The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Chelsea wrung every advantage out of a victory that preserves their perfect record of wins and clean sheets after three fixtures in Group D of the Champions League. Salmon Kalou scored twice and, as a fringe benefit, Frank Lampard, with the third here, now has his first goal in open play for the club this season. In stoppage time, Luis Perea nodded a free-kick by the substitute Florent Malouda into his own net.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Another good night in Europe for Carlo Ancelotti, another stride taken by Chelsea towards the knock-out stages courtesy of Salomon Kalou’s double, Frank Lampard’s fine low strike and Luis Perea’s own goal. Early on, Kalou was more Clouseau in his approach to finding a lead but he grew in confidence and Ancelotti could soon relax.”
The Times, Matt Hughes: “When Salomon Kalou signed a new three-year contract last week, some Chelsea fans asked in jest whether he was able to put pen to paper at the first attempt. Applying such finishing touches in a neat and orderly fashion does not come naturally to the Ivory Coast striker, but he cast off his nature last night to begin a rout that all but guarantees Chelsea a place in the knockout stages.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “It was a comfortable win against a side low on morale rather than a classic display, and Petr Cech had to work for his third clean sheet out of three in Group D. But a shut out was most welcome after events at the weekend, as was seeing Lampard back on the score sheet and pulling the strings. He also had a big hand in the first and second goals.”
Some may have thought that doing the report of another potentially coma inducing, Chelsea scramble in the Champions League would be the worst way to spend a Wednesday evening. And early on it seemed like you would be right.
Unconsciousness was only averted by the ridiculously loud and frequent nature of ITV’s adverts, which they allude to within two seconds of the broadcast beginning. Squint hard enough and you could probably see that 30 second advert cue throughout the whole match but despite only having 15 minutes to fill before the main event began, ITV somehow contrived to lose my attention as soon as the programme began. I don’t know what it is about ITV’s football and now I’m thinking about it, general coverage but everything seems to be, and how do I put this tastefully, shit. Everything has that Amstrad stink of plasticky cheapness, as if the producers had been shopping in Tesco’s past-their-sell-by-date aisle, looking for items with which they could cobble together a barely passable, let alone professional, TV programme. At this point I should probably apologise to all you Tesco fans out there, but to me, they’re the Katie Price of the shopping world. Cheap, nasty and just far too big, they should be avoided at all times.
But back to ITV. They’re such a pathetic and broke broadcaster that despite having hidden gems such as X-Factor, they’ve had to scale back virtually every other part of their output in order to survive. They’re now down to only one live game a week and even that seems too much for them. I don’t know if Champions League football counts as one of TV’s ‘crown jewels’ but if it doesn’t, then surely it’s time for the BBC to enter the competition or for Sky to hoover up the one remaining Champions League contract. Everything about their coverage is poor; from their ‘pundits’, i.e. Andy “anyone remember my tactics truck” Townsend, to Steve Rider and his suspiciously blonde hair, the frankly embarrassing commentators and finally Gabriel Clarke who loves to ambush any unsuspecting manager at half time with some inane and pointless questioning. ITV appear to have watched a Sky Sports broadcast and wondered how they could copy it except on a budget about a tenth as big as Murdoch’s. So as you’ve probably guessed, things hadn’t started well.
But then I flicked back over to Sky Sports 2. Luckily they had started at five in the afternoon to accommodate United’s visit to CSKA’s plastic pitch but their early start also gave me the chance to revel in Lyon’s glorious victory last night. I had predicted that Lyon could spring a surprise against a Torres and now Gerrard-less Liverpool and in the end Lyon got the result their flair, pace and adventure deserved. Pjanic and Lisandro Lopez may have been relatively quiet and those of you who warned me that Lyon’s patched-up back four would prove leakier than a defence including Ricky Carvalho were inevitably proved right but Källström and Govou were great and Liverpool’s fourth consecutive defeat was eventually confirmed in the 92nd minute. Some have now described another Liverpool defeat as being more entertaining than a rather dull and predictable Chelsea win and despite not yet reaching that level of schadenfreude, I wasn’t exactly looking forward with much delight to another European tie without Didier.
