Chelsea 2 – 0 Sunderland

Match reports

Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: “Chelsea, deprived of Didier Drogba, beat a passive Sunderland team without panache or excessive difficulty.”

Independent on Sunday, Nick Townsend: “Ultimately, it was a comfortable enough home victory, though there had been a period after the interval when Sunderland had suggested they may just fashion an equaliser.”

Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “Rattled by the news of Didier Drogba’s knee operation, Chelsea’s support can hardly have been emboldened by the sight of the faded talents of Andrei Shevchenko taking to the field. Yet the Ukrainian, the one-time scourge of the meanest defenders in Serie A, showed that while the legs may not work like they used to, the goal instinct has not quite been extinguished.”

The Observer, Stuart Barnes: “Andriy Shevchenko would be the first to admit that his time at Chelsea has been a big disappointment, falling far short of what he hoped for and what the club expected in return for a £30million transfer fee. Appearances have been sporadic, match-winning performances even less so. But for once he has delivered, and now has the chance to play a significant role in his team’s season.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “A 15th game in a row unbeaten and three solid points in the bag.”

The goals

23′ Shevchenko 1-0
75′ Lampard (penalty) 2-0

The good

A satisfactory 3 points in a game that promised much early on but in the end faded into a Mourinho-esque workmanlike professional performance.

  1. Getting a good result was always essential to keep the pressure on the top two and with our habit of getting draws against battling lower teams this was a potential banana skin. Luckily Sunderland were every bit as poor as we probably hoped and it seemed obvious that damage limitation was the game plan with the faintest of hopes of perhaps pinching a draw. No chance.
  2. Joe Cole. Fabulous game and even with the return of his tricks he always looked a danger, made some great play, could have scored had he attained some cojones to shoot! Recent performances have showed what we missed last season.
  3. John Mikel Obi (yay!). Absolute class. This young man did not put a foot wrong bar one misplaced pass in the Sunderland half which no-one ran onto. Cool calm collected, made some good and fair tackles and impressed in everything he did.
  4. Alex. This solid centre half is showing the sort of form which would make him an automatic first choice anywhere else which makes Mourinho’s decision to not get him last January utterly bizarre. Once again did all the simple things well and kept it basic. As a Brazilian, all this pragmatic football must be killing him inside.
  5. Andriy Shevchenko’s goal. It’s a comparative rarity to see a striker (or anyone) use the ancient art of the diving header to score a goal and even more unusual for our continental friends, so it was a real pleasure to see Shevchenko show how it is done. A fabulous header and a great piece of play from John Terry and Salomon Kalou.
  6. Salomon Kalou. Yep, that’s right! It’s not an illusion. He made some great contributions and although the intelligence factor is missing he has undoubted talent. One thing is he is still confused about whether to play as a striker or winger and this seems to be where the root cause of his indecisive nature lies. A bright future if the right manager gets hold of him.

The bad

  1. Sunderland. Roy Keane has done fabulous things with this team and changed his own image into the intelligent and thoughtful person that is patently the Dr. Jekyll to his on-pitch Mr. Hyde personality. However, this team are genuinely looking out of their depth and on this performance will do well to avoid the drop. A shame really because I have a weird soft spot for Sunderland and their fans.
  2. Claudio Pizarro. I’ve seen about as much of him as everyone else and my jury just delivered its verdict back. Guilty! Guilty of being a strolling coiffured ponce with shiny white boots that he isn’t fit to lace up himself. A complete duffer if ever I saw one and in no way anywhere near good enough to stand in for Dider Drogba. Boy has he got some work to do to change my mind.
  3. Peter Walton, the referee. Oh dear. Apart from the penalty and the sending off his decisions were way off beam. Penalising us for reasonable challenges and letting Sunderland’s clog dancers slide into two-footed tackles, pull shirts and climb all over our players had the incensed Matthew Harding Lower baying for his blood. I’d never heard of him before this game… Is he a newbie?
  4. The news about Drogba. This sounds like managerial madness to me, to allow a key player to have an operation in order, it seems, to assuage the player’s desire to appear for his country in the African Cup of Nations. Seriously I believe this will be a massive issue for us, because I just don’t see Shevchenko and certainly not Pizzaro doing the business for us. Couldn’t the operation at least have waited until after Arsenal? As much as I love the big Ivorian I seriously do question his desire to continue playing for us after this.

