Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City – El Nino Gathering Strength

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Somewhere in a parallel universe, Michael Fish was sitting on the Soccer Sunday sofa, chuckling at the tweet he’d just read.

“There’s a gentleman from SW6 who has heard that the fabled ‘El Nino’ phenomenon has been gathering strength in recent weeks and is due to arrive in London on Sunday afternoon. Well, sir, I can assure you that it’s really nothing to worry about…”

Our recent record against Manchester City hasn’t been good – it’s almost two years since we beat them and the first hour of last season’s FA Cup semi final made for pretty uncomfortable viewing, such was their superiority.

While a draw would represent progress, the need to start getting results against our closest challengers is becoming more pressing, with just two points taken from a possible nine against Spurs, Manchester United and Everton. Arsenal’s win on Saturday lunchtime meant that the loser of Sunday’s game could find themselves as low as seventh in the table by the time St. Jude blew into town on Sunday evening.

(Still above Manchester United, though – things aren’t quite that desperate.)

Chelsea’s starting lineup was as you’d expect – Cahill favoured as JT’s partner at the expense of David Luiz, possibly as a result of his howler against Cardiff last weekend. Kompany’s absence from City’s back four was the obvious weakness in their starting eleven.

The game itself was entertaining, if not as technically impressive as one might expect given the quality of the players on show. Cahill spurned a decent chance inside the first five minutes, while Lampard picked up a yellow for a foul on Fernandinho midway through the first half, with the concern that at times City’s midfield was perhaps too quick for us.

Around the half hour mark, Ramires found Torres with an excellent pass which gave the Spaniard enough time and space to wrap the ball in foil and warm it thoroughly in a bain-marie before slotting it past Joe Hart. He blasted it over the bar.

Nervous looks were exchanged amongst a few of us in the Matthew Harding Upper. Oh no, he’s either going to vanish or go barmy and scratch someone again.

How wrong we were. Fernando channelled his inner Howard Beale and yelled “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” Or at least that’s what I’m describing it as for purely dramatic purposes. He picked up the ball out wide and went past Clichy as though the Frenchman’s boots were nailed to the floor and crossed for Schurrle to tap home. With only the post/bar denying him a spectacular second a few minutes later, Torres was putting in the kind of performance that typified his spell in a red shirt, rather than a blue one.

The second half started around five minutes after the whistle went as far as Chelsea were concerned. Nasri found Aguero lurking in between Terry and Cahill and the Argentine wasted no time in losing the latter, hammering the ball past a slightly flapping Cech. The next forty minutes or so were fairly even, with both teams having their fair share of chances, Chelsea arguably edging it as the better side after Mikel’s introduction just after the hour mark.

While fans on both sides were getting used to the idea of a draw – a fair result for all concerned – Joe Hart and Matija Nastasic decided it was time to hop into football’s equivalent of the exploding clown car and give everyone a good chuckle to ease the tension. Torres went past the ensuing chaos like a greased whippet, chasing down the ball like a man with redemption on his mind. The collective breath was held – it’s a narrow angle, Demichelis is getting back…

2-1. Pandemonium reigned in the stands while City’s players buried their faces in the turf and Joe Hart’s already battered reputation was dragged into the car park for yet another kicking. Mourinho burst past the City bench to celebrate with his son (sat just behind the away dugout, apparently) and however many Chelsea fans that landed on top of him during the frenzy. Manuel Pellegrini took umbrage and added another tedious chapter to Handshakegate, marching down the tunnel with a face like a man discovering that there is no toilet paper a second or so too late.

(It should be noted that across town around the same time, another Portuguese chap was criticising the residents of Quiet Hart Lane for their lack of support. I’ll never work out why we didn’t really warm to him down in SW6.)

So how did you solve a problem like Fernando, Jose? [Tweet this]

For the last three years, it’s been difficult to think of a less fitting nickname than Fernando Torres’s ‘El Nino’ moniker. Less a powerful force of nature, more a man playing as though he had a nasty case of trapped wind.

