Valencia 1 – 2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Mourning no longer intruded and Chelsea, just as they did on their previous visit to this stadium, came back to win last night after falling behind. Didier Drogba, the scorer of a fine decider, surpassed himself, but many others also rediscovered misplaced excellence.”

Daily Telegraph, John Ley: “For Grant, the game was a huge test and he did not shy away from making potentially immense decisions. Terry returned just four days after fracturing his cheekbone, while Andrei Shevchenko and Juliano Belletti were dropped to the bench.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “For now at least, Grant will not have to listen to the stories of how Mourinho conquered the Mestalla in April after the new Chelsea manager dealt Valencia only their sixth home defeat in 46 European matches having come from one goal behind. Grant did it much the same way as Mourinho liked to win football matches, with a 4-5-1 formation and a stunning performance from his Ivorian striker.”

The Times, Martin Samuel: “Sometimes it does not matter who the manager is. The pass of Chelsea’s season turned their European campaign around in the Mestalla Stadium last night. Joe Cole made it and, when he did, Roman Abramovich could have installed his new girlfriend as José Mourinho’s replacement and it would not have made any difference. Sometimes the football just takes over, and thank heavens for that.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea rather like life in the Mestalla!”

The good

  1. You have to ask? One game does not a season make, but rumours of our demise have been greatly exaggerated, it seems. The more pragmatic amongst us would have taken a point having gone a goal behind so early on, but then what do we know?
  2. Champions League campaign back on track. Defeat tonight could have meant many things, the increased probability of a UEFA Cup spot amongst them. 3 points from arguably the toughest away game in the group in the current circumstances is a good night’s work.
  3. The return of Drogba and Carvalho. Both demonstrated how vital they are to the team tonight; the former didn’t give the Valencia defence a moment’s peace, the latter almost donated limbs to the cause.
  4. Joe Cole’s pass for the second goal. Wouldn’t have looked out of place leaving Maradona’s boot and frankly if you can’t score when provided with ammunition like that, your name is probably Shevchenko.
  5. Shevchenko remaining on the bench. Maybe Roman isn’t turning us into Hearts after all.
  6. Keeping 11 players on the pitch for 90 minutes. Well, you can’t take it for granted these days, can you?
  7. Liverpool deciding to concentrate on the league this early in the season. We might get to Moscow yet…

The bad

  1. If there has to be a minor moan it’s that the defence, although improving, still looks a little too error prone for its own good. Valencia spurned a few decent chances tonight – someone else may not be so benevolent. A good settled run with JT and Carvalho together would be comforting to see.
  2. Classic Euro refereeing. Some of the whistle blowing was textbook over-zealous UEFA nonsense. I’ve seen overripe tomatoes more robust than some of the tackling that stopped play tonight.
  3. Harsh to pick holes in individuals after such a good team performance, but Makelele is looking a split second too slow on occasion nowadays. And Mikel really wants to stop picking up stupid bookings.
  4. That bump on Carvalho’s head. Looked like one of those Tom and Jerry ones that were usually inflicted with a shovel. Nasty.

Man of the Match

Didier Drogba. Superb in the build-up to the first goal, beautifully taken second; good to have you back Didier…

Final thoughts

Proof, were it ever needed, that this is one bloody strange game at times. A great, and very welcome result. Had we lost, the vultures would really have been circling over SW6 and we’d have been counselling suicidal Blues on here. Whilst I’m not leaping to start choruses of “Avram Grant’s Blue & White Army…” just yet, credit where it is due – that was a hugely impressive result for the man nobody really wanted.

Team spirit may have taken a knock of late but tonight’s result will work wonders; the togetherness in the squad was evident from the reaction at the final whistle. With some key players returning and life slowly getting back to whatever passes as normal down at the Bridge these days, the future, whilst uncertain, looks a little brighter than it has for a while.

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