Chelsea 3-0 West Ham United – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Videos, Match Report, Good and Bad, Player Ratings

Newspaper reports

The Observer, Jamie Jackson: “Chelsea’s late-season surge continues and, despite Manchester United still heading them by six points, part of the message from Carlo Ancelotti’s side is that Fernando Torres has finally scored, and may continue to do so until the title is decided.”

Sunday Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “The thunderclaps that reverberated over West London last night did not go unnoticed at Stamford Bridge. Fernando Torres, with a superb first goal for Chelsea at the 14th time of asking, was making a dramatic enough noise of his own. It was the moment Chelsea’s fans feared might never happen. Torres – and yes, you have read this correctly – scored. In an instant, the record signing had restored manager Carlo Ancelotti’s faith. One pass from Nicolas Anelka and he was in, swivelling on the treacherous pitch and firing his finish beyond Robert Green on the turn. The stands erupted in almost palpable rapture.”

Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Amid Wagnerian scenes of thunder and lightning over west London, West Ham’s best hope of salvaging something from the day turned out to be an abandonment. The unpredictable Easter weather was against them, however, like so much else, even assisting Fernando Torres to break his scoring duck at last after 732 minutes in a blue shirt. Despite a brave fight founded on a bold 4-3-3 formation, West Ham finished the game where they had begun it, at the bottom of the table.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Fernando Torres netted his first Chelsea goal as the Blues thumped West Ham 3-0 in difficult conditions at Stamford Bridge. The heavens opened just before kick-off but Frank Lampard scored under thunder and lightning to give Chelsea the lead just before half time. Florent Malouda added the third in stoppage time at the end of the game following substitute Torres’ late strike.”

The goals

44′ Lampard 1-0
84′ Torres 2-0
90′ Malouda 3-0

The preamble

The conundrum that is Avram Grant will be the topic of today’s discussion class. Thought it’d make a change from the rollercoaster ride of emotions that is following Chelsea since the turn of the year. I’ve been guiltier than most in spouting out some emotional, hyperbolic bullshit after we scramble together an impressive win or implode in shocking fashion. But hey, that’s what being a bipolar Chelsea fan is all about and I don’t think any of us would change one tiny bit of it. So I thought that instead of arguing about whether our season is over or how many wins/points/goals (delete as appropriate) it will take to nick the title, it may be a bit more fun to look back on nine of the most emotional months in our recent, Roman history.

So when looking at Avram’s beautiful, Salvador Dali style, nightmarish, Gordon Brownesque face what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Fraud? Moron? Buffoon? Unlucky scapegoat? I ask because when I saw him trudge out into the rain this evening, wearing his typically ill-fitting, funeral outfit, for a few seconds all those memories from a few years ago came flooding back.

His sudden appearance from thin air as we parachuted him in from nowhere. The strange insistence on having a place on the bench despite not being a coach in Jose’s team. Then the manoeuvring behind the scenes to make sure he’d miraculously be in place in case the top job became available. Something felt wrong from the start (yeah, I’ll admit it, his fucking hideous face gave me nightmares from the off) and this trepidation was only reinforced in one of the most depressing, amateurish, yet looking back now, hilarious hours of television I’ve ever seen.

Seeing Avram next to Peter and Bruce in some hastily arranged press conference, getting grilled by a pack of journalists, out for blood that they’d been denied a few more days with their media darling, was an embarrassing low point in Roman’s time at the club. He looked like such a pathetic nobody that some of the journalists and fans outside looked genially dumbfounded as to what had happened to Chelsea that week. The fact he didn’t say anything in that press conference hardly helped matters but if we knew that when he did open his trap all we’d get is err, mumble, err, inaudible noise, err… then well, we would have savoured that hour a little bit more.

But then something strange happened. After a few shaky early weeks, which included the arrival of Henk and some girl’s football team coach called Emenalo – whatever happened to that glorified PE teacher? Oh… we started to win some matches.

A lot has been said of Carlo’s laissez-faire attitude this season and how his penchant for massaging egos has cost us (and will probably get him the sack) but with Avram perfecting his deaf mute impression back then, the players were given free rein to express themselves. A Lamps inspired 6-0 demolition of Sven’s City and a Ballack led 4-0 romp at West Ham immediately spring to mind and it has to be said that we did play some beautiful football at times.

But how much of this was down to Avram? Chelsea are a club who need to have a dominant, inspiring manager leading them (just look at the disaster that unfolded when bumbling Phil arrived) and when we faced tricky opponents and looked to the touchline for help all we got was silence, or worse, incompetence of the highest order. Anyone remember the nightmarish Carling Cup final against Spurs? I know I’ll never forget the sight of Avram standing on his own in the dugout as the players and Steve Clarke all got together to ready themselves for extra time. Or how about his decision to go to five at the back at Spurs when we were controlling the game, resulting in chaos in defence and two more dropped points. Or even his baffling decision to being Sheva on when defending that narrow lead against Liverpool in the Champions League semi final. He got away with it but ending a match with a midfield of Sheva, Malouda and Nico should have told us that this was a fraud who had landed one of the best jobs in world football and was simply winging it.

