The Guardian, Louise Taylor: "It is several centuries since visitors to Transylvania routinely ran the risk of a slow death by skewering at the hands of Vlad the Impaler but Chelsea certainly did not escape unscathed last night. An already uncomfortable trip to the home of Dracula was tainted by an apparently serious leg injury suffered by Didier Drogba on an evening when Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side failed to score for the first time under the Brazilian’s charge."
The Independent, Jason Burt: "No goals, and too irresistible not to say that both teams failed to draw blood in Transylvania (apologies for that), but a worrying injury for Chelsea to Didier Drogba as they collected a hard-fought, nervy point towards qualification to the next stage of the Champions League."
Daily Telegraph, John Ley: "Transylvania has rarely witnessed a sporting occasion such as this and CFR Cluj, an unknown quantity, equipped themselves well, threatening to claim a shock result with a succession of wasted first-half chances."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "The night’s other score was 3-1 to Roma in Bordeaux, leaving Chelsea tied on points with Cluj at the top of Group A."
Welcome to Castle Dracula
In keeping with the fine tradition and history of Chelsea Blog in bringing innovative styles and totally surreal posts, it seemed only fitting to pay homage to the mysterious myth-laden land of Transylvania where our Blue heroes, our very own band of Jonathan Harkers and Abraham Van Helsings have dared to venture in order to ensure our progress through treacherous and murky waters to Champions League glory. Well, that was the intention anyway, but having sat through one of the most turgid games of football I’ve had the misfortune to watch (at least since the home debacle against Liverpool of last season), I think I’ll abandon any attempt at clever dick writing and get to the point.
- We didn’t lose, although let’s be fair, we were closer to losing than to winning. On balance, probably a point gained.
- CFR Cluj. I reckon they just about make the equivalent of our very own Hull City. Not long ago they were playing in the Romanian third division, which probably sits somewhere just below the Scottish Highland league in terms of prestige and skill. However, tonight they outfought us, at times out-passed us, out-tackled us and seemed to be enjoying the game whereas we patently weren’t. A doffed cap of respect to the plucky Transylvanians.
- Another appearance for Franco Di Santo, who looked lively and comfortable. A doffed cap of respect to Scolari for blooding the young lad sensibly.
- Scolari’s calm honesty. No excuses given, no back-biting comments, no snide remarks about the referee, the opposition, the pitch or anything, just calm acceptance of a poor show, a bad injury and a sharp mind already planning for Sunday. The man is a leader and a diplomat, so it seems. A refreshing change which continues to win me over.
- The performance. If the first half was the footballing equivalent of a runny arse, then Scolari did at least manage to supply a nappy to cover the mess up for the second half. But in the end the stain of a shit performance will always come through, and by the end of an initially improved second half we could count ourselves fortunate to get the draw.
- The performance (part deux). Sloppy passing, sloppy and schoolboy ball control, blasé attitudes, no creativity, no balls to have a go at goal, lack of intelligence, lack of heart and finally a very grim showing.
- Didier Drogba’s injury. A severe blow to the big Ivorian, already suffering from a plethora of continuing knee problems, which as he gets older won’t fully heal in all probability. Career threatening it may not be. Chelsea career threatening… well that may be a different story. A severe blow to our season? Well we haven’t missed him so far and it seems ever likely that Scolari will be forced into further blooding of youth players, and that may not be a bad thing. Not much of a silver lining I grant you, but the only one I could find.
- Salomon Kalou. Just when he looked like fulfilling some promise he comes out with a duffer of a performance that brought tears of abject dismay to my eyes. The only surprise was Scolari leaving him on until half time. But to be fair, during the first half dear old Kalou-less was only marginally worse than every other Chelsea player on the pitch.
- The referee. Both sides looked bemused as the spiritual brother of Mike Riley guided the game into a fragmented and scrappy affair full of free kicks and harsh yellow cards. I don’t recall a single bad tackle.
- Didier’s injury. Early signs are not good and my fear is he will never be back to the brawling, snarling beast we’ve loved and hated in equal measures, but who has been a talisman for the team’s success since his arrival. Injuries like this did for Kerry Dixon, Paul Gascoigne and arguably Michael Owen – all players who never got back to the dizzying heights of their pre-injury careers. Big man, you’re frustrating, annoying. You think too deeply and sometimes say too much. But on your day there is no-one better at leading the line. Get well soon and give us at least one more big performance.
Absolutely no one got more than 6/10, with Kalou getting the lowest on 4/10. Overall team performance – 5/10.
Man of the Match
You’re kidding me right? I’m keeping this tonight for watching the whole game and then finding enough motivation to write about it.
Such was the paucity of goalmouth action during the first half one could be forgiven for assuming the match ball had undergone a conversion to vampirism in the form of some bizarre re-incarnation of Transylvania’s most famous son, only to find the goal posts adorned with strings of garlic. Such was the lack of quality of the balls in from the wings tonight that there’s no way our vampire ball was badly affected by the presence of… ahem… crosses…sorry!
Maybe I’m being a bit hard on the team and maybe my expectations are as far off the reality mark as those poor misguided un-dead souls who support Newcastle, but I really didn’t think we’d be whistling through our teeth with relief at a draw. For Popeye this was an eye-opener into the reality of European football played in little known places, and so I’m happy to share his perspective on the positive aspect of one point gained and none lost. He’ll know that similar performances against Roma would be far less likely to culminate in such a favourable manner. I’m sure he’ll be urging the players to look to Sunday and put this game to bed, that’s what I’ll be doing for sure.
One last thing. Is it just me or are our injuries becoming more and more of a regular feature? Were Jose Mourinho’s first two years just exceptionally lucky? It’s usually the likes of Newcastle who spend all season bemoaning the constant queue of casualties, but for the last two years and now seeming this year we’re becoming the sort of club that should be leasing part of Cobham out as a training hospital. Let’s hope that the wounded tiger lashes out and slaughters its Sunday Claret and Blue prey.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!