he didn’t, lauded if he did. Gambled on blue, came up blue. Lucky? I’ll take a lucky coach any day.
  • Overall team performance – 7/10 – Quite a few more vegetables than you’d like on the plate.

The Man of the Match

John Mikel Obi is unlucky tonight because any other time he’d be a banker but it has to be Crazy David. Sublime.

The final thoughts

First of all. Listen to the Podding Shed. Tweet it, Facebook it, paint walls like Banksy with the details. You’ll love it. Probably.

So, competence, efficiency all spring to mind. Poor old AVB must be scratching his balls in frustration at some of the displays of late. City and Spurs aside of course. But that’s what we were tonight and yes we rode our luck at times but for once the goddess of luck, Lady Luck was smiling on us whilst the powers that be gnash their teeth in frustration at the perceived appeasement and disobedience of the ref not to penalise us.

Roll on next week, where no doubt we’ll work hard to make it a close run scrape through rather than a comfortable see off.

I’m tired now and my legs are rebelling against the 14 mile hill climbing ride from earlier and the eyelids have balloted and are coming out in sympathy with them. A good night, so sleep tight all.


Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

The press reports

The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “These are the moments when Chelsea make it seem barely plausible that they have based long parts of their season on the theory of chaos. They played here with character, resolve and togetherness and now have an outstanding chance of reaching the Champions League semi-finals at a time when their performances in the Premier League make it far from certain they will even qualify for the competition next season.”

The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “This was one of the great nights for Chelsea, a day in the sunshine for their fans followed by an evening basking in the glow of a fine team performance capped by Salomon Kalou’s goal. With Roberto Di Matteo getting his tactics spot on, Chelsea delivered a classic away performance, tactically disciplined, defensively resilient and scoring with a swift counter-attack. If the headlines went to Kalou, huge kudos should go to Fernando Torres, who made the goal with a magnificent run, immeasurably strengthening Chelsea’s hopes of meeting Barcelona or AC Milan in the semi-finals.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A stark contrast to the Napoli away game as Chelsea matched the home side, defended well and snatched victory thanks to a second-half Salomon Kalou goal.”

The goal

75′ Kalou 0-1

There are 50 comments

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    • NorthernVA

      A lot of truth in that. I was definitely on the skeptical side when I saw the team sheet.But Robbie got it right tonight. 

  1. NorthernVA

    “The other worry was Meireles, who for a short while seemed to be playing in an alternate universe where he is wearing a green and white hooped shirt playing a team in blue and someone’s just accused him of being an atheist.”
    Please sir take a bow after that comment alone. Tell the wife to give you a pat on the back as well. On short rest/notice to get a match report up with some brilliance like that is much appreciated. I can’t disagree with a word of what you have written here my friend.

  2. NorthernVA

    Also I want to make a frank admission tonight. My name is NorthernVA and I am a Kalou-oholic. When the lad scores I feel all is right in the world or at the very least all the blowhards on Twitter have been silenced for a few.

  3. mark_25

    I’m often guilty of making the “Kalou-less” jibe but last night I thought he was excellent.  Aside from the goal he ran his nuts off for the team and offered a lot of protection as well as being an outlet.

    Compare that with that lazy arse Sturridge who couldn’t be bothered to chase anything for the 10 minutes he was on.  Notice how Sturridge, when he does trot back, always makes sure he’s at least 5 yards away from his opponent so that there’s no risk of having to get involved or make a tackle.  Hopefully Kalou will remain first choice over Sturridge in the remainaing big games this season.

  4. Blue_MikeL

    We are all praising Kalou, which is fine by me, he has scored the goal and worked hard. However, there is one player we haven’t mentioned, so far, it is  Fernando, he worked his arse for the team yesterday. He was defending, creating, striking doing everything on the pitch. I tell you one thing, if our players were serving him on the pitch as much as he serves them with his passes he would have scored already plenty of goals.   

  5. Jmuballe

    Excellent report, made me laugh a good deal. Great to see Mikel coming into his own; i was afraid that he’d fizzle and be middling but is begining to show leadership and confidence. Lucky we got him young. We will not be short of leaders once the experienced bunch leave because a number of the younger ones are proving they have what it takes for the future: Branners, Cahill, and David all come to mind. What a bargain we got in Cahill; i was tremendously impressed with him against Tottenham.

    Back to last night, i must say the selection was gutsy. Had my heart when i saw Paulo in the lineup. What a guy! Fantastic professional.

    Torres frustrated with the poor quality service he receives decided to give a master class in creating opportunities.

    The semis would be great. No one would have considered us likely candidates for it but here we are. Lets enjoy it

  6. Desmond Bey

    Great report, Tony, thanks for your grace under pressure and willingness to power through! Good point about the ref, I thought he had a good match, mostly even-handed and few mistakes.
    I would also like make an admission… I think Gary Neville is a decent pundit.