We all know what happened next but just look at his record since then: getting Pompey and now West Ham relegated with dire, incoherent football. Perhaps what grates most is his attitude. Everyone’s always against him it seems and his constant whining just grates and makes me want to throttle him. Some may ask how this is different from a Fergie or a Jose but whereas these two use it at crucial times in order to gain an advantage for their players, Avram simply complains all the bloody time. Whether it’s the injuries, the referee, the penalties, the players, the rain, the grass or the fucking day of the week, you just wish he’d shut up.

Some have compared Carlo to Avram but when you look back on that season, it’s clear that no-one will ever get close to this guy in terms of footballing ineptitude. Carlo may be ultra cautious and his blind spot when it comes to substitutions is rather unfortunate but at least you’ll never catch him doing this:

I think that says it all really. This guy is still employed by a Premier League side remember.

The team

Carlo hinted at rotation and a start for Fernando but why change a team that is in great form? So, more of the same it was then:

Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Kalou, Drogba, Malouda.

Subs: Turnbull, Torres, Benayoun, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Bertrand, Anelka.

The match

Well the evening started out rather badly really. Some of the players appeared to have a few glum faces on – Lamps later said that they were feeling a bit down after watching Utd’s inevitable late winner – and as they walked out of the tunnel, the heavens opened, resulting in a torrential downpour.

But all that depressing stuff was quickly forgotten due to “Handshake Showdown – Part 2!” Would he? Wouldn’t he? Would they? In the end the answer was no. Wayne continued his hilariously petty stance of refusing to shake John’s hand but the general consensus was that JT came out of this one the better. He didn’t budge an inch as Wayne approached and even though he was looking stony faced, I thought I spotted the slightest hint of a smug smirk at the end as if to say “well, fuck you Wayne. You enjoy the Championship as I continue as England captain.”

Then the footie began and well, it was immediately apparent that instead of the rain helping to create a nice, slick surface for us to zip around a few nice passes on, it had instead started to create a bit of a waterlogged bog. Despite this we had stared brilliantly. West Ham immediately parked the bus and it soon turned into an attack versus defence training session for the first twenty minutes. Mikel was controlling the game in his quarterback role but he soon started to maraud forward to great effect (probably to compensate for the again subdued Essien). He first fed Didier, whose reverse pass to Flo resulted in a glorious opportunity to make it 1-0 but his lazy finish was pathetic really and easily saved.

We were dominating possession and Didier was again in barnstorming early form as he brushed aside defenders with ease before firing a few tricky shots which Green did well to handle on the wet surface. Ash and Branners were both getting forward well but as the minutes ticked by our high tempo start soon faded into predictable Arsenal style possession football. Loads of sideways passes but no end product was the order of the day as the clock nudged past the 20 minute mark and despite me being his biggest fan, a lot of this seemed to stem from Branners’ inability to cross the ball. Lamps and Mikel would regularly find him with classy balls out to the right wing but his head down, hit and hope style crosses never really worked out.

Slowly but surely West Ham began to grow in confidence. A few Noble free kicks and corners were routinely cleared up by Pete but the fragility in our side was there for all to see. Despite a run of good results, as soon as West Ham started exerting pressure and chucking it into our box, things deteriorated to panic stations at times. Freddie Sears was terrorising us as he first crossed for Spector whose stopping header was brilliantly kept out by Pete, then a Sears back-heel was cleared off the line by Ash.

We were still offering the odd attack but they usually ended in some pitiful final ball or an embarrassing blazed shot from a ridiculous angle from Didier when Flo and Kalou were screaming for the cutback. The fans were getting frustrated and the rain was making free flowing, high tempo football virtually impossible as cross field passes skipped out of reach and through balls regularly got caught up in ever deepening puddles. The advertising boards soon cut out thanks to the rain and as half time approached, even a few of the floodlights were playing up. “Are the lights going out on Chelsea’s title hopes” was the inevitable and entirely original follow up line from those hilarious commentators. Oh my sides, I was laughing so hard when they said that, as were approximately none of the millions watching.

And when you first saw Cole and then Ba scamper away on dangerous counter attacks before Pete smashed Luiz’s head with a wonderfully placed right hook, one began to wonder whether it would be one of those days. But I needn’t have worried as we soon woke up from our slumber after Carlo raised that eyebrow and did some screaming from the touchline (something Avram never did. I’m not sure he even left his seat in the away dugout once in the 90 minutes!) Didier slid a perfectly weighted pass to Ash whose cutback was smashed home by Lamps. It was a beautifully simple goal and that was that for the first half.

So the second half started with no changes apart from the ever worsening state of the pitch. We were playing at a slightly higher tempo but chances weren’t exactly coming all that readily. We were looking neat and tidy with loads of pretty square passes but when we tried to force things a little more, we usually screwed things up with a wasteful final ball. Lamps and Malouda had a few speculative shots but not a lot was happening.

