The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Of all the preposterous and fanciful predictions that were made before this match, everything from handshake boycotts to Wayne Bridge coming on as a substitute after two minutes, none featured Chelsea finishing with nine men and being comfortably beaten by Manchester City.”
Sunday Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “No handshake from Wayne Bridge and no points for Chelsea. All in all, it was a truly a miserable afternoon for John Terry. This 4-2 defeat against Manchester City was also Chelsea’s first home loss of the season and a result which leaves both Manchester United and Arsenal in reach of the Premier League leaders with only 10 matches remaining.”
The Times, Duncan Castles: “Let’s do as John Terry keeps telling us he wants to do, and concentrate on the football. In his past four appearances, Chelsea’s captain has cost his team three points at Goodison Park, placed them in grave danger at Molineux, handed two gilt-edged scoring chances to Internazionale at the San Siro and seriously compromised their Premier League lead at Stamford Bridge.”
The Independent, Steve Tongue: “”We are top of the League,” the home crowd chanted defiantly, for there was nothing else to crow about after this extraordinary game. Red was the colour – two Chelsea players being sent off in the second half – blue was the mood. A first home defeat for 15 months became a humiliation with Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack dismissed and the second goal not arriving until it was too late to matter. Manchester United will go into the Carling Cup final today only a point behind at the top of the table, having been done a huge, unwitting favour by their noisy neighbours.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea failed to extend the lead at the top beyond a point after a first home defeat in 38 games on Saturday. Two red cards in quick succession for Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack proved costly after we surrendered a lead we had worked hard to attain.”
You really do have to hand it to our Dear Leader Nick, he really does know how to distribute the shit stick games in an egalitarian and socialist manner. Some seasons I get to write about endless glory and masterly fought out wins. But this season he seems to have changed tack and decided that when it comes to the ones we’re likely to choke on or employ the services of the little known superhero Captain Cock-Up then the man for the job is a long serving pessimist who always starts from a glass half empty default stance. Yep, that’d be me then. But when asked, I thought after the Milan defeat, a loss but an overall good performance, that perhaps this potential banana skin might be a safe bet. Hmm… how wrong can one man be?
“Now the night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That’s pride fucking with you. Well, fuck pride. Pride never helps. Fight through that shit”
I now find myself writing this review after what Bruce Willis’s character, Butch Coolridge, in my favourite movie Pulp Fiction, would call “the single weirdest fucking day of my life’. Ok, maybe in retrospect this isn’t the single weirdest fucking day of my life BUT it is a very strange day indeed.
On the way to the game I was storyboarding the review and had planned to start with the dictionary definition of the word ‘soporific’, an adjective meaning causing or tending to sleep. When used as a noun it means something that causes sleep, such as a medicine or drug. And all the signposts leading to the word soporific were there. The day had started like that, a light breakfast, a drive to London, for a midday-ish game against a team that like us had played in the week. Yep, that’s right, two teams in tough midweek action are called to play their game early on Saturday in order to fulfil the covenant in place that states that all Premier League teams must kneel before the great Lord of Darkness, Rupert Murdoch and perform an act of mutually degrading public corporate fellatio in order to sate the great unwashed masses of Broken Britain (© The Daily Mail and all News International organs). Once in our glorious capital we ate a hearty pre-match meal at our usual watering hole, and immediately the carbs set to work enveloping me in a warm feeling of tiredness, the type a baby might feel after a warmed bottle of milk as its mother sings gentle lullabies into its newly formed delicate but sensitive ears. Entrance to the ground was simple, as we walked amongst the muted throngs of Chelsea fans still struggling to come to terms with the fact the day had barely started for many and yet we were duty bound to be fully operational and available for chanting. It was like walking through an imaginary slow motion world created by a BBC post shoot editor on his second packet of downers.
The talk was of ‘big games’ and ‘handshakes’ and of course the expectancy of another win at home against a team of notoriously poor travellers. We talked about big babies called Wayne, who really needs to stop listening to Mummy and Daddy and accept the descent of the testicles, or to at least try growing some rather than whining to various press friends and almost literally crying over spilt milk. As tough as the whole JT/VP saga might have been on him, it’s done, dusted and out in the open. Grow the fuck up Wayne, or fuck the fuck off.
I fully expected a rather dull, but rather straightforward win, but no… the ghosts of Chelsea past and the massed loyalists of Captain Cock-Up’s Crew gathered together to ensure that anything Tim Henman could do when confronted with a chance to do something meaningful in his chosen sport, we could do better. Much better.
