The Observer, Amy Lawrence: "Stamford Bridge emptied in celebratory mood. Aside from the eight minutes at the end when their three points were threatened, they delighted in some classy touches. They jumped up to hail goals from their most heroic players. They roared their approval as news flashed down of Liverpool’s slip at Middlesbrough, which means they eased into second place on goal difference. Chelsea mean business again."
Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wilson: "Chelsea certainly had the bulk of the chances, but it took them a while to assert themselves, and a five-minute spell of Wigan pressure in the middle of the first half suggested Chelsea’s problems run too deep to be solved in a week, even by a manager as charismatic as Hiddink."
Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: "At the final whistle Didier Drogba gleefully booted the ball into the crowd and Lampard and John Terry, the Chelsea goalscorers, embraced in recognition of another restorative result which makes it three wins out of three under Guus Hiddink’s revivalist management. Would it have spelled the end of Chelsea’s title hopes if it had finished 1-1? Smiling, Hiddink said: “I’m glad it’s an if and not a fact.”"
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: "Last April Emile Heskey stunned Stamford Bridge with an equalising goal for Wigan in the final minute that effectively ended Chelsea’s hopes of winning the Premier League. Yesterday, although Heskey is long gone, they appeared to have pulled off a similar trick when Olivier Kapo scored nine minutes from the end, only for Frank Lampard to defeat them with a header right at the start of added time."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "John Terry became the highest scoring defender in Chelsea history and Frank Lampard joined him as a hero with a 90th minute winner."
The pre-match warm-up
There is something about a pre-match pint with good conversation that just seems to set the day up. And today was no different as I was kindly invited to join our very own Kaiser at the delightful White Horse in Parsons Green. As I stood there convincing myself that the best cure for a Friday night battered liver was the immediate infusion of Weston’s finest organic cider, it dawned upon me that perhaps today I was in rather more exalted company than I might expect. The familiar face stood next to me had simply introduced himself as Jeremy as he shook my hand… but the voice… the demeanour seemed so familiar. Being a dunderhead of the highest order in recognising people I had to turn to the good Kaiser and ask if the chap standing next to me was indeed Jeremy Vine, renowned Radio 2 morning jock and presenter of Panorama. Indeed it was him, and the other Jeremy it transpires that was in the early drinking group was also called Jeremy Vine. Two Jeremy Vines? In one day? Both Chelsea supporters? Isn’t that a tad greedy?
I shall, of course dine off of this event for many years to come, or at the very least hold court with the story of how Jeremy Vine introduced himself as merely Jeremy, shook my hand and didn’t even look slightly miffed that the hungover, rather loud vertically challenged person was so blissfully ignorant of yet another celebrity Chelsea fan. Oh, and finally I have got to know the names of my Matthew Harding Upper neighbours, Attillio and Tony. It’s only taken seven months…
And so to the review with the standard Good, Bad and Ugly format as I struggle to stay awake.
- Super Frankie Lampard. Seriously looks like he’s taken his game to yet another level with a midfield marshalling display that was truly sublime. And who else pops up with yet another last gasp winner… from a rare header… it really did have to be Frank.
- Didier Drogba. One can only imagine a huge Scotsman called Fat Bastard must have stolen his Chelsea mojo at some point last year, but as Felicity Shagwell so delightfully pointed out, maybe he’d had it all along and just didn’t realise it. Getting back to his battering, clattering bruising best.
- Michael Mancienne. Steadily building a claim for future regular first team football.
- Nicolas Anelka. You really need to watch him closely to appreciate how comfortable on the ball he is, the calmness in the way he holds the ball like Sparky used to and his constant threat of danger. No sulking on show today, and the building of a good understanding with Drogba.
- John Terry and Ashley Cole. Cole in particular will be a strong contender for Player of the Year but the 20th minute off the line clearances from Cole first and Terry second were simply majestic defending. Terry also bagged a lovely goal, should have had a second and was back to his best today all over the pitch.
- Titus Bramble. At times you’d have thought you were watching Marcel Desailly such was the compelling display he put on today. Steve Bruce’s tutelage may well be the key to him rejuvenating a tarnished reputation. Without him Wigan might have lost by four goals.
- Wigan. As a team they came to play football and for the first 20 minutes they ran us ragged. At no point was there even the hint of a bus being parked and like Hull they could have got a draw that would have been hard but honestly earned and maybe even deserved. Lee Cattermole may be a thug and a clogger, but at times this season we could have done with some of his passion and fighting spirit.
- Fulham and Middlesbrough. Jobs well done.
- The first 20 minutes. How? Why? Simply dreadful and startlingly similar to the performance in the second half against Hull. Wigan should certainly have been a goal up from Paul Scharner’s shot when clear on goal that forced Petr Cech into an early but vital save. Then on 20 minutes, Wigan could and should have scored but for the heroics of Terry and Cole, and this appears to have been the proverbial kick up the arse moment of the game. Or to put it more correctly, it became the turning point and Chelsea finally awoke from the early slumber. After that we should have been three up by half time.