Then the game came to life after Yossi came on. His creativity and movement added a lot to what was a desperately pedestrian midfield and soon we were creating a few more chances. But West Ham decided to wake up and soon started playing a bit more directly into our waterlogged and hilariously slippery box. First Cole twisted then turned then fell flat on his arse before Ba had a header cleared off the line. Luiz curled a stunning 30 yarder onto the bar at the other end but for a 10 minute spell it was all West Ham. Robbie Keane had come on and was causing Branners all sorts of problems. He first tested Cech with a clever shot from a tight angle then when sent through from a lovely Sears pass, he wastefully curled wide from eight yards out. We were lucky to still be 1-0 up and despite a “strong first 70 minutes” as the commentators put it, Didier was fading and it was time for Torres.

He immediately brought more movement and pace to the side and set up Nico with a great pass with one of his first touches. Nico’s shot was brilliantly cleared off the line but Fernando’s introduction had livened things up. He looked fitter, faster and more dangerous and if you watched his movement and the number of times he made runs behind their back four, you’ll realise that next season, when we move on from Didier, we will see the best from him.

And then the big moment came. Nico controlled Pete’s long kick forward. He slid a perfectly weighted ball through to Fernando who was hanging on the shoulder of the last defender as he loves to. His first touch was perfect as he knocked it ahead of him into the space, onto his right foot. He sprinted forward, ready to bury it then realised he had run past the ball, which had hilariously got stuck in a puddle. No matter though. He spun then curled the ball into the far corner with his left foot. It was a stunning finish and after 903 minutes of waiting, that moment had come. The reaction from Fernando (beaming smile and trademark arms out, sliding celebration), the fans (one of the biggest cheers and prolonged spells of delirious jumping up and down I’ve seen at the Bridge) and players (mass pile up on top of Torres, much like the Makelele moment against Charlton) was incredible really. It was an amazing moment and I, like many others I hope, found myself smiling for hours it seemed after he scored.

Not much happened after that as everyone seemed to be revelling in Fernando’s moment. The luck had most certainly changed for him as even his misplaced passes were coming off, to brilliant effect in the last minute as it landed at Malouda’s feet, who rifled it home from 25 yards. That third goal may prove crucial as if we can end on 79 points, that extra goal may win it for us.

But today belonged to Fernando. He looked more dangerous than I’ve seen him for a while (not just in a Chelsea shirt) and seeing him begging for the return ball on our third goal was yet another pointer that he was slowly getting back to his best. His movement has always been there but today with more pace, more fitness and that bit of luck, perhaps the real Fernando had finally arrived. Seeing him stroll off the pitch at the final whistle with the biggest smile you’re ever likely to see may even have won over some of his biggest critics and well, the title isn’t quite gone yet.

The good

  • Torres’ goal – The relief, the happiness and the reaction from everyone in the stadium was one of the moments of the season for me. I’m still smiling now thinking about it.
  • Performance – There were dodgy moments in the second half but when you’re looking for a 100% run-in, a 3-0 win in a London derby shouldn’t be sniffed at.
  • Mikel – Controlled the game and even compensated for the worrying subdued and at times awful Essien. Passing was again exemplary but his runs forward were a slight yet pleasant surprise. Has veered from the sublime to the downright dire this season but he seems to be grabbing this second chance and with Essien and Ramires both out now, Mikel is suddenly the crucial member of our midfield three.
  • Big Pete – Yet another immaculate performance between the sticks. Has had his best season for a while and looks to be in a straight fight with JT for our player of the year award.
  • Sears – A constant threat on the break and his brilliant dribbling and sublime passing was let down by the dross around him.
  • Goal difference – We’re edging closer and closer.

The bad

  • Weather – Without the rain and waterlogged pitch, we looked in the mood for five or six early on.
  • Essien – His latest knee injury isn’t thought to be that serious according to Carlo but he looks in need for some time off. Passing was wayward. Tackling was non-existent as he was usually so far off the pace that he was never near enough to close down a West Ham player. He’s still a crucial part of our squad but this is a massive summer and pre-season for him. Depending on who we buy, he may not be the untouchable pick he one was.
  • Midfield – Desperately lacking in creativity before Yossi came on. Can’t wait for Josh to get his chance this pre-season really when you see the dross that this midfield can serve up when they run out of ideas. Slow, plodding and one dimensional, I’m not sure we’ll be seeing this trio again from next season.
  • Crossing – Does anyone at the club know how to curl a ball past the first man?
  • Avram – I just hate the man.

