The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: "The grind goes on. Chelsea’s latest league victory chiselled from stubborn opponents has hoisted Luiz Felipe Scolari’s above Liverpool and into second, though this occasion’s most raucous cheer was reserved for Wigan’s equaliser at a distant JJB stadium rather than anything conjured by the hosts."
Daily Telegraph, John Ley: "Chelsea set up an enthralling trip to Anfield on Sunday when, on a nervous, rain-soaked night at Stamford Bridge, Salomon Kalou scored twice to take his side back into second place, thanks in part to Liverpool’s failure to beat Wigan."
The Times, Alyson Rudd: "Although some of the chances spurned by Chelsea were laughable, others pitiful and several plain unlucky, Luiz Felipe Scolari would have been more interested in his first clean sheet in seven games last night and that it leaves his side well prepared psychologically for the visit to Anfield on Sunday. Two second-half goals from Salomon Kalou condemned Middlesbrough to yet more misery at the foot of the Barclays Premier League but livened up the title race – particularly in the light of Liverpool’s draw away to Wigan Athletic."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "As Luiz Felipe Scolari jabbed his finger in the direction of the Middlesbrough bench and had to be restrained by the fourth official, it looked at one point as if, to paraphrase a famous chant, Big Phil was cracking up. But after the pressure came Salomon Kalou’s goals which gave Chelsea victory last night and now a remarkable moment awaits Scolari."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "Chelsea recorded an important victory at home to a defensively set Middlesbrough thanks to two second-half Salomon Kalou goals."
Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width
I was in the East Upper Row 31 Seat 195. That may mean nothing to you but cast your mind back to one of those films or documentaries featuring Tibet, or some such place near the roof of the world, where the slow moving yak train plods wearily up the narrow twisting path that hangs over an enormous ravine. Every so often the yak driver will gaze upwards to a point in the distance where a ramshackle wooden structure clings perilously to the mountain-side. Thus it was last night for me. This seat is right at the back of the East Stand, two in from the south east corner of the stadium. You can’t see the replay screens and chunks of the game pass you by as you regularly pass out due to the altitude. So forgive me if this report does not coincide with what really happened down there on the grassy plain.
The game followed a familiar pattern. ‘Boro massing in defence with no ambition while the match was scoreless. We were neat and tidy in possession, showing plenty of endeavour but rarely troubling the keeper from open play.
Cole did have a decent chance in the first 15 minutes when heading into the side netting at the far post but the remainder of our few clear chances came from set pieces. We got good contact on a couple of corners and free kicks against a team whose defence against the set piece was appreciably worse than our own in recent weeks.
The crowd were trying to get behind the team early on but as the first half wore on the atmosphere was becalmed, with very little incident to encourage a noisy response from the supporters.
Drogba came on for Malouda in the second half and did look interested, going on a couple of bullocking runs but then shooting tamely when for once we had ‘Boro’s defence out of shape and runners going into the box. He seems to veer between disinterested one game and doing it all on his own the next.
It was no surprise that both goals came from set pieces and Kalou, who I thought had a decent game took them both well, he could have had a couple more but is still a little erratic in front of goal.
It was only when we went one up that ‘Boro came out of their shell and that gave the front three the chance to get some space and run at their defence.
As to our own defence, there was very little threat and when ‘Boro did have any set pieces the delivery was so poor that they didn’t threaten. For the purists among you, I think we are back to a man to man set up.
Cech had everyone on the edge of their seats when he came a long way for a couple of high balls but got there and punched well. However I still sense that we lack organisation at the back. Despite ‘Boro only having a few forays forward there were times when no-one went to the ball carrier, Cole particularly seemed easy to get around and there were gaps and players in free space if their colleagues only had the wit to spot them.
What I came away with from the night’s proceedings was the indelible impression that while we are reasonable in possession, seem to have a pattern we want to play to, there is an aversion to getting the ball wide or moving the ball rapidly from one side to the other. So defences are never in two minds, they can see the ball and know the direction it’s going to come at them. Even if we have a player out on the touchline, the full back can tuck in knowing that if the ball goes there he will have time to close down and needn’t worry that there’ll be an overload. Because while we do park a player out on the touchline, be it the full back or an attacking player they will never be there together. Even if you lack pacy wide men you can still use width by getting numbers out wide. That’s what Manchester United did in the Beckham era to buy him a yard of space.
Remember the goals against Stoke? Lampard put the ball behind the full back. There were times last night when we could have done the same thing but didn’t. So we don’t put doubt into the minds of defenders.
There were phases last night that cried out for a Lebeouf type figure at the back who could quickly change the angle of attack with an accurate long ball out wide. It never happens now.
To me the patterns seem too set. We ignore the man in space too often for it to be poor vision of the part of the players. Surely we should use the best outlet and change the angle of attack more quickly. That’s my major whinge at the moment. I guess I’m seeing what the regulars have been watching for large parts of the season.
But I did enjoy it, a win is a win and events elsewhere only served to increase the warm feeling that three points brings. There is a spirit in the side and I didn’t feel that anyone played really poorly. I thought Malouda started brightly but got clattered twice and then faded. I wonder if teams know that if they hit him hard early they can take him out of the game? Bosingwa was very subdued I thought. But it’s his first season in the Premier League and perhaps a dip in form is not surprising.
So to player ratings and in honour of our visitors from Teesside, home to a large chunk of what there is of Britain’s chemical industry, I thought I would use the some of the varying densities of Polyethylene. Players will be rated against the following scale with MDPE being the average.
– High Density Polyethylene HDPE
– High Density Cross-Linked Polyethylene HDXLPE
– Cross-Linked Polyethylene XLPE
– Medium Density Polyethylene MDPE
– Low Density Polyethylene LDPE
– Linear Low Density Polyethylene LLDPE
– Very Low Density Polyethylene VLDPE
Thus a load of trash would get you Very Low Density Polyethylene (VLDPE), a stellar performance High Density Polyethylene (HDPE).
- Petr Cech – MDPE – little to do but was secure.
- Jose Bosingwa – LDPE – didn’t deem to get into the game in his usual fashion.
- Alex – MDPE – did nothing silly, helped create the first goal.
- John Terry – MDPE – steady but no more.
- Ashley Cole – XLPE – offered a threat going forward, too easily beaten once or twice.
- John Obi Mikel – MDPE – did a job, but too many touches when the ball needs to move quickly.
- Michael Ballack – XLPE – got about the place in an unspectacular fashion.
- Frank Lampard – XLPE – tried to drive things but didn’t use his full range.
- Salomon Kalou – HDXLPE – tricky, lively, two good finishes.
- Florent Malouda – LDPE – started well and then faded again.
- Nicolas Anelka – MDPE – started to shine when he got space second half.
- Didier Drogba (sub) – XLPE – made an impact, he’s a striker so he’s too selfish sometimes.
- Deco (sub) – MDPE – too little time to tell.
- Miroslav Stoch (sub) – MDPE – too little time to tell.
So it’s all set up for the big game on Sunday. We have to keep eking out the wins. Let’s look to the wide open spaces.
Right yak driver let’s go.
And you’re right limetreebower, the man with the mic is a cock.