“We should have shotguns for this kind of deal”
Well, we all know by now my theory entitled ‘No-one knows anything about football’. But we do, in varying degrees know little bits. So, Manchester City, who, if they were a sovereign state, would be described as a Tiger Economy decided to play 4-5-1, the ‘1’ being the now obnoxious twat Carlos Tevez and we seemed to be set up in a variation of 4-3-3 with Joe Cole and Anelka sitting behind Drogba, basically underlining the maxim of ‘feed the Drog and he will score’. Now I do understand tactics and formations but they still and always will bore me, but hopefully the anoraks and propeller heads will be sated by my small but delicate nod towards them for once in a report.
Let’s start with BridgeGate, TerryGate, HandshakeGate, KnobbingVanessaGate or whatever you want to call it. Well, despite it being tough for Bridge in some ways, I’ll state publicly here that his pathetic snub of the Terry hand just makes him look even more like a baby than he did before the game and his self aggrandising act of petulance in withdrawing from the England squad. Wayne, you were a good servant, but just go away and grow some will you?
The first half to some degree was another good use of the adjective soporific. We had lots of possession but did little with it. City looked like they’d come to settle for the draw. If someone had put a sign in the centre circle saying “not much happening here”, few would have disagreed. There were the odd chances for Drogba and Cole but little in the way of a real desire to do any damage. As the half snoozed gently onwards we looked forward to a kip of our own at half time in hope of a better second half. We looked ok though, and City looked just a little off the pace as we controlled well but delivered little. Then a super little through ball from a lively Joe Cole fed Lampard with three minutes of the half remaining and first blood had been drawn.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did that break your concentration?”
Just like Brett in Pulp Fiction after Jules had shot Roger ‘Flock of Seagulls’, Stamford Bridge was in shock, the difference being that we were in a good state of shock. The goal had seemed unlikely as a decent but largely uneventful half was drawing to a close. And immediately from the restart we looked hungry… suddenly things had swung our way, the game had its turning point and a formality appeared on the event horizon.
Or so we thought.
A glorious chance for a second was squandered by an inexplicable decision on Lampard’s part to try and stroke the ball past Given instead of putting some leather behind it. City cleared and Mikel Obi hunted through the whole befuddled Chelsea locker and found the button marked ‘Suicide Pass’, pressed it and delivered a back header right into the path of Tevez. Of course he probably died inside a bit but found immediate succour in the knowledge that Terry and Carvalho were behind him and covering. Now, two strikers, even three up front have found beating Terry/Carvalho to be the Rubik’s Cube puzzle of football and to be honest I wasn’t concerned as they closed on him, but then ghosts of Chelsea past hoved into view, along with one of Captain Cock-Ups Angels of Confusion and Tevez somehow wriggled through both and then SCUFFED a shot towards goal. But never mind because we have a number 2 (a former number 3) who could deal with it, EXCEPT for the fact that another Angel of Confusion had flown in and encouraged Hilario to come off his line. Hilario then brilliantly dropped to try and stop the ball about a nano-second after it had passed him, whereas had he stayed on the line it would have rolled gently into his outstretched arms. City’s first real chance and three experienced players had made schoolboy errors and the game was level again. The air of drowsiness was lifted as the players trudged off for their halftime tea and hairdryers.
The second half started well with us coming out early and looking like we meant business. Six minutes in and an art we once had perfected bit us on our collective rather tired old arses.
The art of the counter-attack.
From a chance to score where the excellent Ivanovic had put in a cross that NOT ONE Chelsea player even tried to attack, City then broke. Ivanovic, as is the wont of attacking full-backs was out of position, leaving the excellent Mikel Obi completely exposed against a charging Bellamy who revels in rampaging down the left and, no points for guessing the outcome. Mikel Obi torn between tackling Bellamy or trying to prevent a cut back to a City forward lost his man and Bellamy tucked a beauty away into the corner of the goal whilst a floundering Hilario showed why an unused substitute goalkeeper is very obviously short on top class hours.
Out came the rack, and we were firmly pinned to it.
“Well, you’re giving her an injection of adrenaline straight to the heart”
As the French might say, ‘Ce n’est pas une probleme’. We are Chelsea and we’re at home so now let’s get back at them, equalise and capitalise on their inevitable wobble. Those were the words my mind said to my heart. A heart that was subconsciously waiting for the adrenaline injection. Carlo Eyebrow then made some changes bringing on Belletti and Sturridge for Mikel Obi and Joe Cole. The crowd, at least where I was sitting wasn’t impressed. Mikel Obi had made a terrible error for their equaliser but had been a very solid and commanding player outside of that aberration. Joe Cole had put a useful shift in and was working hard. Straight away the decline set in. When you’re relying on the ageing Belletti to change your fortunes then you know you’re in trouble. Sturridge spent the rest of the half demonstrating the art of piss-poor ball control and decision making that has made Kalou so revered. Yes, folks he was abso-fucking-lutely rubbish. Kalou came on for Carvalho on 70 minutes as Carlo Eyebrow showed his hand and went all out for attack. But as in the old days, of course Captain Cock-Up’s other angels were never far away. A lone Angel from the Clumsiness Battalion descended on Belletti and after a lousy bit of defending against Tevez he decided to challenge Tevez in the box having let him get away, mistimed it completely, throw his hands up feigning innocence, concede a penalty and get an instant red card. The red card decision from Mike Dean (UC Hones) was diabolical and a yellow would have been the fairer decision. The penalty was a no brainer and Tevez duly complied and then decided to make a fatuous and insulting celebration in favour of BigBaby Bridge. 3-1 and down to 10 men. Game over.