Player ratings

  • Cech – 9/10 – Immaculate.
  • Ivanovic – 6/10 – Nervy at the back and poor going forward. An off day.
  • Luiz – 7/10 – Subdued but his stunning shot gets him and extra point. How strange is it that I’m describing a centre-back as subdued as if it’s a negative! We now expect fireworks from David every week but perhaps those early Beckenbaueresque days will be a little rarer from now on.
  • JT – 8/10 – Rock solid.
  • Ash – 7/10 – Some nice runs forward but seems to be saving himself for the Utd showdown.
  • Mikel – 9/10 – If only he could shoot! He was close to his best today and just needs a bit of refining in front of goal to be close to a complete midfielder.
  • Essien – 4/10 – Poor. And now injured.
  • Lamps – 7/10 – Had a sloppy opening but after his classic Frank goal, he grew into the game. No matter what you say about him slowing down, the three months we had to do without him probably cost us this title.
  • Kalou – 5/10 – Anonymous.
  • Malouda – 6/10 – A beautiful goal but I thought his crossing was abysmal and his laziness and lack of effort at times was infuriating. He’s been in great form but for me, he looks nailed on to be sold this summer.
  • Didier – 7/10 – Some brilliant moments but tired quickly and his finishing can still be selfish and woeful.
  • Yossi (sub) – 7/10 – May not have directly affected any of the goals but his touch, creativity and movement were needed after an hour of toiling from the starting trio.
  • Nico (sub) – 5/10 – One nice pass apart, what did he actually do? Whereas Didier has responded well to the Torres challenge, Nico appears to have shrunk and gone into his shell. The MLS awaits.
  • Torres (sub) – 8/10 – Come on… give him this high rating after that goal. A beautiful finish, yet more great movement and we know that this was the first of many. The reaction of his teammates and the fans really was a wonderful moment.

Man of the Match

It has to be Fernan… only kidding! It’s Mikel for a sublime and dominant midfield performance.

The conclusion

So how about that then?

The title isn’t quite gone yet and after Arsenal’s hilarious annual implosion, it is again coming down to us and Utd. Their late, scrambled win against Everton shocked precisely no-one but their next four games look incredibly tricky and I’ll be cheering on Arsenal tomorrow just so that their showdown with Utd doesn’t turn into a dead rubber. A 100% run-in will probably still be too little too late but the way the players’ response to the pathetic Champions League exit has been impressive and a surprise to me.

This isn’t the moment to talk of ditching the old guard or speculating on Carlo’s successor but after Fernando’s goal and the impressive performance from Mikel and Luiz, the future is looking bright.

Nighty night. Don’t let Avram’s ugly mug bite.

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There are 96 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Agreed on MoTM – Obi was bloody stand out excellent yesterday. Think you’re harsh on Essien who looked better today, whereas the turn in the middle of the pristine lawn was Malouda. Yes, he finished the 3rd goal well but that was all he did right all afternoon. Lazy and sloppy for the rest of the game. I also thought Frank looked somewhere near his best, so may the West Ham antipathy factor had kicked in.

  2. Cunningplan

    Good performance in tricky conditions, which did give me a fair bit of anxiety, and flashbacks to that horrible day when Canoe oops, Kanu destroyed us with 15 minutes to go
    We’re still in this guys, and next weekend is pivotal for allsorts of reasons, keep the belief.

  3. John

    A good and fair report thanks and as ever I agree with so much of what’s said on here. Mikel was excellent yesterday and his intervention when Cole was free in the box on about 75 mins surely saved a goal to effectively win the game as we might not have kicked on from 1-1 at that stage.

  4. Nick Benfield

    Thanks for the report Habs.

    Anyone who saw me raise my arms to the sky in celebration on learning that Torres had finally scored for us would probably have thought me quite mad seeing as I was standing on some rocks overlooking Redruth in Cornwall at the time. Then again it’s probably not an unusual sight in this neck of the woods – they probably thought I was worshipping the sunset. Seeing the goal on Match of the Day last night gave me goose bumps.

    As for the title, while I thought we could overhaul Arsenal for second place I think we’ve left it too late to actually win it. Six points over four games is asking a lot. Even if, miracle of miracles, United do drop six points against us and the Gunners (hmm…) their final two games are against Blackburn and Blackpool. Not that I’ve lost my belief. Stranger things have happened, like that carpenter who came back from the dead. Did you hear that story?

    Anyway, I’ve got drinking to do – going to turn some more wine into waste water. I am the resurrection and I am the light, as the Stone Roses sang on their brilliant debut album.

  5. Anonymous

    I’ve never understood why fans let their bitterness linger for so long. I think it reflects poorly on Arsenal fans still booing Ashley and likewise the Hammers Frank. Therefore I don’t know why you’ve wasted so many words on Avram; just get over it and look forward.

    I agree with Cunningplan. The way I see it is we are at the semi final stage except in this case Arsenal are playing it on our behalf. If they win against Utd then we will be playing in the final against Utd a week later.

    • Anonymous

      Except there are 2 more rounds after your “final” – would you really want to bet on us scoring more goals away to Everton than the Mancs manage at home to Blackpool on the final day?

      Anyway, back to a weekend redolent of Easter miracles and Apocalyptic weather.

      I don’t think I’ve seen so much rain fall on the pitch during a game since the last game of the 84-5 season v Norwich when our chances of reaching the UEFA cup ended even before the ban on English clubs as we lost what could only be described as a game of water polo 1-2.

      Certainly gladdened the heart to see not only Mikel finally play a much more positive role in midfield, but of course, Torres finally get that first goal. Thought the atmosphere in the ground was amazing from there on in, even though I sadly have to report another outbreak of “We’re too cool to stand up and celebrate when Chelsea score” in the front rows of the West Upper.

