Chelsea v West Brom

Two very different one-nil wins into the season and the bitching, whining and whingeing from the anti-Chelsea brigade has begun in earnest. Not only is the criticism coming from the usual and expected quarters in North London — “Chelsea never open up, whether they play at home or away … the back four and Makelele do not come out. They just stay there” — but also from the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association, one Malcolm Clarke, who somewhat bizarrely correlates the slow ticket sales at many Premeirship clubs this season with Peter Kenyon’s pre-season claim that “the winner of the title will come from a small bunch of one”.

So it’s all Peter Kenyon’s fault, is it? The ‘Most Hated Man in Football’ is responsible for Newcastle United’s falling season ticket sales, Manchester United putting tickets on general sale last weekend for the first time in years, and Chelsea failing to sell out tonight’s West Brom home game? Okay, I’ll give Mr Clarke the benefit of the doubt on the last point — paying nearly £50 for the cheapest seat to watch The Blues ruthlessly beat The Baggies on a Wednesday night in mid-August is a bit much — but blaming Kenyon for Newcastle and Man United’s poor ticket sales is not only bizarre but downright silly. Has Mr Clarke not given any thought to the fact that Newcastle’s dreadful form under Souness just might have something to do with their falling season ticket sales? Or that Malcolm Glazer’s purchase of Man United may have impacted ticket sales more than anyone cares to admit? Or, God forbid, that hardcore supporters are being priced out of stadiums by ever increasing ticket prices?

Whatever the cause, it’s obvious to those of us with reasonable IQs that poor ticket sales this season are not related to Peter Kenyon’s utterances. To even suggest that they are implies ignorance of the highest order.

Those who have bought tickets for tonight’s match will see the return of Ricardo Carvalho. The defender was left out of last weekend’s win over Arsenal after criticising his manager’s rotation policy in a Portuguese newspaper. Jose Mourinho dealt with the episode in typical fashion and says it’s now over.

“He did what he did, we reacted the way we reacted. He was punished by the club from a financial point of view plus the biggest punishment a player can have when he was out of the team for a big game. It is enough,”? said Mourinho.

Mourinho has made it clear he’ll continue with his rotation policy despite the minor discontent shown by a couple of players. He will relegate Arjen Robben to the bench tonight — a move he says is unconnected to the Dutchman’s criticising of him and his rotation system in an interview — which suggests either Joe Cole or Shaun Wright-Phillips (or both) will start. Didier Drogba will also be hoping to be recalled to the starting eleven after coming on for the second half against Arsenal and scoring the winner.

Two players who won’t feature tonight — and who are unlikely to play in Chelsea blue again — are Jiri Jarosik and Tiago. Jarosik’s loan/permanent move to Birmingham was completed midweek and Tiago is all but a Lyon player after deciding to leave The Bridge in search of regular football.

As usual, predicting the line-up is very difficult but that never stops me from trying: Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Del Horno; Joe Cole, Lampard, Makelele; Duff, Drogba, Wright-Phillips.

West Brom have made a good start to the season after performing miracles to stay in the Premeirship last May, but shouldn’t represent too much of a threat at The Bridge. Back in March a single Drogba goal was enough to beat The Baggies. It should’ve been three or four nil but the Ivory Coast striker had what can only be described as nightmare that night and couldn’t hit a barn door. Hopefully things will be different tonight. 3-0.

Team news · Update

(4-3-3) 23 Carlo Cudicini; 2 Glen Johnson, 13 William Gallas, 26 John Terry, 3 Asier Del Horno; 5 Michael Essien, 4 Claude Makelele, 8 Frank Lampard; 24 Shaun Wright-Phillips, 15 Didier Drogba, 10 Joe Cole.

Subs: 1 Petr Cech, 6 Ricardo Carvalho, 11 Damien Duff, 16 Arjen Robben, 9 Hernan Crespo.

Chelsea 4 – 0 West Brom · Match Reports

A vintage performance saw us move to the top of the table after just three matches. Goals from Lampard, Joe Cole and Drogba embarrassed West Brom. They came to defend but once Lampard put us 1-0 up they had no choice but to go forward in search of the equaliser, leaving plenty of room to exploit.

Lampard was inspirational just days after the birth of his daughter and scored the first of his two goals — and 50th for The Blues — after 23 minutes. Good work by Drogba on the right and a clever dummy by Essien allowed him to fire the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Joe Cole scored just before the break after Wright-Phillips chased a ball that a West Brom defender thought was running out of play. He crossed and Cole put the ball in the net with ease from a few yards out.

Following a succession of corners, the brilliant Del Horno set up Drogba who scored from close range in the 68th minute after The Baggies failed to clear.

Lampard’s second and our fourth came after 80 minutes. Good work from Robben — and a bit of luck — allowed my candidate for Man of the Match to volley past Kirkland to wrap up an emphatic win. Great stuff.

See Lampard, Joe Cole, Drogba and Lampard’s goals here (downloadable zip files).

Proper reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; Sporting Life; The Guardian; ESPNSoccernet; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Times; The Independent; Daily Telegraph.

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