The Observer, Stuart Barnes: “Jose Mourinho has enjoyed the luxury of free-scoring performances in three home league games against Blackburn during his stewardship at Stamford Bridge. Not so this time. The Chelsea manager was left frustrated by his side’s failure to win a game they dominated for long spells and angry that what he felt was a perfectly good goal by Salomon Kalou was ruled out by a linesman.”
Independent on Sunday, Nick Townsend: “Mark Hughes, celebrating his third anniversary as Blackburn Rovers manager since he relinquished the Wales job and succeeded Graeme Souness at Ewood Park, will have enjoyed this. And not merely because his team continued their fine start to the season at such a daunting location. Jose Mourinho had referred in his programme notes to Blackburn as a “competitive team” who have come here to give us a “hard time”. So it transpired.”
Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: “Mourinho lamented the absence of such key players as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. He had no extra strikers on the bench, he complained. Andriy Shevchenko, the £30m Ukrainian centre-forward who scored unavailingly for his country against Italy last Wednesday, made his first appearance of the season and was clearly well short of match practice. Only at the very end of a previously anonymous performance did he swoop on a right-wing cross from Florent Malouda with a far-post header which brought a glorious save, his second of the match, from big Brad Friedel in the Blackburn goal.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “With the talismanic Didier Drogba nursing a knee injury and Claudio Pizarro exhausted from a transatlantic flight, Shevchenko was given his first game of the season. His performance made it easier to understand why he is a £30 million fourth-choice striker. He worked hard but played like he had too much to prove. The nerveless assassin of Serie A looked anxious and impotent: twice he missed free headers from close range and in the first half, with his head down and a heavy touch, he wasted a one-on-one with the outstanding Brad Friedel.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea deserved to take three points from this fixture after controlling the game and keeping most of the possession in the Blackburn half.”
- Unbeaten home record intact; Blackburn weren’t quite the threat we’d expected to our record-breaking run, but given their recent form (and ours), the fact it is still in place is good news.
- Clean sheet; not a performance worthy of a great deal of credit, but for the first time this season I felt that we looked reasonably solid at the back. No real test for Terry and co., but with confidence arguably fragile after the Villa game, a shut-out and a point is something to build upon.
- News that Christopher Samba is OK; Shevchenko’s accidental kick to his head was one of those truly unpleasant moments in football that makes you wince. 8 minutes on the deck and a spinal board is never a good thing to see – the few reports I’ve seen so far suggest he is fine which is encouraging.
- No goals. Brad Friedel pulled off a couple of excellent saves, but the simple concern remains – no Lampard and no Drogba generally means little trouble for the opposition keeper. Shevchenko worked hard, but the service was somewhat lacking (for which a certain amount of credit must go to Blackburn for their organisation and work rate). Yes, the chances were there which is encouraging, but the inability to put them away is a worry.
- The offside decision: in all fairness to the official concerned, from my reasonably decent viewpoint I thought Kalou was marginally off too, but apparently we were both wrong. Mourinho is probably in for a long wait if he thinks an apology will be forthcoming, making Keith Hackett’s recent grovelling look even more ridiculous…
- Robbie Savage. I’ll stand corrected if it isn’t the case, but football’s favourite hate figure seemed to be doing his level best to make far more of the Shevchenko / Samba incident than the accident it was; he appeared to be more concerned with starting a row with the Ukranian (or anyone else within earshot) than he was his own team mate for a while. Sums him up nicely, I feel.
Man of the Match
In short, this (and much of our early season form) was simply not that of a top 4 side. The absentees, Carvalho, Lampard and Drogba, form a considerable part of the spine of a formidable side, but whilst the replacements are generally still finding their feet the signs were not promising.
My concern is the apparent lack of leadership and drive that we have displayed in recent years; Terry has looked far from his imperious best for some time now, and without Essien’s determination in midfield (and even he was quiet by his standards for long periods), there seemed to be a lack of belief on the pitch which is something we have not seen for some time. Overall, we were generally far too ponderous in attack – almost seeming to doubt our own abilities at times – to trouble a well organised side like Blackburn; the Chelsea of two seasons ago would have dispatched such a team, either with a moment of brilliance or sheer, dogged determination – qualities which both look to be in short supply at present.
Much of this strange and beautiful game we call football is about gut feeling, instinct and belief, both in players and in the fans. For the first time in a number of years, I believe that we are starting to slip away from being the near-invincible side we were during the title winning years and last season’s epic 4 trophy push. As a typically fickle football fan, a couple of bad results can do that to you, but my overriding concern is that the players are now starting to feel the same way too. Much of what we have achieved (as any great side does) has been built upon winning the mental battle – having the opposition almost ‘beaten’ before leaving the tunnel – but on too many occasions this season we have given the impression of being an infinitely beatable side. By no means a soft touch, of course, but some way from being a side that can mount a serious challenge for major honours.
If our collective heads drop and the slide continues, then there is a problem. Mourinho has much to think about over the coming weeks.