      For those of you who missed the dull end of MOTD I see Joe Cole and Franco Di Santo both managed late, if meaningless, goals as subs for their respective clubs in games that were already won or lost. Anyone still feel we were wrong to offload either of them?

      And final miracle, despite the deluge I got home after the game suffering no more than a few drops of drizzle rather than auditioning as a half-drowned rat in a [very] wet T-shirt contest as I had expected.

  6. Asd

    That’s it, abandon all hopes and calculations…no way that the Arse could be counted upon to do us a favor now that they’ve effectively ended their title challenge.

  7. Ososdeoro

    Point taken on “can anyone on the team cross past the first man?” Yes – Paulo. Joe Cole could too, though no, I’ll take Yossi in that “trade” to Liverpool still, thank you very much.

    I give Luiz an 8. No dumb penalties, really good pace to stop some potentially dangerous attacks.

    And yeah, Terry or Cech for POY sounds right. Completely surprising since I didn’t think Terry was all that good last year.

    I refuse to assume that just because Arsenal chokes when THEIR life is on the line, doesn’t mean that they can’t pull it out when they’re trying to play spoiler. The motivation is completely different so we’ll see what they do. I’m at least as worried that we’ll beat ManU as Arsenal. Tottenham probably won’t be easy either, though their form lately stinks. I don’t understand why that team doesn’t win more given the talent.

  8. Anonymous

    So, Danny Sturridge then. Another goal, wins a pen and generally does all he can for his parent club to finish second.

    Seems to be playing amazingly at Bolton. We’ll probably sell him, won’t we?

  9. Greenlightinoz

    I think Arse losing actually takes some of the pressure off them, and they will be keen to prove they are not complete mugs when they take on the Mancs.

    I also don’t think that Blackburn away and Blackpool, potentially playing to stay up are a walk in the park either.

    My biggest concern is actually whether we will beat Spuds next weekend…. We have been poor against them of late, and they would like nothing more than to spoil our season.

  10. Anonymous

    Now, I don’t expect Arsenal to win at OT in either scenario, but I think they have a better shot when the pressure is off. This is a team that chokes on the big stage. Now that they did their choking this week, they have a better (albeit slim) chance to win next week.

    We can’t sell Danny. We’d be insane. Plus with the “homegrown” player rule, we’d be really, really insane to get rid of a player of his caliber.

  11. Aditya Balaraman

    cant agree more on the crossing bit.. no one crosses past the near post.. paulo is the best crosser in the team

  12. Anonymous

    Borini scores two more for Swansea. His goals per game average must be Studgeworthily freakish.

    Keeping them both is going to be interesting. Borini will probably be happy enough with another season on loan, if it’s a Premier League club, but Studge is going to want to start regularly or be traded, I imagine.

    I’ll back up Habs on the gratuitous anti-Avram tirade. How is it that Grant has managed to keep persuading people that he deserves his chance? He’s obviously a nice fellow and all that but there must be managers in the lower divisions who are chewing their own thumbs off in frustration at the fact that someone whose record might as well be flashing “JOURNEYMAN” in pink neon letters keps getting asked to manage top division clubs.

    A couple of months ago I was thinking that late April and May would be a rather nervous struggle to finish in the top four. Very nice to have a low-stress finish to the season for a change. I can’t get excited about the mathematical possibility of stealing the league out from under the empurpled nose of Sir Alex: as others have mentioned, even if we beat them at their place it’s pretty hard to imagine them dropping points in their last couple of games.

    Branners used to cross pretty well. His form has dropped a bit since about February. Still been one of our best players this season though.

    • Nick

      I agree. Anti-Avram tirades make you feel better. Though, thinking about it now, perhaps Habs could have abridged it to just one word, the ‘C’ word…


  13. Greenlightinoz

    So tonight’s result means that both Blackburn and Blackpool will be desperate to take some points out of their games with Utd……. I am actually beginning to think that they will drop the necessary points.

    The question is……. Can we win all of our games? On that score, I am less optimistic!

  14. WorkingClassPost

    Nine goals in three games, and some very sweet strikes in amongst them.

    Good report Habs and that really was a weird match which we could easily have drawn or worse, but we finished with a flourish and might comfortably have got more than we did.

    If the other results go our way, then fine, but for us it’s just about playing like champions for the next few weeks.

  15. Ososdeoro

    Well, if they manage it then they’ll certainly damn well deserve it for the run of form it will have taken to win the league. And if they don’t then it’s pretty clear they’ll have taken care of the rest of the necessary business (not a certainty, but pretty likely anyway).

  16. Anonymous

    I’ve booked my ticket to Everton away.

    I know it’s a slim outside chance and lots of things have to go in our favour but if we win the league I’d like to be there.

  17. Der_Kaiser

    Good day at the office all round. Decent performance and as mentioned above, worries about CL qualification are a thing of the past. Torres has gone some way to removing the sizeable baboon he’s been transporting on his back for three months and most of the squad bar seems to be firing on something like all cylinders again. Interesting to note how much more competent we look in possession with Obi on the pitch.

