The Observer, Dominic Fifield: “Even freakish good fortune is propelling Chelsea on to the leaders’ shoulders at present. Both their goals here were laced with controversy, the kind of rewards that would normally be flagged down by the officials and, if only grudgingly, later conceded as correct calls. Yet, when the holders needed them most, they reaped the benefits from critical oversights.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “For once Sir Alex Ferguson’s timing was off. With only a few minutes left of this game he evidently decided he had seen enough and left his seat in the stand to beat the traffic. He would not have got far he got before he heard the roar from Stamford Bridge that told him the title race is not yet over. “He didn’t see the last goal so he probably thought it was a draw,” Carlo Ancelotti said. “We sent him a message to let him know we scored.””
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Carlo Ancelotti employed the politics of compromise in picking both Fernando Torres and Drogba to start and although the latter was formidable, Torres again achieved far less and was withdrawn after an hour. There was little indication that having finally scored last Saturday after more than 12 hours in a Chelsea shirt it had made a new man of him. The one benefit of his arrival has been to inspire Drogba, whose shooting made Gomes a nervous wreck. “Didier played for the team,” his manager said, after admitting: “We were lucky. The decision [for the first goal] was wrong.””
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A late Salomon Kalou winner keeps the title race well and truly alive after Chelsea came from behind to beat Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian, relegated to the bench today but brought on with half an hour to go, slid home the winner two minutes from time to complete an excellent comeback against a resilient Spurs side who had led through Sandro’s long-ranger early on.”
A little preamble
Hello everyone, it’s been a while hasn’t it? News of my demise as a writer has been, of course, slightly exaggerated. I did tell the Dear Leader that because I’d been asked to contribute to the official club web site, and to that other august organ CFCNet that I would have to scale back some of my scrawlings at this, my spiritual writing home. But I had always intended to be available for some match reports and so my smile was Bonnie Langford* wide when the Dear Leader popped me an email asking if I’d cover our annual skirmish with the loathsome Spurs.
And so after the usual sumptuous cholesterol-fest in the café, it was off to The Anglesea Arms for a drink with some new found friends to discuss all things Chelsea and football in the warm spring sunshine surrounded by glorious houses dripping almost literally in money where the ‘voiture de rigeur’ will be German (Merc or BMW) or will have a leaping big cat insignia, and EVERY woman looks like Kate Middleton or her sister Pippa. And yes, I am sure I was having some Prince Harry like thoughts as they wiggled past us letches as we prepared for something even more orgasmic and erotic.
Beating the loathsome, vile upstarts from Spurs.
*An official calibrated smile measurement gauge
And so to the game…
There are a handful of Premier League games which always, without fail, get the juices flowing. Teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and the horrible Spurs will always give Stamford Bridge the crucial atmospheric start. It does die off occasionally but this is usually dependent on the fayre served up to us. Liverpool matches have been very dull of late and so halfway through those games the roars of the crowd have been replaced with a gentle snoring.
But not so with Spurs, and this Spurs side have been fashioned by England coach heir apparent Harry Redknapp into a stylish attacking side riddled with incumbent flaws in defence and especially in goal. But as we’ve all seen this season and last, this Redknapp team, on their day can give any team a game with a swashbuckling and often fearless mentality. So reading some of the Guardian/Observer fans’ comments demanding his removal just re-iterates the craziness and latent insanity that lurks in every football fan’s psyche.
The teams contained no great shocks, with Torres spearheading a front three with Drogba and Malouda and Mikel Obi/Obi Mikel (someone please decide!) having the coach’s faith re-affirmed with another start. A back four of Ivanovic, JT, Luiz and Cole now seems to be the first choice and Essien, despite a pretty disastrous form slump this season was also trusted in the middle.
For Spurs… well I don’t really take much notice of them so who knows what their best side is, and frankly who cares. Sandro? I’d never heard of him, but there was something that would change dramatically today. Van der Vaart (yes, a bargain without a doubt) and Pavlyuchenko were also in the starting line up. And of course, Heurelho Gomes, who can best be described as Spurs’ mercurial goalkeeper. And yes, he would once again live up to his reputation for wondrous shot stops delicately balanced with foul ups of the highest order.