Or was it?
Down came yet another one of Captain Cock-Up’s Angels, this time a specialist in Red Mist Tackles as Ballack scythed through Tevez, sadly not breaking an Argentinean thigh bone in the process, but getting a second yellow (the first being received due to an inability to shut up when complaining to the referee about another wrong decision). Down to 9 men and 3-1. Game definitely over.
Take the punishment, swallow the pride and defend like hell. Hmm… not for Carlo Eyebrow though who instead of admitting his own part in the shambles unravelling in front of him decided to get the nine to push up in search of more, leaving huge Serengeti sized gaps at the back. Inevitably an ex-Chelsea player, Shaun Wright-Phillips burst through and displaying an exemplary demonstration of how to stick the knife in, passed the ball beyond the hideously ill positioned Hilario for a Bellamy tap in. 4-1 down at home.
4-1 down at home. Can any of you remember that under Mourinho? Ranieri? Anyone else? Precisely, a defeat was turning into a spanking. Not just a loss, but a humiliation against a team with nothing more than aspirations to join us at the top table. Roman’s face was not one of unbridled joy. After that the ground emptied and we got a penalty. Whoopy-fucking-do. Well taken Frank, but running off with the ball in a display of sudden urgency which was frankly missing from most of the game was utterly disingenuous towards the remaining fans.
- Branislav Ivanovic. Along with Malouda, Joe Cole and the later awakened Anelka and Mikel Obi were about the only decent things from our team.
- The meal at the Café. Great chips.
- Frank Lampard. On reflection he really tried hard but when the rest are all having their eyes turned by Captain Cock-Up and his Angels of Idiocy, well you’re doomed. No matter how hard you try…
- We’re still top of the league… although I’m no longer sure how!
- Seriously, that’s it.
- The disjointed display. It’s akin to having the engine of a BMW, the style of a Ferrari, the reliability of a Volkswagen all wrapped up in a the shell of a Trabant and put together by Delia Smith. If the body work and build quality is rubbish then the rest counts for nothing.
- Tevez. UC (Hons 1st Class). An arsehole who dived and cheated amongst moments of genius, but when Drogba does it…
- Some of the bravest yet most misguided and foolhardy substitutions I’ve ever seen. Carlo Eyebrow ain’t no Special One. But he deserves time unless he continues on the fuckwittery course of extending ageing players instead of bringing in new talent.
- Wayne Bridge. The only known Premiership Eunuch.
- Mike Dean. Look, it’s easy to dig refs out but the fact that City only got one yellow card for Zabaleta indulging in some faux card waving, whereas we end up with a bagful of yellows and a couple of shiny reds as a cherry garnish tells you something. Blatant decisions did not go our way BUT he didn’t cost us the game. He merely stirred the pot of indiscipline and his decisions or lack of them undoubtedly led to our players losing their cool. So please, keep this impostor of a referee away from Stamford Bridge for the rest of the season.
- Carlos Tevez, but not for the cheap shot reasons, simply because some of the diving was far worse than Drogba has ever done and because he seems to see himself as some sort of street thug vigilante hell bent on gaining vengeance for a fellow gang member. Well, maybe that’s appropriate in the back streets of Buenos Aires but it’s not when displayed on the pitch. I really wish someone had broken his ankle. Someone told me a sick joke before the game about Tevez which I thought cruel and inappropriate but which I now think is both cruel, funny and more than appropriate.
- Craig Bellamy (PHD in UC). His sweaty, pallid complexion filled the screen afterwards as he self righteously made some pointed barbs at John Terry. Which when you look at this racist thug’s own behaviour is a bit like Idi Amin criticising Saddam Hussein for being a little bit on the cruel side. Seriously Bellamy, when we need an opinion from someone as qualified in Utter Cuntery as you, we’ll scour the world and after we’ve tried to coax an opinion from every last animal, insect and plant on the planet and failed then we’ll come to you.
Player ratings – subjective and very probably illogical and unreasonable
- Hilario – 3/10 – A knob.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 8/10 – Committed, unforgiving and under-rated.
- John Terry – 6/10 – Confused by Tevez for the first goal and a bit off the pace, BUT better than recently seen. Lovely eyeball confrontation with Tevez in which I would have taken a red to see him head butt the obnoxious little shit.
