Independent on Sunday, Nick Townsend: “After a match comfortably won with goals in each half, from Juliano Belletti and Wright-Phillips, who is thriving in a more central midfield role, no one should rule out Chelsea’s claim to the championship.”
Sunday Telegraph, Patrick Barclay: “In attack … Grant had devised an interesting formation which was almost like the old W-shaped forward line, with Claudio Pizarro (later Anelka) at centre forward, Joe Cole and Florent Malouda on the wings and Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Ballack acting as sort of inside forwards. It produced some bright stuff, especially in a second half during which Wright-Phillips sparkled and scored, if less spectacularly than Juliano Belletti had done in the first.”
Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: “Chelsea’s first goal, after 19 minutes, was spectacular. A glorious right-footed shot from 35 yards by Belletti, who had already looked sprightly and adventurous, ripped past a hapless Cerny and into the Tottenham net.”
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “Anelka hit the woodwork in the 90th minute after Dawson failed to clear, his drive cannoning off the underside of the crossbar and back out. A goal would have been the icing on the cake, but for today, Blues will be happy with three points and another year without Spurs winning at the Bridge.”
This was a tense and thoroughly compelling contest between two teams that might well be labelling themselves as “work in progress”. In the end the game was won by two pieces of superb finishing, but in reality could have produced more goals for us. All in all, a very good day out.
- Shaun Wright-Phillips. Seems to be relishing his role in the middle without the pressure of crossing the ball. He held the ball, tackled fiercely but fairly, broke Spurs’ moves down and scored a lovely goal and should have buried a second attempt that looked easier than the first.
- Michael Ballack. A Rolls Royce engine at the heart of a team coming out of a bad injury spell. A superb captain who is actually making me believe he should be the deputy captain after John Terry.
- Joe Cole. Awesome at times and just needs more goals to be held in the same esteem by the press as Wayne Rooney. Still showboating a bit, but had a huge work rate and looked dangerous every time he had the ball.
- The first goal. Juliano Belletti must have heard the Matthew Harding Lower’s synchronised shout of “shoot” because that’s exactly what he did and boy, what a strike. It was sweeter, sharper, and harder than the one he got at Wigan. It was a joy to behold and it’s goals like this that fully justify the £650 season ticket fee I pay each year. I think these Brazilians could go a long way in football…
- 74 home games without defeat in the Premier League is phenomenal in anyone’s book and I had feared this game had the potential for that record to go judging by some of Spurs’ recent performances. In the end though, class really did tell.
- Nicolas Anelka. Not so much for the contribution to the game, although he was unlucky not to score twice, but as much for signing the form and becoming a Chelsea player. Yes, £15million is a lot of money, but let’s be honest… did we have a choice? Andriy Shevchenko is out and has at best been patchy, Didier Drogba is in Africa and frankly wants to leave the club, Salomon Kalou is years away from being an effective striker and Claudio Pizarro… well despite an okay game, he was still several light years away from getting anywhere near scoring a goal, which is a bit of a disadvantage if you class yourself as a striker, don’t you think? Anelka looks like the first new brick in the Avram Grant Building and at 28 I think we may well be thinking of him as being a downright bargain in 3 months’ time.
- Our defence. For the first time in a while I wasn’t worried when Spurs pressed us because every one of the back four had a great game. Between them, the game plan to mark Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov out of the game to the point of anonymity worked like a dream and not many teams will be able to say that. They covered, marked and defended when necessary like true Chelsea heroes. Marvellous.
- The referee, Alan Riley, and his alleged assistants. For much of the second half it seemed we were playing 14 men and despite the result the decisions were terrible. Don’t give me any old crap about it being a tough job. It’s a piss easy job if you know the rules of Association Football. I am sick to death of referees and assistants, spurred along by the FA, making god awful decisions which destroy the flow of the game. Here are my suggestions for an immediate improvement in the standards. Number one, make the refs wear a microphone and have them announce the reason for the decision. Number two, only the team captains can approach the ref. Number three, use video technology. Number four, introduce a 10 minute sin bin before a red card is issued. Yep, all stolen from the two codes of rugby, a game that remains fast moving, passionate and pulsating but also makes use of the ideas to the benefit of the officials, the players and the fans.
- The refereeing! No you’re not seeing double! This is specifically around two incidents. One was the Steed Malbranque challenge on Wright-Phillips, which was a two-footed lunging sliding tackle with suspiciously high feet. My issue here is that it was far worse than the one John Mikel Obi was red carded for earlier this week and in a way almost as bad as Ricardo Carvalho’s one against Aston Villa, also deemed worthy of a red card. Let’s be honest here… had Michael Essien, Carvalho, Obi or Drogba done a similar tackle does anyone really doubt a red card would have resulted? The second incident was a blatant rugby tackle on Joe Cole at the halfway line from Kevin-Prince Boateng (I think) who was already on a yellow card. It was blatant and unmissable, so you have to ask why it wasn’t a second yellow card offence. I’m not just being Chelsea biased here, but again if it was one of our players I am convinced it would have resulted in a sending off. I really think the club needs to gather some evidence on stuff like this to compare to some of the blatant injustices we have been on the receiving end of, not for any other reason than to try and spur the FA into ensuring consistency is maintained by the officials.
