All the focus was on the fans’ reaction to Rafa’s rant and the match was merely a sideshow. Actually I don’t think Rafa ranted; don’t you think it was more of a monologue?
The performance of the anti-Rafa brigade was a fairly typical Chelsea performance. Plenty of hype beforehand but when the time arrived to perform they took ages to get going, didn’t do much and meekly fizzled out. Pre-kick-off there was barely a murmur. On nine minutes some witty souls near me performed a minute’s appreciation of Peter Osgood and at 11 minutes the same for Peter Houseman.
On 16 minutes the Matthew Harding end kicked off the Di Matteo applause but in the West Lower they got boos and derision. To be honest I think the majority of fans are sick of the anti-Rafa brigade. There was surprisingly little anti-Rafa singing but he did get booed when he trapped the ball on the sidelines which amazingly he performed three times. That’s more controlled touches per match than Torres can manage. On occasion there were a few Mourinho songs and on 66 minutes one rendition of “Rafa Benitez, we’ll sing what we want”. Have you anti-Rafas now got it out of your system?
Is it alright to talk about the football?
Team selection saw JT return to the bench but, unusually for Rafa, the inclusion of the three amigos Mata, Oscar and Hazard.
Did we have much to fear in West Brom? Not really, they’re just a one man team and he wasn’t allowed to play under the terms of his loan agreement.
First half was a quiet affair. On 28 minutes, after a succession of corners and crosses not clearing the first man, Oscar floated over a cross that was at the other extreme destined to clear the last man but, just as the words “What the bloody hell…” were leaving my lips Luiz impressively headed the ball back into the six yard area for Ba to tap home.
Second half we dominated and kept the ball down the Matthew Harding end for the majority. The three amigos impressed in short bursts and we do have three very technically gifted players. Frank had a goal disallowed so he remains stuck on 199 goals but today was his 592nd appearance making him our third equal highest alongside John Hollins. Impressive.
Torres and Moses appeared late on. A break by Moses down the right to the edge of the box and a cross to Torres to tap in from eight yards. Unbelievably Torres managed to kick the ball away from goal, effectively clearing it. His lack of technique has now reached comical proportions.
The last two minutes were typically last ditch defending but thankfully we retained our 1-0 lead and secured three welcome points. We can now spend the evening deliberating whether we want Spurs to beat the Arse tomorrow, and thereby keep Arsenal at arm’s length, or whether a draw or Arsenal win would suit us better.
The Sunday Telegraph, Paul Kelso: “Rafael Benitez emerged from the most testing afternoon of his Chelsea tenure unscathed on Saturday after his team completed a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.”
The Observer, Dominic Fifield: “There was a smattering of homemade cardboard placards, and even one banner that looked as if it had been professionally produced, to accompany the usual choruses of disdain directed at the dugout. And yet, at the final whistle, Rafael Benítez could reflect with relative satisfaction upon an afternoon that had initially felt destined to be fraught.”
The Independent on Sunday, Matt McGeehan: “Demba Ba’s 28th-minute goal saw Chelsea return above Tottenham to third place in the Barclays Premier League for 24 hours at least, ahead of tomorrow’s north London derby.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A single Demba Ba goal, scored from close-range in the first half, gave Chelsea a third home league win in a row. The Blues had the chances for more goals, Oscar in particular having a frustrating afternoon in front of the target, but it was a game that only found a high gear on a few occasions.”
I thought for the first half we looked as good as we have all season: the three amigos in particular full of speed and trickery and clever touches and sharp passes. Oscar had a touch of the Nandos in front of goal, otherwise we’d have been well ahead by half time.
In the second half we looked knackered. I suppose one could grumble about Rafa’s substitutions which (like Philippe Saint-André’s) seem to have been written down on a piece of paper before the match and bear no visible relation to what’s happening in the game, but then someone has to get credit for the first half performance so it might as well be the manager. West Brum could easily have scored: it would have been very unjust given our control of the game, but there you go.