- Ricardo Carvalho – 6/10 – Didn’t do much wrong but like Terry switched off for their equaliser and mysteriously subbed.
- Florent Malouda – 8/10 – Like Ivanovic tried hard and didn’t do much wrong. Deserved better.
- John Mikel Obi – 7/10 – Suicidal back header might show him in a bad light when all the rest he did was ok. Done by Bellamy but seriously no-one else bar Ivanovic or Ash would have done better.
- Joe Cole – 7/10 – A genuine spirited display, a lovely assist to Frank but a tad too easily marginalised for the second half.
- Frank Lampard – 7/10 – In retrospect he did ok but he needs to regain belief in his shooting ability.
- Michael Ballack – 5/10 – Love him dearly but needs to stop coasting and control his temper.
- Didier Drogba – 6/10 – Missed a great first half chance and then faded a bit. Not bad but not his best.
- Nicolas Anelka – 6/10 – Like a lot of fans and players was only sort of there first half but woke up big time second half and but for Given might have had a goal or two.
- Salomon Kalou (sub for Carvalho) – 6/10 – No real time to make an impact.
- Daniel Sturridge (sub for Joe Cole) – 4/10 – Bilge. Dross. Awful. Contributed just a little less than zero.
- Juliano Belletti (sub for Mikel Obi) – 3/10 – Must now surely only be considered a desperate measure. Didn’t deserve a straight red but did concede a stonewall penalty.
- ***NEW*** Manager rating – 5/10 – Gracious in defeat, but has a touch of the Claudio Ranieris about him in that he’s a nice guy, but do nice guys win the Premier League? His subs failed dismally but at least he tried.
- Overall Team Performance – 5/10 – You can put lipstick on a pig but…
Man of the Match
You choose! Between Branners and Malouda, easily our best and most consistent during this debacle.
“You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy?! I ain’t through with you by a damn sight! I’m gonna get medieval on yo’ ass!”
And so our beloved Blues developed a touch of the Tim Henmans yet again. The whole day had an aura of apathy about it and yet the game exploded in the second half dragging the fans with it. Let’s be honest, the game needed something to get it going, sadly the explosion was in our faces and not theirs. I’ve rarely seen such a large number of errors from our players, with Hilario’s lack of playing time exposing his rustiness, the recently superb Mikel Obi making one terrible error leading to the confusion and lumbering failure of our two centre-backs to deal with Tevez. Ballack’s loss of control, Belletti’s loss of ability, Drogba’s retreat into a shell, Anelka’s unswerving but misguided unselfishness until the second half and Ancelotti’s increasingly desperate substitutions. But there were also plus signs. Malouda looked superb at left-back, Ivanovic continues to impress, Mikel Obi is close to showing his full potential and Joe Cole seems to be knuckling down to the job of justifying a new contract offer. I spoke briefly to the Good Lord Kaiser after the game en route to a safe-ish haven at my local and one of the things that seemed apparent was there needs to be a cull on some of the older players in the close season and the youngsters introduced with a couple of decent signings.
I hear rumours that Pato is interested in a move to us. Good. We need options like him alongside Didier and complementing Nico’s versatility as a supplementary winger/striker. Ballack, as much as I love the man, looks tired and seems to be in the throes of a career slide. Deco is seemingly constantly injured despite the brief flickering light of hope in playing the Makelele Role (© Monsieur C. Makalele Esq.), Belletti should have gone in the summer with a smile and a handshake, Carvalho is blowing a lot cooler these days than at his peak, Alex looks disinterested, Hilario is no number 2 keeper. It seems to me that five or six of the squad are at the first stages of Shevchenko Syndrome and someone needs to point that out to Carlo. The fact that Roman offered him a £40m chest for January and he chose not to use it prior to losing Essien, Ashley and after losing Bosingwa worries me a lot. The Match of the Day highlights showed a glimpse of Roman in his box and to say he looked less than happy is like saying Dawn French likes the odd square of chocolate.
And no, I’m not advocating that we despatch Carlo. He’s learning the league and so far has done pretty well but I’m not convinced he’s a Wenger or Ferguson or Capello in terms of authority, or a Mourinho in terms of attention to detail. As it stands we look decidedly shaky, maybe the curse of beating Arsenal is upon us again because the last win at the Emirates was the catalyst for a stuttery month of below par performances. Yesterday’s defeat sees Arsenal right back in the race and with arguably the most comfortable of run-ins they’re coming on strong on the rails for a tight finish. United will be comforted by yesterday’s performance, and at least we can smile wryly at the thought of City fans realising they may have helped their loathed neighbours to consecutive title number four.
All we can hope for is our trusty steed doesn’t do a Devon Loch and fall at the last.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!