The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "This fixture is an exercise in time travel. We may only be in late September, but both teams displayed the desperate ambition of men playing as if the title hung in the balance with just a few seconds left of the last fixture. Judging by the unyielding determination, these sides may be locked together once again in May."
The Independent, Glenn Moore: "It is too early in the season for this to be a seminal match, but for an hour yesterday it felt like it could be. Manchester United, showing the form they have been searching for during the campaign’s opening weeks, appeared poised to inflict Chelsea’s first home League defeat for four-and-a-half years. That would have been a resounding psychological blow worth even more than the three precious points at stake.
Then Chelsea’s resilience, which seems part of their DNA regardless of who is in the dugout, surfaced again. Trailing to Ji-Sung Park’s 18th-minute goal, they had lacked the fluency previously displayed under Luiz Felipe Scolari. But the best teams graft when the craft is missing and Chelsea pushed the champions back by force of will."
The Times, Martin Samuel: "On the surface, Manchester United got what they came for: an away point and the brakes applied to Chelsea’s early-season momentum. Underneath, the draw was worth considerably more, for it sent out a message regarding the size of the fight required to wrest the Premier League trophy from Old Trafford."
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "For Chelsea, a confident start to the season cannot mask the reality that Didier Drogba must return to the starting fold. Nicolas Anelka again failed to impose himself, and missed a chance presented by Joe Cole that could not have been more gift-wrapped had it come with ribbons and a card that began ‘Cher Nicolas’."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "[F]ew in blue leaving the stadium will complain about a point won from this game."
Last week I had a 44 tonne lorry try to put me and my family into an early grave. Days later I’m still struggling with the idea that I’m not actually dead or being fed through a tube. Philosophically it occurred to me that I might be dead and that I now exist in an afterlife. Well, it seems that if I am dead, then I’m either in Limbo or Purgatory and God is an evil bastard who spent the afternoon dipping me alternately into Hell and Heaven. Mind you, Heaven would have a pub called The White Horse on Parsons Green…
Welcome to Hell
- Injuries to Deco during the warm up and Carvalho just 15 minutes in did not add up to portents of glory. This was my first game on my new season ticket and I had been looking forward to seeing Deco’s silky skills. Hopefully Riccy was taken off for precautionary reasons rather than something long-term.
- John Terry. Did all the rubbish spouted about the rescinded red card get to him? It’s just as well his presence means so much because his football today was tainted by confusion, poor touches, wild swings and a general sense of disarray, highlighted even more when Riccy went off. A blip, I hope.
- Paul Scholes. Tackled like the little shit we know him to be. Having said that if he was one of ours I’d have loved his Norman Hunter-esque approach to tackling our midfielders.
- The first 15 minutes. Shockingly out of sorts. Our passing had the directional accuracy of sub-atomic particles after being smashed around the Large Hadron Collider. The players were off the pace and didn’t seem to recognise each other. After Riccy went off it smelt very bad and Joe Cole didn’t help by missing an absolute sitter. Luckily it did improve, but to be fair there was little other choice.
- Ronaldo. Despicable from the moment he came on. Got his just desserts with a yellow card going his way after brandishing an imaginary one to Riley because Kalou made a fantastic tackle on him.
- Mike Riley. I am genuinely sick of writing about what a fucking waste of space this pedantic head on a pole fool is. It’s bad enough that his shorts are so high they keep his neck warm, but he really is the Captain Darling of referees. Pedantic, fussy, nit-picking and inconsistent. Makes Mark Halsey look good. Just look at the way the game ended…
- The ending… Drogba pole-axed by Ferdinand who jumps up and down throwing a hissy fit that would make Violet Elizabeth Bott look like she’s in a coma, Riley then decided that rather than allow us a free kick in a dangerous position, he’d end the game there and then. As we all watched and wondered whether Rio had been sent to the naughty step, and relished Frank lining up to maybe give us the three points, the players started to shake hands, swap shirts, on came the stewards… and the game was over. Probably the most banal ending to a game ever, and certainly the most confusing.
Welcome to Heaven
- The unbeaten home run continues. It’ll go this season, but not to the arrogant strutting Mancs and that’s good enough for me.
- John Mikel Obi. Superb today, barring one daft ‘red mist’ tackle. He adds to what Makelele did because he goes forward with the ball so comfortably and I’ve rarely seen such command of the ball without being flash in one so young.
- The performance in the second half. It would be disingenuous to dismiss Manchester United after their poor start but it took us until the second half to really assert our superiority, much like Moscow. When it came though it was very good and we penned United back for good periods. It would have been a worry if we hadn’t scored but when we did it was the least we deserved for playing United off the park.