His performance yesterday was a revelation – quick, direct, willing to take on players and to shoot, all aspects that have been sorely lacking since his eye-wateringly expensive move down to civilisation. True, he has been impressive in recent weeks (months, actually – HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED played a part in the player’s rebirth), but the overriding concern has always been that you couldn’t rely on him to deliver in big games. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this season is that his best performances have come against the better sides. All about intensity and training, it seems.

To suggest that Mourinho’s management has worked wonders for the boy Fernando is understatement in the extreme – this is practically alchemy and long may it continue. At this rate, Bruce Buck need not worry about the budget for the CFC Christmas party – just hand Jose a couple of sea bass and some pain rustique (Waitrose, of course) and he’ll knock up a spread that would leave ‘Fatty’ Foulke refusing the last After Eight.

Retiring to the pub, we considered a recent football truism – that Schurrle is a fine player but he can’t score for Chelsea – and an age-old one, namely that Torres is finished and beyond saving. Much easier to consider that one’s opinions on the game are largely inaccurate most of the time when you’re doing it through the bottom of a glass with three points in the bag. There’s also a warm feeling that football is much more fun than it has been in some time down in our corner of West London.

And so we find ourselves in second in the Premier League on goal difference after passing the first real test in the League this season – trips to Arsenal in the Fizzy Bad Credit Cup (or whatever it’s called these days) and Newcastle lie ahead. Bring them on…

Press Reports

The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “On a day when Joe Hart and Jose Mourinho both ended up out of their areas, Fernando Torres ended up back in a place he looked to have left long ago. Playing with strength and speed, preying on opponents’ mistakes, Torres evoked memories of his predatory Liverpool days with an accomplished performance here. Still only 29, with three or four good years ahead of him, Torres can be a vital force for Chelsea if he repeats such displays as this. There was a bad miss but otherwise so much to admire in the powerful way he created André Schürrle’s goal, in the way he cut in from the left to hit the post, and how he kept hunting chances and his persistence was rewarded with the injury-time winner to erase the memory of Sergio Agüero’s majestic equaliser.”

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Torres’s name was chanted all around, the chorus persisting as José Mourinho extricated himself from the crowd behind the visitors’ dug-out where he had apparently dived – much to Manuel Pellegrini’s disgust – to celebrate with his son, José Jr. This was the second week running the Portuguese has ended up in the crowd ­following last week’s dismissal against Cardiff City, but this time he was not the centre of attention. That was reserved for Torres alone.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “For Jose Mourinho, this was a major result, one of those that, over the course of the season, might just prove decisive. His team are still second, two points behind Arsenal, but they have their first major scalp of the season against one of the title contenders. That was why Mourinho celebrated by climbing into the supporters behind the benches in search of his son Jose junior, he said later, who has been allocated a season ticket behind the away dug-out.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A 90th-minute Fernando Torres goal secured a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in what was an entertaining afternoon in west London. The game appeared to be heading for a draw after Andre Schurrle’s first-half opener had been cancelled out by Sergio Aguero three minutes into the second half, but Torres, a constant thorn in the side of the City defence, pounced on a mix-up between Matija Nastasic and Joe Hart right at the death to seal a fifth successive victory for Jose Mourinho’s side. It’s now eight games unbeaten for the Blues as we go from strength to strength. A first victory of the season over a direct rival will aid the confidence in the group no end and we can now look forward to two away games on the horizon, starting with a trip to Arsenal on Tuesday in the Capital One Cup, which is followed by a Premier League game at Newcastle United next Saturday lunchtime.”

Goals

33′ Schurrle 1-0
49′ Aguero 1-1
90′ Torres 2-1
Match of the Day highlights

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There are 22 comments

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  1. Blueboydave

    Topical weather references and a potential well-know supermarket product placement sponsorship deal – splendid, indeed, JD.

    There are few things more satisfying than beating one of our title rivals with a last minute winner, especially when combined with comedy defending and the possible extension of Angry Nando into some sustained half decent EPL form.

    Kudos, too, to Dan Levene who got a musical reference/ Lou Reed hommage into his Twitter comments – “It’s such a perfect day – I’m glad that Chelsea scored two” 🙂

    • GrocerJack

      Interesting, and I’d suggest it’s a very clever marketing campaign for one of the big sponsors, using the twitter hashtag #WINNERTAKESEARTH, and aided by Der Kaiser himself in this bizarre video

      http://goo.gl/JOC4gG

      All jolly good fun, but admittedly the hooded figures are slightly creepy!