I was impressed by West Brum. I’d love to see Steve Clark back at Chelsea. Players clearly love working for him, he’s calm, sensible and on today’s evidence he makes his team better than the sum of its parts … but I don’t suppose there’s any chance of it happening.
As Mark rightly notes the anticipated “bearpit” of Rafa-hating fury never came close to materialising. My impression was that the fans were very keen to show that they wouldn’t be diverted from supporting the team. There were prominent anti-Rafa moments but certainly nothing for the journos to get their collective teeth into. Of course it would have been a different story if we hadn’t A) won and B) played pretty well.
Anyway, we learned today that the players are perfectly capable of playing confidently at home in front of a crowd that’s largely hostile to the manager. If we screw up the race for the top four, it won’t be the crowd’s fault. (Obvious, really, when you think about it.)
It’s a particular pleasure to see Oscar playing so well now that he’s being regularly selected. The kid’s an amazing talent. I’m a bit surprised there isn’t more fuss being made about him, but that’s probably a good thing.
god, please, let lampard have his 200th goal asap, we almost lost points today because everyone on the pitch tried to assist him to score, even when there were much better options.
I made it to The Bridge yesterday for the first time since the QPR game back in January and feel nothing has changed since that occasion.
The “poisonous atmosphere” at home games peddled by the media remains a myth.
As TG has said on here and in the Podding Shed what we have is a flat, subdued non-atmosphere punctuated by occasional half-hearted renditions of general pro-Chelsea songs and sporadic anti-Rafa stuff from small sections of the Matthew Harding and Shed End that are not taken up by any substantial proportion of the crowd apart from the 16th minute RDM stuff.
The much promised George Graham-like mass protest failed to arrive and the anti-Rafa chants were clearly more prevalent in the 2nd half as boredom set in when the game had settled into a clear pattern – we were going to spurn every opportunity to add to our 1-0 lead and West Brom showed little ability to endanger that lead till the last 10 minutes with Lukaku unavailable.
For Rafa to claim in his post-match interview that the atmosphere was much better after his previous outburst shows he remains as deluded as ever.
For me it felt a thoroughly joyless win and I suspect I’ll stay away for most of the rest of this season now.
One for the Kremlinologists among us:
Reading JT’s column in the matchday programme it seemed at first to be the usual string of bland cliches,mostly echoing the bland cliches in the manager’s column on the page before, as per usual. However, I wonder if one sentence in the middle is as oblique a dig at Rafa’s midweek outburst as the Politburo would allow him to write:
“We all want to thank the fans for their great support in travelling to Middlesbrough and not getting back until 4 a.m. That doesn’t go unnoticed by us.”
In answer to Mark’s question, I doubt very much that the anti-Rafas have got it out of their system and they will continue until he leaves – as is their right.
P.S. I see some of the papers are now punting Capello as an interim interim. Should we be grateful they haven’t got around to the now suddenly unemployed Steve McClaren yet?
Regarding non materialised protest. I think everybody got scared that, if Rafa goes now uncle Avram might come. Three points from each game it is all what matters now.
Nicely put, Mark. Decent win – had Oscar been in possession of his shooting boots it might have been more comfortable. Thankfully West Brom weren’t allowed to have their most effective striker on the pitch.
Sounds like the Boro game in midweek might have been the high point of the Benitez baiting – despite what the hacks say and as has been noted on here and elsewhere many times, it’s generally tired sighing and indifference that greets him at home above all else and Saturday was apparently no different.
You never know with Roman, but having survived what seemed like a relatively calculated ‘rant’ including a dig at the board, with two wins on the board after a disappointing performance at Eastlands, I’d say that the portly Spanish lad in the dugout has probably booked his spot until May. Not particularly looking forward to Old Trafford with United getting a couple of days extra rest, but if Jose puts them out it might knock them back enough for us to get something (straws, clutching at), even if it is only a replay. Which we probably don’t want anyway. Oh well…
Interesting piece in the Guardian this morning about what a changed man AVB is a year on from his departure from SW6. Spurs certainly on the up which is never a good thing, but hopefully yesterday’s result helps to make it a relatively straight fight for 3rd / 4th place; their next 3 fixtures or so are arguably tougher than ours and the game against them at the Bridge in mid April looks like it might be the clincher.