Player ratings

  • Carlo Cudicini: Didn’t have a lot to do again but he inspires the defence with as much confidence as Cech – 7/10.
  • Juliano Belletti: Another good game and a real wing-back in the true sense of the position – 7/10.
  • Alex: A good all round game and looks to be a really dependable centre back. It’s heart-warming to know he’s ours – 7.5/10.
  • Ashley Cole: Starting to look like the attacking wing back that Arsenal had and seems to be relishing a new found freedom to attack. Linked well with Kalou – 7.5/10.
  • John Terry: Every day and in every way he is getting closer to his imperious best. Faultless display and made a wonderful block to allow Kalou to get the ball across to Sheva for the first goal – 7/10.
  • Frank Lampard: Other than his perfect penalty strike seemed to be crowded out in midfield and made a few unforced errors – 6/10.
  • Joe Cole: Currently our most inventive player and certainly seems to be in a rich vein of form. Now if only he could get a few more goals – 8.5/10.
  • Andriy Shevchenko: A great diving header for the first goal and some neat footwork shows he knows what to do with a ball. Unfortunately he is painfully slow and can anyone explain why he keeps drifting to the wings? I want my strikers in the box, not crossing the bloody ball in – 7.5/10.
  • John Mikel Obi: Sheer class and surely now an automatic first choice? I can’t think of anything remotely poor about his performance – 8.5/10.
  • Salomon Kalou: A good game and for once a tad unfortunate to be substituted. Had the odd frustrating moment and was unlucky not to score with a header of such grace and poise that Ruud Gullitt would have doffed his cap – 8.5/10.
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips: Always looked threatening and made some good runs, unfortunately blotted his copybook with a howler of a cross when under absolutely no pressure at all – 7/10.
  • Steve Sidwell (sub): A ginger Ray Wilkins! Came on to shore the midfield up and did a good job – 7/10.
  • Claudio Pizarro (sub): I’m better than him. The only good things he did were to annoy Liam Miller into a silly reaction which got him a red card and the slightest of touches to a Lampard scuffed shot which diverted onto the post. Another player in the class of Del Horno, Bhoularouz and Maniche that Mourinho bizarrely liked – 3/10.
  • Overall team performance: Good, professional and workmanlike with little evidence from 30 minutes onwards of the new free flowing attacking Chelsea. Mourinho himself would have been grinning like Jack Nicholson’s Joker at this showing – 7.5/10.

Man of the Match

Apart from Pizarro none of the players were poor. Frank was off his game a bit but still struck a perfect penalty so for me this prestigious award goes to John Mikel Obi who’s consistency and level of performance has been nothing short of superb. Funny how he barely rates a mention in the press and broadcast media unless he gets sent off.

Final thoughts

Seventy-one games undefeated at home is a hell of a record and it’s hard to see anyone ruining the run anytime soon. The game itself was almost what you might describe as boring and several people commented on this during both halves, me included – in fact I’ve rarely yawned so frequently during a game. Sunderland wouldn’t have scored if they’d been playing all night long and I might even question if they would have scored had we played with 5 not 11.

To this end the best thing was another 3 points and only 6 points off the magical 40 points mark and the threat of relegation fades away again! After Liverpool’s defeat at Reading and Arsenal’s at Middlesbrough today we’re right back in the mix. Can we stay there? Well, I’d settle for a point at The Emirates next week because all of our next 3 games against our rivals are at home in the second half of the season. So our chance to make up the points is still there.

And one last note – this is a rumour mill moment. The first one comes from a source who’s success hit rate of rumours is about 90% – Marco Van Basten is being lined up to take over as our Head Coach in the summer after Euro 2008, with Grant being restored to Director of Football. The same source has also said watch out for the return of… Eidur Gudjohnsen in the January window! Boy will he get some reception!

The second one, from a source who’s success hit rate is about 70%, is that we will be welcoming Frank Rijkaard in the summer, who Roman Abramovich was very impressed with during our meetings with Barcelona. Apparently Abramovich liked his media friendly politeness and his style of football is where Roman wants us to be.

Frankly I’d take either.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

Related links