After another defeat without the experienced and classy German Captain, the most interesting debate regarding the team would be how Carlo would line up our midfield. The midfield five could have been made up by any of our 10, yes 10, midfielders or support strikers: Mikel, Essien, Belletti, Lampard, Ballack, Malouda, Zhirkov, Cole, Deco and Kalou. In the end Carlo did spring a surprise by dropping Ricky and bringing in Belletti at right-back. Apart from that it was pretty normal:
Cech; Belletti, Ivanovic, Terry, Ashley Cole; Essien, Ballack, Lampard, Deco; Kalou, Anelka.
Subs: Hilario, Carvalho, Joe Cole, Malouda, Zhirkov, Sturridge, Bruma.
Sturridge Watch: Still stuck on six minutes for the season but he has made the bench.
As for Atletico, well they have without doubt the best strike partnership in Europe in Aguero and Forlan and any mistakes from us will be severely punished.
A bright start from both sides with Belletti providing a couple of neat openings down the right wing but as usual our final ball was poor. Then Atletico sprung into action. Simao brilliantly beat Essien down their left hand side and his low cross was diverted towards goal by Forlan’s header only for Cech to make a good save. And that bright opening continued with Aguero firing into the side netting from a distinctly offside position yet no flag appeared. We begin to get into the game with two or three free-kicks but the delivery is awful as usual. And then Frank scores! A wonderful 40 yard mishit flies over their keeper into the net. But then Kalou has to go and fuck it up with his dozy run into the keeper. There may only have been the slightest bit of contact but if he had run away from the ball as Ballack did then we would be 1-0 up. A few seconds later though we see the genius of Deco. Frank starts a brilliant one touch move by finding Essien on the right wing. He fires it into Deco who turns it around the corner into Ballack. The German’s first time roll across the box leaves the whole goal, yes the whole goal open for Kalou to surely score. But guess what, he misses the fucking target. What a dick.
I may be biased but Frank and Deco made a great start to the game with brilliant movement and passing whereas Anelka looked rather casual and Kalou has just been, well Kalou. Not only in terms of movement and finishing but also in terms of hold up play and passing. So a mixed bag after 25 minutes. After a small lull in the game, I was suddenly awoken by some ITV idiocy. The commentators are talking of how Frank looked so much better tonight in our 4-3-3! Yep, they couldn’t even tell what formation we were playing. That’s how awful they were. We were playing some lovely stuff but again without Didier we were missing that killer touch to get the breakthrough. Although if you can’t score an open goal then I’m not sure you deserve to be winning. And after 35 minutes Stamford Bridge had fallen deathly silent due to the lack of goals. It’s rather embarrassing that no-one sings when we’re not winning at home in my opinion but soon the crowd were on their feet. Frank’s brilliant through ball “with the eyes” (see Ronaldinho’s note book) to Ashley beat Atletico’s defence and his cross found Kalou three yards out with another open goal and this time he just about managed to stick it in. The half finished with some more brilliant interplay between Frank and Deco on the edge of the box but the play fizzled out, much like the first half.
The second half started slowly with both sides giving the ball away cheaply. But just to wake us all from our half-time slumber is a classic Essien leg breaker. Personally, I love them but others seem to think they’re wild and rash. How strange. Anelka then went up the other end and fired a bullet towards the top corner but Asenjo pulled off a great save. The keeper did it again, but this time from a Belletti throw. From the resulting corner however, Kalou powers in a lovely header from Frank’s cross and it’s 2-0. We were cruising but then Aguero scampered away after a sloppy Chelsea free-kick. Terry however found some Walcott-esque pace and caught up to help block his shot along with Cech’s legs. Frank shows some more dancing feet to win a free-kick on the left wing and we were continuing to play some lovely stuff but every time we looked like fashioning a chance either Anelka or Kalou were flagged offside. Nothing much was happening apart from a rash of fouls and then suddenly Frank turned on the edge of the box and fired in a brilliant low drive for 3-0. Goal number 133 takes him past a certain Jimmy Greaves no less. His drought is officially over and the goal was an almost carbon copy of the strike which broke another Lampard duck in Jose’s first season at West Brom (I’m sure you Chelsea nerds will know what I’m talking about). The third goal’s celebrations were then stopped with Ashley and Kalou being replaced by Malouda and Zhirkov to freshen up the left wing. But then we saw something startling… Daniel Sturridge! Yes, we do still own him and his arrival got the biggest cheer of the night. Absolutely nothing else happens in the next 10 minutes apart from a few random yellow cards and yet more offsides until Malouda curls in a beautiful free-kick after Sturridge is fouled after some great skills on the right-wing and an Atletico defender heads home into his own net. A lovely end to a rather lovely performance.