As the end of the season approaches, I’m starting to get hopeful (inevitably fatal, I know) that we can survive this latest bout of managerial lunacy without too much lasting damage being done. What the summer holds is anyone’s guess, but the squad and our prominent loanees are looking promising so I think there is (just about) good reason to be cheerful.
Sadly, I think AVB’s methods would work nicely with this year’s squad. But we’d never have won a bean last year if we’d stuck with him.
He definitely appears to have changed, but Bale’s contributions – in the past month especially – are a significant distortion of Tottenham’s true merit, much as VDP was with Arsenal last year. I imagine no single player has contributed as much to a team’s league position as Bale with Spurs, more even that VDP at United and our own wee Mata. Spurs without Bale are a well-organised but pretty run-of-the-mill outfit, and AVB would be struggling to match Redknapp’s achievements without him.
Oddly enough, this cropped up on Twitter a little earlier; I think Spurs would be 10th without Bale’s goals (Liverpool without Suarez would be bottom 3).
Had this conversation elsewhere – the league is generally so ordinary outside of United (and at push, City) that there isn’t a great need to be anything other than consistent; with a decent Mata / Suarez / Bale type it’s not tough to shift yourself up into the top 6 and start looking at CL football. I’m sure Everton would be doing similar if Jelavic hadn’t gone off the boil so dramatically.
Apparently we’d still be 4th without Torres…
I’m glad the media didn’t get their feeding frenzy. but that was surely just down to the result. What the press are incapable of realising is that the the only time the atmosphere at the Bridge gets remotely ‘toxic’ (and that really is a misused term) is when Rafa/the team have loused up another performance and dropped key points to mediocre opponents (QPR, Southampton) or eradicated us from the League Cup semi-finals by persisting with Torres. And none of these occasions has the mood from fans had anything to do with the results.
I wish I wish I wish somebody in the media would make this simple connection! If Rafa hadn’t had such a dismal January, the fans wouldn’t be pissed off. They may even be grudgingly grateful for maintaining a pretence of a title challenge and securing a minor domestic trophy. Those poor results/performances in January have nothing to do with the crowd. Rafa simply blew his probationary period and is blaming it on everybody instead of himself. As soon as we drop more points, the mutterings will return.
of course, the reason the press are happy to go along with Rafa’s ‘it’s all the fans’ fault’ line is that when he was appointed they all said he would be brilliant. A lot of Chelsea fans said he wouldn’t, they didn’t rate him as a manager for various reasons and felt he was the wrong man at the wrong club. We were right; they were wrong. The press will never admit they were wrong, so it must be our fault.
Certainly true that bar Boro, the majority of the ill feeling towards him has come when we’ve screwed up against the rubbish.
Tim Rolls says the mood at Boro wasn’t that negative at all – I guess it always depends where you are sitting. I’m pretty sure that Rafa cracked because the City game made it clear he wasn’t good enough to get the job next year and he was going to be back working at his website for two years.
I was sitting in the middle of the 3,000 and the anti Rafa medley was continuous and loud. Obviously if you’re of the view that endless verses of “Rafa, you’ll always be a c**t, a c**t” isn’t poisonous it’s probably because after years of singing the same to Gary Neville you think it’s a song of endearment.
I’ve just noticed that the photo at the top of this article of the FA Cup winners poster high on the side of the West Stand building is one that still has RDM in it.
Is it an old photo or have they not yet found the ladder for the apparatchik to climb up and replace it with one that whitewashes him out like they did with the squad poster on the low wall opposite?
It was taken last Saturday pre WBA just to prove there’s a lot of fuss about nothing with press just trying to cause trouble.
But the very visible poster on the opposite wall which fans could use to take “pretend” photos of themselves with the squad has disappeared – and wasn’t Dan Levene one of the first to make a fuss about that?