The first 20 minutes were electric, with Chelsea absolutely storming out of the traps, a rare feature these days but one that usually pays off handsomely, and is therefore a mystery as to why we more often than not, adopt a rather somnambulistic attitude to the starts of games. Some of the pace and accuracy of the ball play was simply a joy to behold, and one could be forgiven for thinking that it would result in a trouncing for a bewildered looking Spurs. Torres and Drogba looked fine in their link play, and Torres was causing absolute panic in Spurs defence with his ghosting past players and his ability to pick out superb defence splitting passes. He’s so much more than a striker. And was it just me or did some of the Spurs players appear to be blowing a little hard after 20 minutes? We came close from Drogba’s stunning free kick, later revealed to have been diverted onto the bar by Gomes’ fingertips. Essien also saw a wonder save from Gomes and one couldn’t help feeling that this might be one of those days as he held onto shots from Malouda and Essien. But it all looked good.
Then of course, along came Colonel Fate to throw a spanner into the silky smooth mechanics of Chelsea. A loose ball fell to the hitherto unknown (in my mind) Sandro, who took a touch and then let fly a shot that at first looked to be in the side netting. Within micro-seconds there was the realization that this rocket like shot had nestled itself firmly in our net, with Cech unable to get near it. Say what you like, this was one hell of a strike and Spurs with their first shot on goal were in the lead. It also turned out to be their only shot on goal, but at that moment we weren’t to know that.
Like the stereotypical boxer who’s floored by his opponent’s haymaker sucker punch we were rocked on our feet. For the next 15 minutes all of the smooth and pacy movement of the ball and players disappeared you could only fear that a fragile confidence had been shattered. But, this game is so weird, so illogical at times that I’m sure you couldn’t invent it today. Spurs, you might have thought, had the chance to seize on our dazed and confused state, but instead they completely failed to capitalize on this. After 15 minutes of so staggering around the ring the composure finally came back and the belief and confidence started to show again. Chances came and were spurned but along came Lampard who obviously had the maxim ‘if you want to win the lottery then buy a ticket’ running through his mind. He let rip with a 25 yard strike and I’m sure he had gambled on either scoring direct or on the fact that Gomes would execute one of his trademark fumbles. And sure enough, he won the lottery as Gomes allowed the ball to squirm through his legs and his desperate lunge was too little too late. Or was it? Replays suggest the ball didn’t cross the line completely and I tend to agree. However, if Gomes knew that then one does have to ask why he clawed it back instead of just smothering the ball where it lay. A bit of confusion reigned from Spurs players’ protests, although how any of them could definitively tell was a mystery. I liked our players’ attitude. Celebrate, claim the goal and get on with it. Half time was upon us and the fact it was 1-1 with our own version of the phantom goal made for much mirth and merriment at the bar.
The second half started much as the first, with the loudest cheers being for Gomes as he walked towards the Matthew Harding stand. We continued to look bright, but we also had a touch of Arsenal-itis as we started to overplay in the and approaching the box. Two clear penalty shouts were ignored on Ivanovic and Ramires (on for Essien) as well as the most blatant on Malouda. At this point the conspiracy theorists like me were convinced that Andre Marriner would be trying to compensate for his error on our equalizer by giving us nothing for the remainder of the game. It certainly looked that way. As well as Ramires for Essien (who faded badly again) we saw Kalou on for Torres and Anelka on for Malouda. Just for once those like for likes felt really good. Anelka can hold the ball better than anybody and Kalou, despite not being a favourite does make a damn decent sub.
As we asserted more and more control, it was apparent that Spurs had run out of steam and ideas… a hangover from Europe may still be hanging over them. Despite bringing on Defoe, they really didn’t create a single chance of note for the entire half. Maybe it’s the realization that their season was over and 5th looks like their best bet, but I had expected more. Don’t get me wrong, they play the ball well but just lacked a cutting edge.
