The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Predictability was a delight for Chelsea. The side must reduce their opponents to fatalism when they have this durability and efficiency about them. Liverpool, eager as they were in the hunt for revival in the Premier League, were well contained. Hilario, deputising for a suspended Petr Cech, did not have an outstanding save to make until dealing with a Steven Gerrard effort in the last few moments.”
The Times, Oliver Kay: “Small details, according to Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benítez, are what decide football matches. It sounds like the ultimate truism, but, after two of the Barclays Premier League’s heavyweight teams had spent an hour trading punches at Stamford Bridge yesterday, one of them briefly let their guard down and, from that moment on, Chelsea and Liverpool seemed to be heading in opposite directions.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Chelsea had not beaten Liverpool in the Premier League for more than three years before yesterday and the record was starting to get embarrassing. All the usual taunts about five European Cups and Liverpool’s glorious past that are thrown at Chelsea when they play this old enemy can weigh heavy on the bad days. But they were easily dismissed yesterday.”
Daily Mail, Matt Lawton: “Where Torres disappointed for Liverpool, Drogba was simply devastating for the new Barclays Premier League leaders, performing the role of creator and provider with a magnificent combination of strength, speed and skill.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A Gallic double act of Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda gave Chelsea victory in the first big one of the season.”
Some vaguely match-related nonsense
The creators of ‘FlashForward’ could have done worse than to consider the Premiership and its main protagonists as the scenario for their sci-fi conspiracy drama.
Blacking out for two minutes and seventeen seconds might be just the result of another death or glory interception for John Terry, but envisaging the scene in English football’s top flight come April 2010 could be both enlightening and entirely predictable in equal measure.
Sir Alex would obviously regain consciousness from his petit mal, immediately unleash a potty mouthful of spittle and Govanite verse at the fourth official, point at his timepiece and demand at least another minute.
Carlo Ancelotti could well awake with pearls of sweat running over his rakishly arched eyebrow, haunted by visions of a third place finish and Roman’s advisers carrying black bin bags. And Guus Hiddink, of course.
Rafa Benitez’s blackout might have seen him pondering which reserve side to send out for the inevitably meaningless fixture at St. Andrews in order to preserve his key players for another Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea.
Nightmare visions indeed.
Ancelotti and Benitez, two of Europe’s most cerebral titans of the technical area, haven’t faced each other that often. On the rare occasions that they have met, the stakes could not have been higher. Huge television audiences have gathered in anticipation to witness tense, cagey affairs, the outcome of which has been the subject of fevered speculation, discourse and debate.
A bit like the Gold Blend couple, but with more understated eyebrows.
No, I’m serious – watch this if you don’t believe me. Dreadfully hammy brow work from Anthony Head – a mere amateur compared to our Carlo.
Ancelotti is the fifth Chelsea manager to face Benitez in as many years, but has at least been spared the largely tedious half-decade of recent history between the Blues and Rafa’s men. The Spaniard, however, surely knows Chelsea as intimately as David Letterman knows some of his staff.
The usual pre-match pleasantries were exchanged as celebrity gastro-bully Gordon Ramsay looked on in an alpha male and unreconstructed manner with his son who, given his father’s talent for industrial language, will surely get the hang of supporting Chelsea fairly quickly.
Team selection contained the odd eyebrow raiser (right, that’s enough – Ed.); Ivanovic came in for Bosingwa and Deco took his place at the top of the Rotating Christmas Diamond Pyramid Tree thingamajig. Ballack returned after two games out and Hilario took his place between the sticks leaving Cech to sit solemnly on the naughty step. A small group of anorak-clad gentlemen with notebooks, binoculars and a slightly adenoidal tone excitedly noted a rare sighting of a Lesser Spotted Daniel Sturridge on the bench.
Javier Mascherano returned for the visitors to give some much-needed cover to a defence that has looked more disorganised than Tracey Emin’s bed of late. Jamie Carragher stood nervously behind him wondering if Didier Drogba would be the wheel that finally broke his slightly butterfly-esque resolve.
Oh yes, the match. Intriguing affair, I thought. As expected, it was a fairly gritty, tactical midfield-ish sort of contest with occasional outbreaks of passing and chances not exactly appearing in abundance. Flair and the crowd pleasing stuff may have been in short supply, but after a couple of decidedly shonky performances against teams that should have presented little problem for us, today’s showing was just what the physician scrawled on the prescription.
In terms of the nuts and bolts, there’s a lovely review on the official website – I mean, you don’t come here for all that coherent analysis nonsense do you? Well, if you want some detail and comment, I suppose I’d better.
Once again, Hilario didn’t let us down, made a couple of smart saves and commanded his area pretty well.
Fernando Torres was androgynous – sorry, anonymous – up front thanks to Terry and a resurgent Carvalho.
Essien was a sodding great big angry monster in midfield.
Drogba didn’t play particularly well but annoyed Liverpool to the point of apoplexy and with two crucial assists, as the statsmen call them, was ultimately the difference between the sides.
Mascherano, despite two lapses which led to our goals was the pick of the bunch for Benitez’s merry band.
Carragher didn’t look quite as shaky as he has done in recent weeks but shares in the blame for both goals and was, frankly, ruined by Drogba for the second.
Head to head, that makes it two-one to the Italian. The eye(brow)s have it.
- A great reaction to a poor week. Our failure to capitalise on rare United slips in recent years has been part of our problem, so a solid, competent performance and win against another title hopeful leaves us top of the pile going into the international break.
- Top of the league.
- I couldn’t really find fault with anyone’s performance.
- We beat Liverpool 2-0, go top of the league while they drop to fifth and you want bad? What are you, bipolar or something?
Participants will be rated on a scale of Pink Floyd. Look, Chelsea Tony “Glover” mentioned them in the pub and I’ve been humming “One of These Days” ever since (which is no mean feat in itself).
- Hilario – Have A Cigar
- Cole (A) – Run Like Hell
- Ivanovic – Fearless
- Terry – Welcome To The Machine
- Carvalho – Another Brick In The Wall Part 2
- Essien – Interstellar Overdrive
- Ballack – The Show Must Go On
- Lampard – On The Run
- Deco – Signs Of Life
- Anelka – A Saucerful Of Secrets
- Drogba – Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk
- Malouda (sub) – Don’t Leave Me Now
Man of the Match
Michael Essien. To go a bit Stuart Hall for a moment, he was a rampaging wildebeest of a man this afternoon, stampeding his way across the wide open plains of Stamford Bridge bucking and snorting at would-be predators wearing red shirts.
Just as you can never tire of beating Spurs, sending Rafa back up the M6 with his Torres between his legs and a six point gap to consider is surely almost as pleasurable.
Ancelotti called the game well, in my opinion. The midfield was tight and well organised, and whilst they didn’t give Anelka and Drogba a huge amount to work with it was quality rather than quantity that counted in the end.
In his own words, it was “very important to win this game – an important signal” which, despite all the standard “still early days” disclaimers issued before the game, we all knew to be the case.
The rehabilitation started under Hiddink has continued – there may be a few thirty-somethings in the team but they looked as fit and focused in the ninetieth minute as they did in the first. Good signs, plenty of quality on the bench and a great, clinical win against the team that broke our exceptional undefeated home record last season.
As for visions of where we will be come next April, well, you’ll just have to keep watching, won’t you?
- Reaction: Keep on running
- Henrique Hilário proves he is no laughing stock
- Didier Drogba influence proves key to Chelsea’s serene progress