      • Blue_MikeL

        I think so too, it seems to be some sort of PR campaign. After all it is not easy to secure 11 tickets in one row in such central fixtures and then to do all this stuff with footballs. Interesting who is promoting and what.

  2. GrocerJack

    Fine stuff JD as ever. I thought it was the best game I’ve seen at SB for some years now, and I also think we saw the best 2 teams in the PL on display yesterday. City at times can be awesome, and Silva/Aguero as a partnership would be nightmare inducing if your back 4 were all exact clones of Bobby Moore with twice the speed and twice the footballing intelligence. But we were their equal and at times we played some delightful stuff. Man of the Match was Torres and despite less than sparking displays from Hazard and Oscar we were for the most part a decent match for City. Zabaleta was simply superb in quieting Hazard down, the first I’ve seen do this with any success. I do think defensively we have the edge, and as much as love Luiz, I think the Cahill/Terry partnership is less ‘leaky’. I disagree with our friend Peter Watts that Cahiil is no good, the boy is a future JT, and for me and England captain in waiting. A few of observations…Cech is great keeper but an increasing liability and really is rubbish at owning the 6 yard box, far too flappy and at one late stage opted for a punch when a catch was just as easy. Aguero’s shot was great for the equaliser but Cech barely moved and I expect better from a top line keeper. On another note, the battling quality we remember from Jose’s CFC Mk1 is back. It’s been missing under just about every coach since, but yesterday, even after the equaliser the attitude for the battle from the team was top notch, and notably Ramires who chased just about everything, tackled fearlessly. I think the fine Joe Tweeds (@JoeTweeds) said it best on Twitter with “Ramires must have been wearing some MC Hammer pants to fit Yaya Touré in his pocket all game.”. I’ll cover the last point/observation in the next TPS (postponed due to illness and an AWOL) but effectively its my joy at Jose deploying a player to the centre circle when we concede a corner. We haven’t seen that since his last tenure, but it draws at least 2 opposition from the box and leaves a great break threat. I’m confused as to why Scolari, Ancelotti, Hiddink, AVB, RDM or FSW never deployed this. I believe yesterday puts us exactly on a par with 2004/2005, and as Pete says…surely just coincidence?

    • Der_Kaiser

      I’d have preferred Luiz for the City game, I think. I like Cahill – he doesn’t make glaring errors as DL is capable of but I think it’s the small, less noticeable ones that catch him out. All hypothetical, but I don’t think Luiz would have lost Aguero for their goal in the way that Cahill did.

      But, in Jose we trust and all that – if he’s picking Cahill for a game like that then he must have good reason to do so.

      • PeteW

        I wouldn’t say Cahill is no good, just that he isn’t world class (and he’s not close to where Terry was at the same point in his career). I said the same as JD last week that Cahill is a regular 7/10, making a number of small mistakes, while Luiz will drop the less frequent more embarrassing howler.

        I don’t blame anybody for the goal City scored mind, it was great movement and a good hit.

        I’m really not a great fan of Luiz either. Undeniably a remarkable talent but I would snap up £30m if anybody were seriously offering it and get somebody who can concentrate for 90 minutes at half the price.

        • GrocerJack

          Never ending debate really. I like Cahill, think he’s been as good as anyone in the PL and most of Europe and we got him for a snip. Under JM I’m convinced his ability will escalate, as I suspect we’ll see with some other players – JM just has that way of making the players see themselves as better than they once believed. Looking around the PL, I don’t see anyone better than Luiz or Cahill, bar possibly Kompany (who I once referred to as a journeyman but have had to swallow a huge slice of humble pie on since). As for the City goal, yes it was a blinding strike but still I expect more from a top line goalkeeper. Not sure many others would catch Aguero when he’s in that mood. A super player and one we should rue not signing when he was available. Looking around the papers today i notice barely anything is being made of ‘handshakegate’ or JMs leap of delight into the crowd. Can’t see tonights game sadly as I’m out so it’s Twitter for me again. But the WongaQuickQuid Cup or whatever it is is a decent trophy to win and as I recall it was Jose’s first and one which subsequently fired the teams belief that nothing was impossible.