- The anti-Semitic twat sat in front of me. He sang a chorus of “Where were you when Hitler gassed the Jews?” much to his amusement. A word from me to shut the f*ck up just seemed to spur him on. A word from someone else had him ejected from the ground. Yes, I hate Spurs, but not because of anything else other than football rivalry. People like this are a nasty stain on our proud and great club. I should have chinned him.
- That’s it. I genuinely can’t think of anything else for this section. Blimey, not even Pizarro was bad enough to gain entry here this week.
- Petr Cech: Commanded the box and made a good save at the feet of Berbatov, and from Malbranque’s first half volley – 8/10.
- Juliano Belletti: Carlsberg don’t make right backs… but if they did… ? – 8/10.
- Alex: Had a great game today and looks a very accomplished centre-back. Marshalled the box well and made sure Berbatov was anonymous – 8.5/10.
- Ashley Cole: He obviously hates Spurs as much as the rest of us. Marked Berbatov and Aaron Lennon out of the game in conjunction with Carvalho and Alex – 8/10.
- Ricardo Carvalho: World class. We must not let him leave in the summer. Break the bloody bank if need be! – 8.5/10.
- Claude Makelele: The old warhorse gives you a warm feeling when Essien or Obi aren’t on the field. Still drops the odd bollock in the tackle but today he did what he does best, patched up ear and all – 7.5/10.
- Michael Ballack: I so desperately want to analogize him to a German general, but that might not be politically correct. He’s better than a Mercedes or a BMW. He’s a Rolls Royce. I swear he actually purrs at times in the game. We are so very lucky we have him – 8.5/10.
- Joe Cole: Tormented Spurs from all parts of the field, showed sublime balls skills and came close to being Man of the Match – 8.5/10.
- Florent Malouda: The first to get a zero mark after his disgraceful performance against Fulham, but today he looked like he wanted to play for Chelsea. A good game and maybe some redemption in my eyes if he continues like this – 7/10.
- Shaun Wright-Phillips: The central role seems to fit him like a glove. He did everything well today despite one or two times when he maybe could have made a ball but remained static. Scored a great goal though and if Fabio Capello had been here today he surely would have seen his choice between Lennon and Wright-Phillips was obvious. In fact, why did he go to Old Trafford when there was an abundance of good English talent on display from both teams today? – 9/10.
- Claudio Pizarro: Yes… a 7/10 for the strolling coiffured ponce. He’s still poor but today he did very little wrong, although didn’t do a lot right either. He links up well occasionally, but one thing is for sure, he is not a striker – 7/10.
- Nicolas Anelka (sub): Came on for the latter part of the second half at a time when Spurs were getting the better of us. Could have scored within minutes and again near the end, but looked calm on the ball and did enough to convince me we’ve done a good job here. Got a great welcome from an apparently very relieved crowd. – 7.5/10.
- Wayne Bridge (sub): Came on for Malouda who was looking frankly a bit knackered and did some good stuff. It would be interesting to see him and Ashley Cole play a whole game together with Bridge perhaps playing as a winger – 7/10.
- Steve Sidwell (sub): A default score as he was only on for the last 2 minutes – 6/10.
- Overall team performance: A good strong performance to match that of the midweek effort against Everton. It’s nice to see, and if it is down to Grant then he deserves some credit for getting the ship steadied and on track – 8.5/10.
Man of the Match
Yet another tough choice. Could have been Belletti for the wonder goal, Joe Cole for sheer work rate and danger factor, or Ballack for yet another commanding midfield performance. In the end I’ve opted for Shaun Wright-Philiips who it seems now has a comfortable Chelsea skin on him and is relishing the central midfield role. Take a bow Shauny Wright Wright Wright!
It was a weird day in some ways. I followed my pre-match routine like I always do, even to the timings. We normally have to queue to get into the wonderful American Café Bar on the Fulham Road for the obligatory Tony hangover cure of a Number 51 (egg, bacon, frankfurter, quarter pound burger, chips, chilli sauce, two slices of bread and butter and a Perrier with ice) but today we just waltzed in and were able to pick our table! The subsequent walk down the Fulham Road was unusual because of the scarcity of any fans. I asked two coppers if the game was still on and even they said they couldn’t believe how quiet it was. The SO bar was chillingly silent as I walked into the ground… yes it was 1:30pm… but even at that early juncture the hardened singers are usually getting their pre-match choir practice in.
Anyway, the game itself was not an end to end classic, but was a compelling battle between two teams with very different aspirations for the remainder of the season. The atmosphere at these big London derbies is by far and away the best and this was a day when despite the plea over the PA system for us in the Matthew Harding stand to sit down, even the stewards gave up in the end, knowing it was utterly fruitless. My feet ached, but this was a game to savour, with a result that had us smiling all of the 80 miles back to Portsmouth. With Arsenal dropping 2 points, Liverpool doing their utmost best to get Rafael Benitez sacked we’re still on the fringe of the title hunt and that’s better than I expected. Happy days!
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!