    Still don’t believe we’ll win all of our remaining games – a draw against Spurtz (hello, Europa League) on Saturday is almost a racing certainty – but second is now there for the taking which is tremendous given the ups and downs of this season.

    Some salient points for the ‘Carlo out’ brigade; sight of Avram at the Bridge surely came with a large ‘careful what you wish for’ caveat, and but for Didier’s missed penalty at the Lane and the defence switching off in the dying seconds against Villa at the Bridge, we’d arguably be favourites to lift the title again. Given the interference from above and the fact he had to deal with the death of his father in the midst of it all, I’d say he of the expressive eyebrows deserves a break and some more time at the helm.

    And apparently Arsene doesn’t believe he needs to change the way his team plays; long may that rather deluded train of thought continue. Do have a strong suspicion that Mr. Kroenke may think differently, though.

    Daytripper – re Bruma’s goals; absolute crackers too – reminded me of a few of Frank LeBouef’s long range belters from back in the day. Good to see Sturridge and Borini knocking them home too.

    • Cunningplan

      I’d also go along with the two games you mentioned JD, as being significant in the grand scale of things. I’d also add that freak result against Birmingham as another we can look back and think what if.
      I just hope we still go for it in our remaining games and not make it easy for Utd, at least make them work for it.

  18. bluebayou

    I was raised on the ashpalted playgrounds of Tottenham and Islington as opposed to the lush green playing fields of Eton and therefore lack a solid grounding in the practice of schoolboy buggery. However I do have experience of the cheaper, poor man’s state school alternative, the homo-erotic and somewhat sadistic practice known in the 70’s as the “bundle”.

    Some weak, hapless, though perhaps bright and witty individual when wandering the playground would, at the behest of a collection of ruffians, most of them destined for either borstal, or well paid jobs: the police, the security services, the press, the city (indeed any other occupation where preying on the weak, unfortunate or just different is embedded in the culture), would be set upon by a mob crying at the tops of their voices “buuuuuuuundeeeeeeeewwwwllllllll”.

    Liberal use of the boot or fist would be employed in the ensuing mass of writhing bodies.

    Given the well-documented antipathy that many posters noted towards Torres from his fellow players, I can only assume that the call of “bundle” went up just after he scored and the opportunity to give him a few surreptitious digs was just too good an opportunity to miss, while fans and media were distracted by the tidal wave of joy and the sheeting rain to notice.

    Frankly I’m not buying the, “we all love ‘Nando nonsense”. Was I alone in noting the delicious irony that it was Malouda, all smiles and effusive praise, but almost certainly the leader of the Francophone conspiracy to prevent him getting anywhere near the ball, who was interviewed afterwards?

    I think we should be told.

    • Anonymous

      I’m so sorry to read about your deprived childhood.

      Would you like to pop round to my study, after class, for a sound thrashing?

      • Anonymous

        As another product of just a deprived state school, even worse, in the provinces, who could only wonder from a considerable distance about posh boy practices shall we form an orderly, trembly-kneed queue?

        Mind you the teachers were allowed to administer leather straps to tiny hands at my school [this was a very, very long time ago] so perhaps I’ve not missed much…..

        • Der_Kaiser

          As a product of some fairly expensive educational establishments, I can confirm that the art of the bundle was very much a part of my formative years too. And having moved to a comprehensive education for the last couple of years of my school life, the privileged classes are certainly no less vicious in their bundling than their less well-to-do counterparts.

          It should also be noted that the only folk fond of engaging the pupils in anything vaguely sadistic with an underlying air of the homo-erotic were certain members of the teaching staff and not one’s contemporaries…

          • Anonymous

            Errrr………an education that seems to mirror almost exactly that of Will, the star of The Inbetweeners, one of the single most puerile, schoolboy humoured and ‘laugh until I need my inhaler’ funny sitcoms ever made. . Please tell me the whole thing is based on your memoirs of comprehensive schooling 🙂

  19. bluebayou

    Sorry all, didn’t mean to start a class war.

    Thanks for the report Habs. Only saw the end of the first and big bits of the 2nd half. I thought one consequence of Essien going off was that we lost our defensive shape in midfield a bit. There was even less pressure on the ball than I would have liked and it had been patchy enough at times. The Keane chance was too worrying for words. Then again we also missed some good opportunities as well.

    All in all it seems that CA has got the team playing again and we are getting a bit of form back.

    The Spurs will be a challenge though and while title hopes are so thin they at best resemble a very poor comb-over job, it would not be pleasant to see them finally extinguished by norf london’s second finest.

    Apparently a bolt of lightning was seen to strike the pitch close to where David Luiz was standing at one point during the game. Good job it missed him. It might have made his hair stand on end.

  20. bluebayou

    Like the Taliban I’ve been doing a bit of digging and given that we may be about to have our third trophyless season in the eight since RA took over, it’s interesting to note that Man U have only had one, season 2004-2005 in the same period.

    However, before deep depression at the scale of our failure o’ertakes you, there were 2 seasons where only the League Cup forced the cleaners of Trafford to reach for their tin of duraglit.

    Ah such small margins………..

  21. Cunningplan

    Getting back to tonight, what might be the best sequence of events to suit our needs for a “back door job” on Utd.