  7. PeteW

    Like many, I saw the team sheet and blanched. I like Ferreira, Mikel and Kalou but was surprised to see all three start, especially alongside Torres and Meireles. 
    Talk about massive balls from RDM.Sounded like a great performance though, absolutely splendid. As I’ve said about a billion times, Kalou is a massively under-rated player and last night showed exactly why so many managers have stuck with him. I love the guy.I was never worried about Ferreira – a superb professional. 
    The organisation of the team was again first rate, and even in our two recent league performances, the team have looked much better set-up and harder-to-beat. No surprise that Luiz is starting to really stand out – he’s always been a great player, but was encouraged too much to be a fanny merchant before, while also falling victim to the defensive set-up that created massive space either side of the centre-backs. Now  that has changed, he looks awesome. 

    As I said after the City game, though, I do worry that the team have decided to collectively write off fourth place and save their energy for the cups. Is that a bad thing? Could be a big mistake come trophy time. If we get through the home leg, we will never, ever beat Barcelona – I just don’t see it as remotely feasible, unless a volcano erupts again.

    Fingers crossed Milan can pull off a shock tonight…

    • GrocerJack

      Just off to check for active volcano’s! Kalou still frustrates the hell out of me, but he is a valuable squad player which every club needs. He’ll never be a ‘great’ but he can be effective like Flo was for us. And in terms of effort, he beats Malouda hands down every single time. 

      • PeteW

        I said a while back that Sturridge was of-a-piece with Kalou, just English, more confident and more selfish – put the two together, and you’d get Anelka…

  8. Blueboydave

    Congrats to Paulo Ferrari [as Gary Neville kept calling him, bless] and “Paulo ” TG – the relatively neglected stalwarts both come through when needed, without even any sign of cramp at the end of your report, Tony 😉

    A decent performance all round I thought as we restricted Benfica relatively easily apart from their little spell of pressure just after half-time. 

    The only time I’ve seen them this season previously was the last 20 minutes of their group game at Old Trafford when they were wiping the floor with the Mancs. So a definite need to avoid complacency in the 2nd leg as the tie sure isn’t over yet.

    I’ve been struck by one of those Art Imitating Life moments recently which one of our more imaginative bloggers like Dr. Bayou might weave into parallels with Chelsea FC and all its parts:

    My venerable but ageing PC has been having intermittent trouble when called on to start for some time. This has resulted increasingly in long sequences of failure to perform adequately. As a temporary measure I found not shutting it down entirely, or even putting it on standby only, but just applying some gentle power save measures has eeked out a bit more time at a decent standard. 

    But I decided the time had come to buy a shiny new zippy replacement which duly arrived earlier this week with a 21.5 inch, high resolution [1920 x 1080] monitor running Windows 7. However, I find a number of my favourite interweb haunts like this blog, BBC, and Open University sites all look abysmal using Firefox which has been my browser of choice for some time. Pages crunched into stupidly small parts of the screen and tiny fonts only legible using the electronic magnifier supplied.

    Reducing the resolution only made the page shapes look weird without improving matters. Has Firefox lost the plot here,as the dreaded Internet Explorer and, thankfully, Safari both look far better, though the latter still suffers from being slower it seems.

    This has been Geeks Corner, I thank you for your indulgence and any advice you can offer!

    P.S. I listened to The Bloody Podding Shed – good stuff as always, chaps.

    • WorkingClassPost


      Haven’t heard of any Firefox issues, so maybe it’s Windows trying to scupper your alternative browsing choices.

      Have you tried Google’s Chrome browser?

      I’ve found it quicker and slicker than than the others – a bit like us last night.

    • GrocerJack

      I’m with WCP on this. Try the Google Chrome browser and everything should be fine. Like most things Google and Apple it just works. I converted from Firefox some time ago as the later versions seemed very clunky. There are plenty of add-ins for Chrome, including skins, plus if you have Gmail etc it all just works seamlessly. Plus if you use any foreign web sites then Google Chrome offers an automatic translation service.

      And no, i don’t work for Google!

  9. PeteW

    has to be said, that was a sublime assist by Torres, dinking it over the defender – few strikers would pull that off, Shame he can’t keep his head like that when in front of goal himself, or get himself into the sort of position Kalou found himself in. Still, great to see him playing well – but we desperately need a striker.

  10. PeteW

    Third vote for Google Chrome – find the auto-translate facility a godsend at the moment as I wade through hash-obsessed French poets and death-fixated erotica. 

  11. Blueboydave

    Thanks for the advice, guys. Are you sure you’re not all angling for a cut from Chrome?

    My only concern is that, in a relatively problem-free PC switch, my outstanding issue is that my ISP, dear old BT, have contrived to temporarily mis-place all my old e-mail messages and folders in one of their deadly compulsory upgrades. 

    When scouring their user-friendly website for any clues on how to fix this I noticed that they don’t support Chrome and would therefore undoubtedly insist this was causing the problem even though I was previously using Firefox when things went wrong.

    Safari is OK so far and I like being able to use its “Reader” facility again.

    Back to football – while as I said below I’m not taking anything for granted about us reaching the CL semis just yet, have you all realised what a horrible congested end to the season we face if we do?

    We are scheduled to play Liverpool on the weekend of the FA Cup final, so unless we both cock-up our semis [not entirely impossible I guess] we’ll have that game and the still to be re-arranged Newcastle game to fit in before Sky’s “Final Countdown Ultra-Super Sunday” Extravaganza on May 13th.