- The second half, or the middle 30 minutes of it. We seemed to sit back again, despite Guus Hiddink’s comments after Juventus. When Wigan equalised quite a few could see it coming, but after that we stepped back a gear. But why do we have to wait until conceding a goal or escaping with a near miss to do this?
- The referee, Lee Probert. Was he a clone of the Portuguese idiot from Wednesday’s Juventus game? Specifically, in the second half he seemed to penalise every tackle from a man in a blue shirt whilst ignoring the similar challenges from the fluorescent shirted ones. On the shirt point… did we sell last year’s away kit on a job lot?
- Steve Bruce’s post match whining. I liked Bruce as a player and to some degree as a manager who normally speaks a good deal of common sense. But his post match rant about poor decisions leading to our goals, disproved on Match of the Day replays, was errant nonsense. Steve mate, leave the playground and grow up.
- Guus Hiddink’s bizarre substitutions. Off comes a useful and increasingly confident Salomon Kalou, and on comes Juliano Belletti and everyone in the vicinity of my seat, including myself, start doing passable impressions of Stan Laurel in a particularly confusing situation. Until Mancienne went off we had two right-backs so whatever message was carried on with Belletti patently didn’t get through. It was resolved when Mancienne went off for Ricardo Quaresma but for those few short minutes the ghost of The Tinkerman loomed large over Stamford Bridge.
- Wigan. The fans. All 30 of them, or so it seemed. Honestly if Hull, Stoke and West Brom can make the effort then surely Wigan can. The worst turnout I’ve seen for a very long time.
- Steve Bruce. Seriously he really is very facially challenged and seems to be losing a not very hard fought battle with his waistline.
- Petr Cech – 7/10 – Ponderous clearances mixed with moments of outstanding brilliance. Let’s hope the bad bits are merely the effects of Scolari’s reign.
- Michael Mancienne – 7.5/10 – Quietly efficient and seemingly versatile. Has a permanently frightened look on his face with no real cause to.
- John Terry – 8.5/10 – Marvellous goal and had the second attempt gone in could have been on a hat trick. Had that happened I may have been convinced I was delusional.
- Alex – 6/10 – Beaten in the air too regularly again, left flat footed by Amir Zaki and company too often and may well be one of the departed in the summer. I really think Branislav Ivanovic should be playing instead.
- Ashley Cole – 8/10 – Fine display again.
- John Obi Mikel – 7.5/10 – Steadily unspectacular and in what was possibly his first ever decent on target shot was unlucky not to score.
- Frank Lampard – 9/10 – Super. Just like the song says.
- Michael Ballack – 7/10 – A bit subdued today but again, does have the knack of seeming ineffective when in fact he just does the Didier Deschamps ‘water-carrier’ role rather well.
- Salomon Kalou – 8/10 – Seems to be staking a good claim for regular first team football and patently has a good understanding with Drogba. I’m glad he’s going someway to proving me wrong. As for the Arsenal stuff, by all accounts he asked for a slot on Chelsea TV to utterly refute what was written.
- Nicolas Anelka – 8/10 – Classy, hard working and always looked good with the ball.
- Didier Drogba – 8/10 – Should have scored but for a Titus Bramble off the line intervention and on one glorious breakthrough he just hung on for a millisecond too much before pulling the trigger. Strong and menacing.
- Ricardo Quaresma (sub for Mancienne) – 6/10 – Only on for a few minutes but looks promising.
- Juliano Belletti (sub for Kalou) – 6/10 – Utility player he may well be but he is good to have on the bench.
Man of the Match
Frank Lampard. Currently untouchable. Stevie Me eat your heart out.
This was another enthralling home match which saw us veer between moments of pub team capability to sweeping majestic pulsating attacking football. Wigan played a good part in the game and can count themselves a tad unlucky at not getting a draw, but in a former life there was no better team than us at playing to the full 90 plus minutes and we did it again today. Like Stoke and Hull before them Wigan came with a game plan to try and get a result and perhaps it is a mark of how far we’d fallen under Scolari that teams like this would come to Stamford Bridge without fear. Hiddink seems to have re-instilled some of the Mourinho determination in the side and the glaring divisions between some players now seems to be receding. I can’t help wondering if the loss of Deco will prophetically be the blessing a few us believe it to be.
Hiddink also seems to contain one characteristic that eluded Scolari, that of luck. I know that to a degree you can make your own luck, but that little bit extra does seem to be the factor between good and great coaches. Whether Hiddink stays or goes we may well end being very grateful to him for salvaging our season.
Despite the bad moments this is what football is all about, shouting abuse at the players one minute, lauding them as heroes the next. Moaning one minute, hugging strangers the next. There is literally no feeling like that last minute winner. It’s almost orgasmic. Grandstand finishes aren’t good for anyone’s vital organs and I’m certain that many of us feel that one day we will be carted out in an ambulance surrounded by people in green one piece suits sadly shaking their heads. But if it’s the last minute winner for us that causes that event… would many of us complain?
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!