    Schalke have to be in the game by next week with a narrow 1-0 win or a 0-0 draw to keep Utd interested.
    Of course with that playing on old Fergie’s mind, he dabbles with team selection on Saturday, to allow the tortured soul from France, some redemption with his footballing philosophy by sneaking a win.

    In the meantime we need a superhero chef (any volunteers) to be cooking Spurs evening meal on the Friday.

    Then off course the second leg would be great if it went into extra time with Utd losing on penalties, allowing us to roger them further, with a 3-0 win on the Sunday.

    Any other scenarios please feel free to post.

      • Cunningplan

        Yes I have to say I can see why they’re 10th in the Bundesliga. Makes you wonder was there some betting scam in Italy when they played Inter.

  22. bluebayou

    Last night’s one sided affair was a timely reminder, if it were needed, that the Champions League is cup football. It’s not league football.

    Unless there is some form of Resurrection next week the tie is dead. That’s one semi-final of Europe’s most prestigious club competition dead on its arse and only half finished. But that’s what happens in Cup football. That’s the beauty of it and the curse of it. Look at Bolton a couple of weeks back, sunk before half time and no way back.

    Shalke 04 have played well enough for long enough to get to the semi but now the game is up. But I wouldn’t deny them their chance.

    The other half of the draw has perhaps the 2 strongest teams left in the contest (with apologies to Man Utd but you’re not a vintage side and neither were we if we’d got through).

    Two things here.

    1. Let’s hope this doesn’t persuade UEFA to try and fix the thing even more to the benefit of half a dozen strong clubs. If you want the best to come out on top then you have a proper league and not a cup competition. This bastard child is bad enough without frigging it even further. (And let’s not forget those (very cold) countries whose leagues don’t quite fit with the timing of this glorious event, which always handicaps the latter stages in favour of more temperate zones).

    2. Roman A should sit back and ponder the lesson that a sensibly managed solid investment will generally pay him back in league titles but Cup football, you just cannot tell. Any competition you can lose on penalty kicks has an uncontrollable element of chance that gives the lesser of two teams a better chance than a replay would. Ask your current manager and captain.

    That’s not an argument for not trying to win it, but it is a contention that we should build for the league, the rest is a bonus. It’s also worth noting that we have two reasonably competitive domestic cup competitions, so players do have a conditioning in the psychcology of knock-out football. Indeed I sometimes wonder if the success of British clubs in the old European formats wasn’t helped by playing the the FA and League Cups, when other countries did not take their domestic cups too seriously. So at the moment, given the standard of play in the PL, a potentially league winning side, who takes one domestic cup seriously to hone the psyche, will have a better than even chance in the CL.

    Reading this on a website called The New Inquiry, I was reminded of our experiences in the Champion’s League. Mind you I think the general argument is flawed as away from knock-out tournaments when you consider a 30 odd game league, the vicissitudes will generally even out over a season. The wirter also ignores the fact that is American sports you play a long season only to decide who goes into the play-offs, which it seems to be generally agreed are different to regular season not just in intensity but often tactics and style of play.

    “What turns Americans off soccer isn’t just the players, though; it’s the nature of the game. There is an element of chance, fatalism—even tragedy—to it. In a low-scoring sport, the better team is not guaranteed to win. One moment of bad luck and the whole game can be over. Referees’ inexplicably bad calls are not subject to review. There are few ways to decide a sports game that are more cruel and indifferent than penalty kicks. Ninety minutes of crescendo and decrescendo and you have to hope that once, your team is in the right place at the right time with the right man behind the ball.

    Soccer, in other words, is too much like real life. This doesn’t sit well with the “valued Anglo-Saxon concept of fair play,” by which athletes, in exchange for playing by the rules, respecting the game, and doing right by their opponents, are supposed to get a game ruled by reason and logic. If this sounds like the only way to play, it’s because the two sports closest to American hearts have closed us off to the possibility of anything else. Our sports aren’t like real life because we want them to be fair.”

    • Ososdeoro

      Cup football, like the NCAA basketball playoffs, is also about getting a good match-up…leaving even more to chance.

      That article, though, just convinces me more that most baseball fans can’t or don’t want to understand American football. And I think I’ve had my fill of these sorts whining about it. It’s a marvelously complex game with near-infinite blocking schemes and defensive schemes. It is the most popular TV game in the US, but to hear this guy tell it you’d think no one actually goes to the games. Nothing could be further from the truth. The rooting experience at NFL games, college and pro, is quite the good one, and in most ways superior to your garden variety late June baseball game. Our friend here does a good job of pointing out the problems with American football, but you’ll notice that very few of those complaints have anything to do with the actual game (and the ones that do are invalid).

      As for being an American soccer fan, or rather a soccer fan who is American, he does have a point. I have that fairness thing. I hate diving, and think that there should be review board that looks at the tapes and penalizes players caught doing it. I think the review board should also be able to take back yellow and red cards awarded at matches (much like goals are awarded to particular players after the fact). I’m not big on the concept of penalty kicks…in the old NASL instead of PKs the players would have to take the ball from about 40 yards out and try and score on the goalie one on one (like hockey penalties) — which is more entertaining and far more fair. And for GOD’S sake get goal line cameras.