    We could end up having to play  something like 4 games in 8 days I suspect 🙁

    • WorkingClassPost

      That sort of congestion would certainly test the depth and quality of our squad – could be interesting.

      Another word on your little problem…

      In Firefox, under Edit | Preferences | Content you can set a new default font and size which might help.

      Or, have you tried the Opera browser?

  12. Blue_MikeL

    Google Chrome and only Google Chrome trust me I worked with all of them. It is fastest, the most secure browser. 
    Font Size  Ctrl ++ 

  13. Musumba

    Based on my recent observations Juan Mata seems to be seriously under-performing,its high time he got some stick,his running style has changed and it resembles that of an 80 year old geezer,maybe the pink boots are jinxed but of late he is a shadow of his former self and i don’t see him leading us to CL glory.

      Di matteo has also  work to do on players spotting fancy hairstyles and tattoos.Potentially it  could lead to our  failure in the Champions League especially when playing against teams riddled with professional divers,the Benfica game should act as an eyeopener in the likely event of meeting Barcelona FC .Currently Barcelona have not yet started their theatrics, but watch keenly the likes of busquets transform against us should we meet in the semis. “diving” as a secret weapon will be employed and will be an  added necessity for them to progress.  the fancy hairstyles can be a recipe for match officials to give dodgy red cards.Often i have seen match officials  issue straight reds  to players spotting them.Our players should look neat kempt and genuinely honest.The rockstar/hardcore drug addict like tatoos and the rough looking hairstyles by the likes of meireles essien,malouda, barton ,mikel, balotelli and cisse can make a harmless tackle look like a homicide attack to match officials.

  14. WorkingClassPost

    The games are arriving thick and fast now, like proper tournament footie, and as most of our guys have played in everything up to, and including the World Cup, we should be in good stead for these matches.

    It’s now just a matter of conditioning, motivation, selection/rotation and perseverance.

    I guess the odd a bit of luck always comes in handy too.

  15. Blueboydave

    I see the FA have again recognised the place in the pecking order of their tournament in comparison to the EPL in agreeing that our semi-final should settle for a 6 pm kick off on the Sunday, while the Scousers will have a nice easy trip to London on the Saturday for a 12.30 pm start.

    Time to be an armchair fan, I reckon.

    • Ryan

      Even Liverpool aren’t happy with their kick-off time. It means them leaving ridiculously early to travel all the way to London for a local derby that could’ve been played at Old Trafford (or similar). The Chelsea scheduling is a fucking disgrace though.

      • GrocerJack

        Agreed, the kowtowing to Liverpool over Hillsborough has gone on way too long. I’m sure manchester United have played on Munich Anniversary. And it might not be PC…….but do Liverpool refuse to play on the same day as the Heysel tragedy?

  16. Gleb

    In which case, we need to field the kids, they’ll win us the FA Cup anyway, and the senior ones will get some much needed rest before the CL Semis. 

    • Cunningplan

      If you read the comments and look at radicalevan’s post you’ll see he posted the same link.

      • Blue_MikeL

        I am sorry, but then it is not a crime to post the same link, after all whoever wants to read can read others can ignore.  
        Anyway great win and great game, we have got a bit sloppy, but our resurrection was great. 
        Torres, getting better getting back to form.

        • Cunningplan

          Would have been a travesty if they got a draw or win out of that, they did nothing for 75mins then score two quick goals. Great finish by Torres, struck by a man getting his confidence back.

          And it is a crime to post the same link, Nick fines and bans people who do it. 😉

  17. WorkingClassPost

    Went to see if we were showing at my local dodgy satellite provider, but only manshit on view.

    Stayed to watch a bit anyway, and my disappointment was alleviated by the sight of some random manu supporter going apeshit as they pulled two back in the last few minutes.

  18. limetreebower

    From the club website’s report on the game:

    “… but the game was put beyond doubt when Sturridge broke quickly before teeing up the supporting Torres …”

    Sturridge? Teeing up??

    I’ll be off to church tomorrow for some last-minute piety as the apocalypse is clearly imminent.

    • Cunningplan

      It was a perfectly weighted pass as well, even I had to watch replay twice just to make sure it wasn’t imagined.

  19. Cunningplan

    Also a quick mention to our intrepid podding shed crew, yet another very good hour of listening. Sorry I didn’t post sooner but I’ve been caught up in petrol queue for 3 days, and haven’t long returned home.

  20. Fiftee

    Strange afternoon.

    Ashley has a marr for their second. JT out jumped for the first. And Studge ACTUALLY PASSED to Torres for the forth. Unreal scenes.

    But very well done at a ground we rarely do well at. Arsenal losing gives us the slightest of slight glimmers of a top 4 finish.

  21. Gleb

    Watched the match in Tokyo starting at 1:30 am local in a pub with some random Villa supporters (or Chelsea haters) and loads of wasted Japs looking for a shag. Needless to say I was happy with the result. We actually played really well. Haven’t seen us play that way in a regular (that is, not against the Top 4) league game in a loooong time.

    And offloading Cech is madness. We have all blamed him a couple of times, but the man is a legend. 

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