The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Carlo Ancelotti must be tempted just to cling to the positives. Group F has been secured, Chelsea having claimed five successive wins at this stage of the Champions League for the first time ever, and the slump that had seen them suffer consecutive league defeats has been arrested. There, however, the plus-points end.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “This success summed up the Chelsea of recent weeks: only two goals from 31 attempts, traces of uncertainty detectable, a shortage of leaders, all eyes on the musical chairs in the dugout but an enduring togetherness in the team’s DNA. Chelsea are riding the storms.”
The Independent, Mark Fleming: “This unimpressive victory over MSK Zilina proved little, except that Chelsea’s squad desperately needs strengthening in January. Ancelotti has been made to work this season with the smallest squad in the Premier League, after owner Roman Abramovich decreed costs must be reduced and senior players were shown the door.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea will be a top seed in the Champions League draw after a sturdy second-half recovery following a shock goal conceded in the first half.”
Very interesting to watch. It really makes me hope that Carlo will play similar teams in the FA Cup.
Basically what you saw was the difference between a training exercise/reserve game and a proper match.
When the whistle blew you could see the kids carefully passing it around. Pass pass pass pass pass pass pass. Run into a bit of space, get the ball, pass. Lose possession, get it back, pass a bit more, inch forward, face a packed defence, pass around sideways and backwards, pass pass pass pass pass oh crap we lost the ball, start again.
And when the whistle blew for the start of the second half you saw them trying actually to win a game.
In retrospect that will have done them a world of good. Learning the difference between playing “good football” like you’re taught and playing with competitive intensity and a dominating tempo has got to be one of those things you can’t really “get” until it’s happening around you.
Josh, for example, was totally transformed, from the nervous self-conscious player of the first half who was so tight he kept under-hitting passes, to the instinctive playmaking no. 10 we all hope he’ll be. He was superb for the second 45.
But for me the real winner of the night was Van Aanholt. Like everyone else he was tentative and timid in the first half, but once the team started going for it he was Cashley Mark II. And he nearly scored the best debut goal since … oh, I don’t know. Mutu?
It’s going to take time. We all know Kalou couldn’t have had anything like that effect on a game two years ago.
“I was disappointed at half time because here was an important game, here was an important moment and we wanted to win, we wanted to arrive in the first place.
“We did not play well, we played too slow and without intensity and without tempo. We gave the opportunity to Zilina to control their defensive positions.
“Immediately [after half-time] we changed our behaviour and we played well second half. I changed something, I took off Kakuta and brought on Kalou to play with two wingers and Drogba and Sturridge in the middle, and we changed the intensity of the play. This was the difference and we had a lot of opportunity to score.
“If we play like the first half it is impossible to win the Champions League. If we play like the second half we can have some chance.”