The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Chelsea are still to win the Champions League but they have enjoyed every other benefit it can offer. This win was permeated with knowhow as Carlo Ancelotti’s side betrayed no signs of agitation even in the periods when Marseille attacked with fervour if not precision.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “After the blip, it’s business as usual. Chelsea returned to winning ways on Tuesday night, showing their resilience in defence and sufficient fluidity of attack and urgency of tempo to account for a Marseille side who failed to match the edge of their impassioned support.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “It was with the cool detachment of a great centre-forward that Nicolas Anelka dispatched Chelsea’s second goal from the penalty spot last night; a reminder that in the early stages of this competition the champions of England can make it look blissfully simple.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea made it two wins from two in Champions League Group F with a comfortable 2-0 home win over Marseille. The French champions made life tricky at times for the Blues, but an early goal from captain John Terry, his first of the season, and a Nicolas Anelka penalty inside the first half-hour put the game beyond the reach of our visitors.”
I’m very excited about this game. Not because it’s particularly important, or because it gives us a chance to get back on track after a defeat against those pretenders from Manchester. No, it’s because tonight I get to watch the game live, at the Bridge, for the first time since we had a two-nil cakewalk against Villa a couple of seasons back and I saw Frank Lampard give the best performance from a player that I have ever seen ‘in the flesh’. It’s also the first time I’ve ever been in the Matthew Harding lower so I’m expecting a good atmosphere. A couple of goals, a chant of ‘Stand up if you hate Tottenham’, and a blowjob from Kelly Brook would make it the perfect evening. Read on to see which two of those wishes was fulfilled.
Unfortunately tonight we would be without Lamps and Drogba, but I was heartened to see that Kakuta gets a start ahead of Ramires who I thought was poor at the weekend. Interestingly (or perhaps not, depending on how you look at it) we had four left sided players start:
Cech, Cole, Terry, Alex, Ivanovic, Zhirkov, Mikel, Essien, Malouda, Anelka, Kakuta.
I was also hoping to get a glance of Josh at some point in the second half.
The first half
As the teams were read out it was nice to hear Deschamps get a cheer from the Chelsea fans; I always rated him when he played for us. I think he probably would have guessed what was coming for his out-of-form side, and sure enough soon after the game kicked off we began to take control of the play. We chose to play it out from the back in contrast to Marseille’s long ball style, and Cole, Terry, Zhirkov and Malouda often exchanged quick passes to cause a few problems. Just a few minutes had gone when Malouda fired in shot which was palmed around the post for corner. This was taken by Kakuta, low into the front post, and Terry managed to get a delicate touch on it to direct the ball in between the upright and the man positioned on the post to stop exactly these types of goals. One nil and half the team hadn’t yet broken a sweat.
Over the next 20 minutes Chelsea where happy to pass away waiting for a mistake or an opening of some sort. A couple of sloppy moments gave Marseille a free kick or corner, but they never really threatened the goal. Terry and Alex were in good form, and in particular JT’s reading of the game was up to his high standard making sure he got to any potentially dangerous balls first before they had a chance to develop into anything that could cause problems. In response we looked to break quickly and a couple of times players were only just ruled offside when through on goal. Half an hour in Essien tried to curl in a cross and it hit a defender’s arms, and the ref awards a penalty. Anelka took it with the utmost cool. He had just a few slow steps, waited to see the goalkeeper shift his weight to his right ready to dive, and slotted it in the opposite corner.
A few minutes after the penalty some more good work by Cole and Malouda sees Flo beat a couple of men, then go into the penalty area and put the ball past the defender only to be blatantly body checked. The ref never looks interested and you can’t help think he would have given it if the one a few minutes before hadn’t been a touch soft.
The second half
At the start of the second half Marseille give it a bit of a go to get back in the match, but sadly lack any real quality. The ref tries to help them as much as he can by giving free kicks in their favour and ignoring quite a few clear cut fouls on our players, Malouda and Essien suffering the most. On the hour mark Kakuta gets taken off for Ramires, perhaps so we can try and gain control of the ball more. In the second half Malouda had swapped with Kakuta, playing on the right, and the sub means Zhrikov moves up the field more and Ramires replaces the Russian in midfield. In the first half Flo, Ashley and Anelka had moved the ball quickly and most of our good play had come down the left, which I guess us Chelsea fans have become used to since a couple of seasons ago when Malouda remembered that he was actually a really good player. After Malouda had moved to the right we’ve looked a lot more disjointed, and now it’s up to Zhirkov and Ramires to link the play on the left and with both of them on a poor run of form they fail dismally. The result is that we give the ball away far too much and just don’t impose ourselves on the game at all.
At some time around this point Marseille get in a good strike from the edge of the area and it looks like Cech tipped in onto the post, but I can’t see any mention of this in the papers this morning so maybe one of the defenders blocked it. At any rate, even the opposition coming this close doesn’t wake our players up and it isn’t until Essien gets fouled and we have a free kick 30 yards out that we get a good chance on goal. Alex’s shot goes past the wall and smacks into the post with the keeper well beaten. With 20 minutes left Zhirkov goes off and there is a sigh of relief from the fans near me. Sturridge comes on to allow Malouda to switch back to the left, and we immediately look better. A neat bit of passing down the left leaves Malouda on the edge of the box and he drags it back to Essien who is running on to the ball and side foots his shot onto the post with the keeper stranded.
Without really getting going we now look better for the rest of the game. Marseille still have a couple of long shots and free kicks but the clearly just don’t have the class in their team to cause Alex and Terry problems. Our last chance falls to Sturridge after a peach of an Ashley Cole cross shapes in behind Marseille’s back line and just needs a decent bit of contact to go past the keeper but Danny doesn’t quite connect. I know he’s had a bit of stick lately but I just think he needs a bit of confidence and he’ll start burying those chances.
- Anelka, Malouda, Cole. All had good games and Anelka did his usual trick of drifting past players and popping up all over the pitch. I was critical off him at the beginning of last year but I am now a firm convert. In particular he and Malouda seem to have a good understanding.
- Zhirkov, Ramires, the ref. To be fair Ramires didn’t have long on the pitch and did sort out one or two situations when he nicked the ball and knocked it to safety but he’s still giving it away far too much. The bloke next to me summed up Zhirkov’s game perfectly by saying he “looked six weeks behind the rest”. Wake up Yuri, it ain’t pre-season any more and you have to sharpen up. It amazes me he moans about a lack of game time because when he signed Malouda and Cole where both playing well. I just wonder which of those two he looked at and thought, “Yep, I’ll knock him out of the side.” Lastly after the ref gave the penalty he completely bottled in for the next half an hour and gave everything to Marseille. He did book Heinze though so he isn’t all bad…
Well I didn’t meet Miss Brook but I did get to join in with the anti-Tottenham chants. I’ll definitely try to get tickets in the Matthew Harding lower for future games as it seems to have the best atmosphere. A quick mention should also go to the Marseille fans who were impressive despite the fact their team was behind for the whole game.
Final summing up bit
These group stage games are often a bit flat and once we were two-nil up the play got a bit more disjointed. However two goals, a clean sheet, an hour for Kakuta and no injuries equals a happy night all round. Bring on the Arse.