- A point gained rather than two lost. United are a good team and against the big teams it’s not losing that matters first and foremost. There were a lot of Chelsea fans getting ahead of themselves on the radio with 3-0 predictions but there are few teams as dangerous as a wounded United and you can never accuse them of parking the bus or playing for the draw when we meet. If we could just get that killer instinct in front of goal…
- Wayne Rooney. Say what you like about his weight, his looks or his choice of hooker, but today he was magnificent.
- The atmosphere. I’ve said it before but they do bring a good noisy crowd with them and it really seems to set our fans off. Well, along with that idiot Riley.
Welcome to my nightmare
- Mike Riley. If hell exists then he will be there. As if eternal damnation, fire and brimstone, and a cackling, gloating, cloven hoofed, horned troll no doubt drinking fine red wine and surrounded by drop dead gorgeous blondes isn’t bad enough, Riley probably moonlights as the Satanic version of the law, no doubt punishing people for being thirsty or screaming a bit loudly.
- Petr Cech: The usual assured display and less hoofing today from what I saw. Harsh to blame him for the goal and made a superb save earlier to stop us going a goal behind – 7/10.
- Jose Bosingwa: Our right-back issues look resolved. Confident and assured – 8/10.
- John Terry: Poor game today and my suspicion is he was injured early – certainly a lot of fans near me thought he’d pulled up. If so then he did well, if not then just a bad day at the office – 5/10.
- Ashley Cole: Alarmingly skinned by Rooney on a couple of occasions but made a tackle on Ronaldo that lit the ground up. Seems to like the extra freedom Popeye has accorded him – 8/10.
- Ricardo Carvalho: His loss rattled the team and the fans and it was no surprise that a faltering start was about to get a whole lot worse after he went off – 7/10.
- Alex (sub for Riccy): How reassuring to know he’s there, won his tackles, remained calm, won headers, took one for the team with a stupendous block – 8/10.
- Frank Lampard: Played deeper than normal but held the midfield together – 8/10.
- Michael Ballack: Some way short of match fitness but still stepped in and did well. Unlucky not to score from a snap shot just before he was subbed – 8/10.
- Salomon Kalou (sub for Ballack): Scored the goal and made one outstanding tackle that led to Ronaldo getting booked – 8/10.
- Joe Cole: Not a good day. Missed a chance after ten minutes that should have put us a goal up and maybe put a different complexion on the game. Busy as usual but far less effective than normal – 6/10.
- Florent Malouda: Hey ho. Good in parts, poor in parts. Jury still very much out – 7/10.
- Didier Drogba (sub for Malouda): Not match fit but a handful for United’s defenders. Chased Neville down for one ball which must be like being pursued by an angry rhino. Neville was relieved to find row Z for the ball, and no doubt wouldn’t have minded being there himself – 7/10.
- Nicolas Anelka: For all the boo boys’ stupidity, the truth is he won a lot of headers and tackles, played a lot of good passes and just needs to find the killer instinct with his chances. When he was at Arsenal he was constantly berated for the chances he missed, but the fact remains you have to be in the right position to miss in the first place. I’m convinced he’ll come good – 7.5/10.
- John Mikel Obi: Cool, calm, collected, composed and controlled. A very bright season beckons for this pot of ‘pure football gold’, to quote a rather well known Portuguese manager who used to hang around these parts – 9/10.
Overall team performance: Slow start, top finish. A loss would have been a travesty – 8.5/10.
Man of the Match
John Mikel Obi by some distance for us. Wayne Rooney for the match overall.
It’s been a weird old week for me, but if anything was going to jolt me back to reality then it was this game. My new season ticket seat in the Matthew Harding Upper gives me a better view of the game and there is a feeling about walking to the ground for your first game of the season that just creates so many different feelings veering from fear to trepidation to sheer excitement. It’s good to be back.
All great sports throw up perennial rivalries, old sparring partners, and the English Premier League is no exception. One of the great things about the comparatively new found wealth of Chelsea is that we have broken the duopoly on the two biggest games of the season being between Manchester United and Arsenal. One might even be as bold as to say the biggest game of the season is when we meet United, at the Bridge, Old Trafford, Wembley or Moscow. It reminds me of such great rivalries like Frazier and Ali, Ali and Foreman, Borg and McEnroe, Leonard and Duran, Prost and Senna, and keeping it topical, America and Europe.
Manchester United are not an old toothless tiger, and we are not a toothless knackered old lion. Old Red Nose has regenerated a team who have arguably usurped us for two seasons now, whilst our very own Popeye Doyle slowly but surely imposes his brand of open attacking football on our boys in blue. Today I saw two fabulous teams who know each other very well go out to win a game of football. The game ebbed and flowed with action and incident and was every bit as tense and passionate as that fateful night in Moscow. And yet despite the alleged antipathy both sets of players shook hands, smiled and swapped shirts. Both sets of fans can grudgingly look each other in the eye and nod an acknowledgement to a satisfactory conclusion in lieu of hostilities to be resurrected another far away day.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!
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