- The performance – A professional yet attractive display from us and seeing Chelsea score more than once in this competition was also rather nice. We again played some beautiful football at times and Carlo looks to have settled on his favoured midfield four of Essien, Ballack, Frank and Deco. Where that leaves Joe Cole and Zhirkov I don’t know but for now it’s working.
- Lampard – He’s back. Even without a goal to round off a brilliant display, his passing, probing and dovetailing with Deco was brilliant.
- Clean sheet – We looked secure at the back for most of the match and kept their deadly strike pairing relatively quiet. Even Belletti looked alright so things must really have been quite comfortable.
- Singing – We heard the crowd sing Carlo’s name for the first time. Yes, it may only have been for 10 seconds but that’s still 10 seconds more than Avram or Phil received so well done Carlo on a successful opening few months.
- Alexandre Pato – I know, not our game but seeing him tear apart Real Madrid tonight only increases the hope that soon we’ll be seeing him in a Chelsea shirt. A world-class talent.
- Atmosphere – Stamford Bridge was silent for large parts of the game and it is strange how virtually no-one makes a noise on these early Champions League nights.
- Offsides – Just a small problem but we were constantly offside in the second half and it regularly ruined the good work of Frank and Deco.
- Cech – 7/10 – A steady and calm display. Displayed perfect handling from crosses and was brilliant at shutting down any potential Atletico chances.
- Belletti – 7/10 – I know, 7 for Belletti at right-back. Didn’t put a foot wrong until his late yellow card for an idiotic kicking away of the ball.
- Ivanovic – 7.5/10 – A rock at the back who complements JT better than Alex and is certainly a better bet than Ricky at the moment. Has a surprising burst of pace for a centre back and will be a future Chelsea great in my eyes.
- Terry – 7.5/10 – Rock solid from our Captain Fantastic and this time no set-piece tantrums were required
- Cole – 6.5/10 – Looked a little jaded after not yet having a rest this season and seemed glad to come off.
- Essien – 8/10 – His leg breaking lunge aside, it was an energetic and powerful performance from the beast. Is wasted there but he’s still the best we’ve got and is slowly changing the role from simply an ultra-defensive holding player to a more creative and forward thinking all-round midfielder.
- Ballack – 6.5/10 – Couldn’t really tell what he did but his class, experience and probably just his presence brought calm and quality to our midfield.
- Lampard – 8.5/10 – A beautiful through ball for the first goal and despite not getting a goal until late-on he was full of creativity and was the best player on the pitch tonight. All he needed was that first goal and I’m sure he’ll now start scoring freely.
- Deco – 7.5/10 – Personally, I think he’s great as a number 10. Some of his tricks and flicks were a little too clever for the likes of Anelka and Kalou but at times he was still able to show off the genius he still possesses. His through ball to Ballack was brilliant and the move was only spoilt by Kalou’s shocker of a finish.
- Kalou – 7/10 – Prior to his goal he was probably on a 4 or 5 as his finishing, hold-up play and passing was awful. But with more confidence and after tucking away a couple of nice finishes he looked like quite a good player. Infuriating at times yet quite good at others. Same old Kalou then.
- Anelka – 6/10 – A nothing performance in my eyes. At times he showed good movement in the channels but he was rarely in the game and I have a sneaking suspicion that this could be his last season at Chelsea. He hasn’t done anything wrong for us but he’s plainly not world class and I’m sure the club will not be offering him a new deal.
- Ancelotti – 9/10 – Set the team up perfectly and his decision to drop Carvalho and Malouda was entirely correct. He even used all three substitutes tonight so a bonus point for Carlo.
- Subs: Zhirkov and Sturridge – 6.5/10 – It’s just nice to see them on the pitch so half a bonus point to the pair of them.
The Man of the Match
It could only be Frank. Special mention goes to Belletti tonight who looked sort of like a defender at times but he still couldn’t match Frank’s brilliant display of passing, tackling and eventually scoring.
This was a near perfect response to any doubters after a poor result, although quite an encouraging performance at Villa Park. As I said earlier in the week, Carlo is one of the best managers in Europe and any calls for his head after one defeat were ridiculous. His Christmas tree is working brilliantly in Europe and I have no doubts that he will lead us to glory this season in either the Premiership or Champions League. Book those tickets to Madrid now.