The newspaper reports
The Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “What with Juan Mata scoring on his debut and Chelsea briefly going top of the table, this should have been a day of unalloyed positives for Andre Villas-Boas and his team but with Didier Drogba rushed to hospital with suspected concussion and another stuttering performance against a defiant Norwich City, celebrations were subdued.”
The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “As Norwich City’s chirpy challenge was finally quashed yesterday, there was a glimpse of the new Chelsea but also a strong suggestion that the transition will not be as smooth as anyone at the club would like. Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaka, some £40 million worth of substitutes, were on the pitch as the former’s goal on debut ended the visitors’ resistance during 11 minutes of added time caused by a nasty injury to one of the old guard, Didier Drogba.”
The Observer, David Lacey: “In the end the afternoon ended satisfactorily for Andre Villas-Boas’s side when Juan Mata, newly arrived from Valencia for £23.5m, scored a third goal in the 10th of the 11 minutes of stoppage time which were largely due to the prolonged treatment Didier Drogba needed before he could be taken off on a stretcher following a collision with John Ruddy, the Norwich goalkeeper.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea made it consecutive home victories after a troublesome afternoon against the newly-promoted Norwich City.”
Today was my first visit to the Bridge this season since last week I watched the West Brom game from an Edinburgh pub. The only changes of note are beer has moved from £3.50 to £3.80, unless you’re willing to buy a four-pack for £14, and the end of the Shed, where it adjoins the West Stand, has been painted blue with “Chelsea Football Club – The Shed End” in white lettering, replicating the old East Stand.
Team selection was generally as expected aside from starting with Torres and Drogba, which is purely pandering to the two egos. This combination is never going to work since it forces both players to rotate and play periods out of their natural position and today Torres took a retrograde step following his bright start in the last two games.
The first half
As the game started I did find the sea of yellow shirts in the corner of the Shed extremely distracting. We started brightly. I couldn’t understand what all the moaning was about last week. For the first few minutes we had the Canaries caged in their own half and after six minutes Bosingwa, continuing his resurrection, hit a great long range shot into the top corner. I was thinking this could be another 8-0 but unfortunately our Jekyll and Hyde form returned and we just switched off and allowed Norwich back into the game.
The second half
No substitutions and more of the same. Sloppy passing plus Torres and Drogba both looking hopeless and toothless. I hadn’t seen Hilario for a while and I’d either forgotten or never realised how poor he was at clearing. He was so desperate not to kick that he threw the ball out to defenders in the most inappropriate circumstances, immediately putting them under severe pressure. My son stated that Hilario is the worst kicker ever. I reminded him that he was too young to have seen Bonetti. Still I consoled myself that at least Hilario looked competent dealing with shots and crosses. Why oh why do I let myself have these thoughts? Within a minute of thinking Hilario was adequately covering for the absent Cech he came out way too far for a cross and collided with Ivanovic, allowing the ball to drop to the overweight Holt to fire into an empty net.
A few minutes later down the other end Malouda put in a good cross. It was a fifty-fifty between Drogba and the goalkeeper who succeeded in punching out the ball but cleaning out Drogba in the process. Drogba was on the ground for a considerable time, as the 11 (yes eleven) minutes of injury time would vindicate. From the West Lower I couldn’t tell if the keeper was malicious or if it was an accident.
It’s unfortunate that it took a serious injury to sort out our formation but that’s the truth. As well as bringing on Anelka for Drogba, AVB also swapped Malouda for Mata. We only had to wait for Mata’s first touch to realise he’s quality. Not since Zola have I seen a Chelsea player bring the ball under control within an instant. The blueprint is clear. To be a top player you need to be southern Mediterranean, not too tall and with a low centre of gravity. Mata lined up on the left, where Malouda stood (not ran), but he didn’t hang around there for long and was soon to be found on the right and in the middle in the number 10 role.
On 80 minutes the ever running Ramires was played through, beat a defender to get a one-on-one with the Ruddy keeper. Ramires side-stepped Ruddy who then clipped Ramires and brought him down for a penalty. The Matthew Harding end took great delight in abusing Ruddy as he trundled off after receiving a red card.
Lampard, who hadn’t done much else, coolly blasted the penalty into the middle of the goal.
AVB then brought on Lukaku for Torres. Lukaku can best be described as Drogba, only bigger and blacker. If I was a centre-back and saw Lukaku running towards me at full speed I think I’d feign a hamstring.
In the excessive injury time a loose pass was seized on by Mata who sped into the box to slide the ball neatly to the right of the keeper.
The player ratings
What does it Mata, the new Zola will take care of everyone else’s failings.
The future’s bright. Mata, Lukaku, Luiz and young Josh all managed by the new Mourinho who won’t gouge your eyes out. Might take a while for it all to come together but let’s all be patient.
As I walked down row 16 to the exit, with the Matthew Harding stand singing “We’ve got Abramovich, you’ve got a noisy bitch”, the canary had been knocked off its perch and the offensive yellow dispersed from the Shed End.