Chelsea 1 – 1 Wigan Athletic

Match reports

The Times, Matt Hughes: “Chelsea got what they deserved after a dreadful first half and a lack of ruthlessness in failing to close down the game after Michael Essien had given them the lead in the 56th minute, and now face the unpalatable prospect of United winning the league at Stamford Bridge on April 26.”

The Independent, Glenn Moore: “The tortoise, it may be recalled, beat the hare but Chelsea’s dogged, unspectacular pursuit of Manchester United now looks unlikely to produce a similar surprise. Last night they threw away two priceless points to Wigan’s hard-working triers and are now five points adrift of the leaders with four matches to play.”

The Guardian, David Hytner: “Before the game Grant had said that five wins from the final five league games of the season would see the Premier League trophy draped in blue and white. He must now hope that four wins will suffice.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Humiliation engulfed Avram Grant, cries of “you don’t know you are doing” reverberating around the Bridge as Chelsea effectively surrendered the Premier League title race. It was Emile Heskey’s injury-time equaliser that cancelled out Michael Essien’s opener, and Grant cut a dejected figure as he sloped down the tunnel.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “A late Emile Heskey goal denied Chelsea the points at Stamford Bridge, and dealt the Blues a blow in the Premier League title race.”

The goals

52′ Essien 1-0
90′ Heskey 1-1

The good

  1. I actually started to type ‘three points’ and ‘second half performance’, only to glance at the television and see Emile Heskey volley away any hope we had of winning a third Premier League title. It’s definitely all over now and I must admit to being somewhat relieved. I can’t even say I was that disappointed to see Heskey score because I don’t believe we deserve to win the title; we’re just not good enough, simple as that. Manchester United have a five point lead and a far superior goal difference with four games remaining. They still have to visit Stamford Bridge but I cannot see us beating them on the evidence of recent games. And I certainly can’t see them dropping points against Blackburn, West Ham or Wigan and throwing it away Arsenal-style.
  2. Joe Cole. Introduced at half time and turned the game. He was different class. The rest were crap in the first half but improved considerably once Cole was brought on. It could be questioned why he didn’t start the game.
  3. Michael Essien. Looked close to the Essien of old. Originally down to play right-back again (what’s wrong with Paulo Ferreira?), he was moved to midfield just before kick-off after Frank Lampard withdrew for ‘family reasons‘. Scored a good goal.
  4. Chris Kirkland. He made the difference. Without Kirkland Wigan would have been well beaten long before Heskey equalised. He made some outstanding saves and it was only a slight deflection that prevented him from getting a hand to Essien’s shot.

The bad

  1. The first half. Utter dross. You would not have thought there was a Premier League title at stake – there was no passion or urgency. This can only be blamed on Avram Grant and his complete lack of passion and urgency.
  2. The result. This can’t be blamed on Grant’s decision to rotate the team ahead of the game against Everton on Thursday; the players he put out had more than enough quality to beat a relegation-threatened Wigan. But a result like this had been coming for quite some time; you only have to look at our recent performances. At least our four-year unbeaten home record is still intact.
  3. Florent Malouda. Again, next to useless during his 45 minutes on the pitch. One of the pundits on the Times Online’s football podcast tipped Malouda to be one of the stars of the season. Pah! Still, Drogba was nearly as bad when he arrived from France and he turned out okay. I say give him a chance to prove he can cut it.
  4. Avram Grant.

Player ratings

  • Petr Cech: Made a couple of sharp saves but his kicking was poor. Could do nothing about Heskey’s equaliser – 6/10.
  • Juliano Belletti: Not quite as bad as in recent games – 5/10.
  • John Terry: Not the Terry of old who would put his life on the line for his manager. Failed to pick up Heskey – 5.5/10.
  • Wayne Bridge: Still looks rusty – 5/10.
  • Alex: Did little wrong – 6/10.
  • John Mikel Obi: Composed and steady – 6/10.
  • Michael Essien: Close to his best in the second half and showed genuine disappointment when Wigan scored – 7.5/10.
  • Michael Ballack: Nowhere near his best – 6/10.
  • Florent Malouda: Anonymous and useless – 3/10.
  • Salomon Kalou: Not bad but still lacks a killer final ball – 6/10.
  • Nicolas Anelka: Should have scored. Worked hard in the second half – 7/10.
  • Joe Cole (sub): Our best player despite only playing 45 minutes – 8/10.
  • Andriy Shevchenko (sub): Never has a substitution looked so desperate – 6/10.

Man of the Match

Joe Cole. Changed the game.

Final thoughts

All the evidence pointed to this happening sooner or later. Grant had already squandered two good opportunities to win the League and FA Cups, so why is anyone surprised that we’re now effectively out of the Premier League title race? I was expecting it so I guess I’m much calmer than the majority of fans right now.

There’s still an outside chance Grant will win the Champions League, but I certainly wouldn’t bet on it. Jose Mourinho couldn’t outwit Rafael Benitez in Europe, so you have to think that Grant will struggle. There is one thing on Grant’s side and that is that luck often plays a part in cup competitions; if luck is on his side then we could get to the final. Maybe even win it. Then again.

What is beyond doubt though is that Grant doesn’t possess the necessary abilities or nous to take Chelsea to the next level; he has proved this time and again. Surely it’s just a matter of time before he’s moved upstairs.

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