          • Cunningplan

            I think we’re being a bit hard on Joe Hart, the reason for his mistake was quite clear he had shampoo in his eyes, could happen to most keepers with hair.

  3. GrocerJack

    I’d also say I still think City are slightly ahead of us for the title this year, or I did until I saw the rather flaky post match reaction of Pellegrini. No handshake? One can imagine the furore in the media if Jose had refused to shake pellegrini’s hand. And then his nonsense post match interview which had a touch of the Mancini sulks about it. Maybe the pressure is already telling, but he wasn’t quite the urbane smooth talker the suit might lead you to believe. In fact the media are seemingly hell bent on highlighting Jose’s ‘provocative’ celebrations with the home fans. Personally it just shows me that he is really ‘one of us’ more than any other coach before or since his last reign. It’d be interesting to know the FA’s thoughts on the debate between the rights and wrongs of a manager celebrating with the fans of his own accord, and the difference to him being sent into the fans by the referee (as happened the week before). As you say JD, the whole sense of fun has come back to Stamford Bridge. It’s been sorely missed.

    • Cunningplan

      I certainly agree with you with regard City and Pellegrini Tony, and his petulance at the end of the match did him no favours. I don’t see him any better than Mancini, and perhaps you could say he’s not as good, when did he last win anything?

      I get the impression City appointed him on the back of his CL semi final against Dortmund, much like we appointed Ranieri on the back of his results against Barca in Spain, I’d be more concerned about City if they had Klopp in charge with those players.

      No doubting the resilience and hard work ethic is oozing back into our lot, and I feel we could and should win something this season, lets hope it’s the PL

      • Der_Kaiser

        Odd one, is Pellegrini – good coach, but they’ve lost 3 league games already this season which doesn’t scream title winners even at this early stage. Thought his approach to playing Bayern was pretty naive and they need Kompany back pretty sharpish to restore a bit of order at the back. He’s got a big decision to make re Joe Hart too.

        Think he did pretty well in Spain overall – not winning anything there is maybe a harsh yardstick to judge him by given the Barcelona / Real duopoly, but I thought he was a strange choice for City then and I haven’t seen much to change my mind since. Very surprised they didn’t offer Jose the moon and the stars – imagine him with that squad…

        *shudder*

        • Cunningplan

          Yes perhaps I was a bit harsh judging him on his tenure in Spain. Although he did spend a year at Real, and should have been capable of winning a domestic cup with those players, just like Jose did in his first season.

          And “shudder” indeed with Jose in charge of Citeh.

          • Seb

            Pellegrini hated TSO already in Spain. Since TSO took over Real from him in 2010, it has been a cold war between them. I remember TSO saying that if Real get rid of him, he would never go to coach Malaga, but he’ll go to one of the big clubs in the PL or in Italy. Beng!
            For me, personally, TSOs celebration was over the top, bit pathetic really. Apart from that he is God himself.

  4. Cunningplan

    On a side note, I’ve never bought Four Four Two magazine before but Novembers issue caught my eye today because Jose was on the cover. I parted quite quickly with a five pound note and got 40p change and a magazine. I can heartily recommend a quite fascinating read and interview with the man himself, superb stuff.

    I’m sure it will eventually end up on the interweb but it’s not there at the moment, so go spend a fiver you tight sods, and enjoy.

    • GrocerJack

      How dare you imply we’re tight. I’d come after you but the neck brace I have to wear after dropping 50p and bending down so quickly it hit my neck, doesn’t come off for a week……..

      • Cunningplan

        I suppose you’d be one of those people that would claim whiplash in a car accident. 😉

        I will add Mrs. CP thinks whiplash is a load of bollocks.

  5. Blue_MikeL

    Speaking about Arsenal game. I am extremely surprised how easy it was. I still have very strange feeling after this game.

      • Blue_MikeL

        Well, it is difficult to hide, but a game like this might actually arouse from deep slumber. Hopefully it will happen with this blog.


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