On 88 minutes Drogba bamboozled Spurs defence and the ball fell to Kalou to tap in the late winner. To say Kalou didn’t look happy was an understatement, but I’ll overlook that on the basis that the deterioration in the Ivory Coast has had some apparently deeply personal implications for him. A slightly jittery remaining six minutes were played out by us where we failed to keep the ball and run down the time calmly. But run it down we did. Three points in the bag, one dodgy goal and one perfectly legitimate goal (it wasn’t offside Kalou was level) and the pseudo-orgasmic relief for the crowd when the whistle went.
There is little as sweet in life as beating Spurs and this was very sweet indeed.
- Torres and Drogba – I seem to be in the minority here but I thought they played well together.
- John Mikel Obi – world class and outstanding. Fabulous second game on the bounce for him.
- Our back four – superb and rock solid.
- Sandro’s strike – I had thought Cech could do better at first, but replays show this was an absolute belter.
- “Double Double Double, John Terry has won the Double, and the shit from the Lane have won fuck all again, John Terry has won the Double!” – I’ll never tire of singing that!
- The fantastic battle between Modric and Drogba which was compelling stuff. Drogba edged it.
- Gareth Bale – Player of the Year? My arse. Also perfectly sized to fit in Ivan’s pocket for the whole game.
- Aaron Lennon. Shaun Wright-Phillips without the speed or skill or intelligence.
- Andre Marriner – cocked up on the equalizer and then over compensated by giving us nothing else.
- Spurs fans. Yuck. Joyous to see their fat smug grins wiped from their faces and the realization of Europa League trips next year.
- Galen… sorry Gareth Bale. Monkey man.
Player ratings (aah… I feel the joy…)
- Petr Cech – 7/10 – Couldn’t have done much with the goal but seriously had little else to do all game. Still too fond of the hoofed ball.
- Ashley Cole – 8/10 – Boy does he work for the team. Never stopped running.
- John Terry – 8/10 – Marvellous, Captain Bloody Marvellous. Rio eat your heart out.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 8/10 – Completely snuffed out any threat from Bale. All round super stuff but has a tendency to pick up cards.
- David Luiz – 8/10 – Sheer class – will be the world’s best no doubt.
- Michael Essien – 6/10 – Improved but then faded. Injured or poor he needs to be rested for next season.
- Frank Lampard – 7/10 – Not as good as last week but a vital cog all the same.
- John Mikel Obi – 9.5/10 – Staggeringly brilliant and if he keeps this form going will be up their with the likes of Viera and Ballack at their peaks.
- Florent Malouda – 7/10 – Frustrating and annoying but still a threat.
- Didier Drogba – 8/10 – Marauding, incisive, generous, ours.
- Fernando Torres – 8/10 – Silky skills, super passes, will be awesome and now has the crowd love.
- Ramires, Anelka and Kalou (subs for Essien, Malouda and Torres respectively) – 8/10 – All fitted in neatly and played their part. Love Ramires, a real future star.
Man of the Match
One outstanding candidate here for the second week on the bounce. John Mikel Obi. World class son, world class.
Come on, who seriously thought back in January that we’d be clear 2nd with a very much outside chance of pegging back United?
I thought as much.
So, here we are. Form has returned. Luck has sided with us. Players are fit. Normal service is resumed. The way it stands I think United will see it out. Old Purplenose knows better than anyone how to shepherd out a season and despite our most fervent hopes I don’t see Arsenal beating United today. Arsenal are shot and despite not having anything left to pay for I just think United will know how to get the result today. A football fest of glorious passing and attacking is not my expectation. A 1-0 ground out by United seems more likely.
However, we have a platform to rebuild next year and my hope is that Carlo gets the chance for another year as long as he’s brave and doesn’t stick with the same squad. We need youth, we need flair and creativity. All of this can be added with a minimum of exits. We mustn’t repeat the errors of the last close season in letting players go and hoping the kids would step into the breach.
I for one am looking forward to a proper close season and a break after the extended campaign caused by the World Cup. I’m sure the players are as well. Let’s get 2nd at least and roll on next year.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!