Werder Bremen 1 – 0 Chelsea

Match reports

The Guardian, Jon Brodkin: “Chelsea went to Old Trafford last season on the back of a Champions League defeat and lost, and will hope this was not a similar omen. They had the chances to at least draw this match but were neither at their most creative or slick.”

The Times, Matt Hughes: “Despite having an impressive squad, Mourinho is short of options up front, with Andriy Shevchenko lacking form and fitness after starting on the bench last night and Salomon Kalou out with a knee injury. Such is Mourinho’s predicament that Joe Cole played as an out-and-out striker in only his third start of the season last night and did not enjoy the experience, being given a buffeting by Mertesacker and Naldo, the huge Bremen centre backs.”

The Independent, Jason Burt: “Conspiracy theorists had suggested that Mourinho may indeed have welcomed defeat as part of some fiendish masterplan to eliminate arch rivals Barcelona who now host Bremen. But such tosh did not bear examination in the face of his foot-tapping, hands-thrust-in-pockets touchline frustration and the frantic commitment to attack from his players in the latter stages of this match. At the end, John Terry was an auxiliary forward, waving his team-mates on, launching himself at every cross. By then, Chelsea were also looking pretty ragged.”

Daily Telegraph, David Bond: “Patently missing the guile of the suspended Frank Lampard, and with Andrei Shevchenko and Arjen Robben kept in reserve for almost an hour, Chelsea struggled to build moves until late on in the opening half, and were constantly on the back foot. Bremen clearly fancied their chances of forcing the Chelsea machine off the autobahn. The English champions were being harried constantly, never allowed to settle in possession.”

The good

  1. Bizarrely, the result. We’re through to the knock-out stages courtesy of a superior head-to-head record with Werder Bremen; Bremen are still two points ahead of Barcelona and only need a draw in Camp Nou in a fortnight’s time to knock the reigning champions out of the competition; and our final game, which we need to win to ensure we top Group A, is against Levski Sofia at Stamford Bridge.
  2. The two Coles. Ashley Cole is worth every penny of the £5m we paid for him. Rarely makes a mistake in defence and his forward runs are invaluable. He’s almost back to his Arsenal best. Joe Cole was his usual tricky self but it was obvious he needed this game. One thing I would say is that his style of play doesn’t seem suited to playing up front, as he was required to do after Jose Mourinho dropped Andriy Shevchenko to the bench. He’s much better getting the ball out wide or in a deeper position and running at defenders.
  3. John Terry’s yellow card. I’m not sure if this is good or bad because on the one hand it means Terry’s not available for the Levski game, while on the other he is definitely available for the first knock-out game. More good than bad.

The bad

  1. The result. A loss is a loss and hard to take, no matter how it affects Barcelona’s chances of qualifying. We certainly did enough to earn a draw, although we were way below our best. Not the ideal way to go into Sunday’s showdown with Manchester United – then again United lost to Celtic and aren’t even through to the knock-out stages.
  2. The ankle injury to Didier Drogba. The Ivorian limped off in the second half with a grimace on his face that hinted at his feelings about recovering in time for Sunday. Time for Shevchenko to produce the goods?
  3. Michael Ballack wasn’t great. Even Mourinho criticised him: “I don’t think Ballack played a good game,” he told a news conference. “Sorry, but sometimes that happens. It’s not a problem, he just didn’t play a good game.” Maybe he missed Frank Lampard? The German also picked up a nasty gash to the back of his calf which could also rule him out of Sunday’s game.
  4. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are lacking at right-back. Geremi again looked okay going forward but was unconvincing defending goal. Ryan Giggs will turn him inside out if he’s selected on Sunday. Paulo Ferreira’s probably a better bet despite his inconsistent form this season.

Man of the Match

Ashley Cole.

Final thoughts

It’s unusual to watch a game and be in two minds as to whether you want your team to score, but that’s exactly how I felt. It says something about my feelings for Barcelona.

Yes it would’ve been nice to go into the final game against Levski knowing we had won the group, but I would rather Bremen had the opportunity to knock Barcelona out of the competition.

We should defeat Levski with ease, although stranger things have happened. It would be nothing less than a disaster if we failed to top the group after our performances against Barcelona.

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