Hardly anti-Chelsea gutter press.
How much of a mention will RDM get in next season’s Yearbook do you suppose?
Jimmy next game on ST please bring banner “Rafa out”
Do not think the coverage would have been the same if it had been Liverpool, Arsenal or Man U
Does not make things nice for the season but winning does count. The Napoli tie was as much fun as a one-off at Istanbul
I think we can safely assume that after today’s self-righteous fury on Purplenose’s part, every refereeing decision will go Man U’s way on Sunday. Actually it would have anyway.
Amazing that Jet Li styled karate kicks are actually punishable by a sending off by most European referees. Somehow in England you’re as likely to be booked for being on the receiving end of a Muay Thai United kick.
They got what they deserved last night.
Not sure what the fuss is about. They all knew the Ref was a Cunyet before the start.
Referee Enforces Rules Correctly At Old Trafford Shock Horror – End of Civilisation as We Know It….
Meanwhile back in our version of reality can I thank the Podding Shedders again for my competition prize. The lumpy parcel with Rick Glanvill’s “Chelsea FC Miscellany” arrived safely yesterday.
” A multifarious collection of the obscure and the familiar” it says in the Introduction and after some enjoyable random dips into it already I concur that I will have many hours of “happy CFC anoraking” as JD put it.
P.S. Need I say I still hate the new “improved” Disqus layout as much as I did last time it was foisted on us. Don’t use the reply button on older entries or no one will ever see them.
Well done the winner!
I agree, Blueboydave. I don’t get why all the major commenting systems think unlimited threaded/nested comments is a good thing. It’s just bloody confusing. To make matters worse, when I select ‘Newest’ from the Discussion drop-down it’s not even remembering the setting properly… I don’t see the newest comments until I reselect the setting. I do like the live updating feature tho… I was notified of JD’s comment while typing this…
I’m considering giving the blog a new look in the near future, not sure what to do with the comments. Maybe Disqus will improve over time…
Maybe we should all agree not to reply to existing comments, then all comments would be linear.
anyone alse here agrees with the opinion of many on interwbz that mourinho was sucking up to ManU after the game, when he said that “the better team tonight lost”?
He did say the same things, when he was Chelsea manager. I can recall our game with Newcastle, which we won 4:0 and after it Mourinho said the same thing. This was only one occasion, but there were more.
Given his rocky relationship with the Madrid dressing room of late, could it not have been a message to them not to get too carried away with themselves given how the game had gone? Add of course Jose comes from a Meditrranean culture where respect for, and deference to, the elderly is perhaps more openly
No, it was just clever mind games for his team. Despite how he’s portrayed he’s a nice guy as well. Why is that so bad? When he’s back with us then he can snarl and spit all he likes. I just love the fact he goes to OT every time utterly fearless and this projects into his teams. I can’t hink of many other managers that can do that.
I think he was being a bit deferential, letting his team know the score and keeping one cunning eye on the job all in one; no running down the touchline this time!
Presumably we’ll be making a bid for Rooney to continue our public duty of providing care in the community for aging and fading over-paid strikers.
I’d take Rooney. Still 3 or 4 years left in him – he’s plagued our defences. Having said that, i think the rumours SAF wants him out are wildly exaggerated by the beloved football hacks we have.
If the red-nosed old goat wants rid of him (and I’m not entirely convinced he does), then for me that’s enough indication that we shouldn’t touch him with a barge pole.
He will of course play against us on Sunday and probably have a stormer which will all be down to Fergie’s managerial genius.
Utterly dismal. I think Mark said the Brentford game at GP was the worst he could remember. That rubbish tonight must come close. Good job we had JTs leadership to see us through 😉 Was Lamps even playing for a contract tonight? Did Hazard have some ropey Goulash? Did Torres even want to be there? Benayoun ffs? Why just why is he even back in the squad? Bertrand is just not looking good enough for us.
That was an embarrassing and shameful display tonight. We have gone a longways backwards. Not even mid table good enough.