    • Cunningplan

      You don’t need last night to remind you of how much of a lottery it is, the 2005 final does that in abundance.
      I also echo LTB’s view on your second point, lets just hope that everyone at Chelsea just sees it that way.

      I’ll give you my American brother-in-laws view on “soccer”, I’ll paraphrase, “it’ll never be big over here, because it lacks skill as it’s all kick and rush, we prefer the tactics and thought that’s put into baseball and football”

  23. Anonymous

    Hearty hup hup huzzahs to point no. 2 above. And let’s devoutly hope that the inherent flukiness of cup football doesn’t mean that the Mancs end up with the trophy.

    Delighted to see José working his magic on Guardiola. It’s amazing how none of them can stop themselves once he gets going on them.

    It’s always interesting to read variants of the Why-Don’t-Americans-Like-Football argument. I think I’ve been following them since this first became a serious question twenty-odd years ago; back then the answers were usually less sophisticated (“because there’s not enough scoring”. Oh, maybe we should make each goal worth fifty — then you could win 200-150 and they’d like it.)

    The above theory is more intriguing than most, and certainly makes an interesting point about footy. But, like all the others, it’s bollocks. Americans *do* like football, as is obvious enough from participation at high school level. What’s meant by “Why don’t Americans like football” is actually “Why doesn’t football have as high a profile as baseball/gridiron?” And the answers are pretty obvious, and (natch) nothing to do with any supposedly inherent qualities of the game. There’s boring historical reasons — footy doesn’t have as high a profile in the USA as baseball in exactly the same way that baseball doesn’t have as high a profile as footy in the UK. And there’s the fact that America loses at football to places like Ghana and Portugal and Chile. If (perhaps one should say “when”) the US national team starts being a major force, I suspect there will be very many fewer people in America talking about footy’s inherent unfairness or inappropriateness to the rugged individualist psyche or lack of scoring or middle-classness or whatever.

  24. Cunningplan

    For all their skills and pretty football, Barcelona do have a bunch of very unlikeable twats in that team.

    • Der_Kaiser

      Bunch of utter vermin; I simply cannot put into words how much I detest that fucking team. The diving, the acting, the constant imaginary card waving and hectoring of the referee whilst hiding under the guise of their holier than thou, UNICEF sponsored mask of supposed purity makes me physically sick.

      If they make the final, as much as it would stick in my throat, I’d be (just about) cheering the Mancs on.

  25. Anonymous

    I’m with Ososdeoro.

    As an American who likes soccer (and football, and baseball) I generally find that the dislike for soccer isn’t really much different than the way fans of baseball dislike football, or the way basketball fans are indifferent to baseball. There is outright hostility between sports in this country. The difference with soccer is that it doesn’t have any support from the establishment. If that changes it will be like any other sport here.

    Most people who dislike a sport generally don’t understand it. I know few people who really understand any major sport (and are sports fans) and outright detest it.

    The criticism that soccer is “kick and rush” comes from the fact that soccer tactics are not very well developed in this country. Especially in youth soccer kick and rush is prevalent. At their worst the US National team starts reverting to those tactics.

    Fair play matters. No one supported Italy to win the WC after what they did to Australia. But that’s also to ignore the long, proud and continuing tradition of cheating in football and baseball. In baseball it has always been endemic (not just steroids), and in football the amount of cheating is such that most of the time it isn’t called. As they say in American Football: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying”.

    I think it is conceptions of sporting honor just as much as fairplay. We are quite comfortable with holding, blocking, hitting people late. We aren’t ok with players falling down when they haven’t been touched. It’s considered undignified in basketball as well.

  26. Anonymous

    Best teams in the World my arse.

    Marcelo is quite possibly the most obnoxious, petty, play-acting front-to-back I’ve seen on a pitch in a while. Just ahead of Pedro. And any of the other 20 on the pitch. Give me Bolton upsetting Arsenal every day.

    Plus, in my current locale, all the chat is if Lamberts men can keep their heads for 180 minutes and gain automatic promotion. Clearly I hope they do, but at tge expense of Cardiff would make it hundreds of times better.

  27. bluebayou

    A masterclass.

    There were perhaps 2 or 3 occasions in the whole game where Madrid started to spend any time in Barca’s half. Each one resulted in someone poleaxed and clutching their face. Replays showed no contact on the face. But the pressure was applied on the officials from the get go.

    They seemed to be particularly working the linesman on the nearside.

    Now did he flag the Pepe incident or was that all the ref?

    Either way they’d gradually built up the pressure so that the the officials were starting to think there was too much happening on and off the ball and the pitch.

    The introduction of Adebayor meant that Madrid were starting to press the Barca box a bit.

    Down they go again. A red card. Up against 10 men. A bit more room to play.

    ITV in 7th heaven.

    Never at any point connect the dots, in fact they are fixated on Madrid and their dark lord as being the source of all the trouble.


    There was no single opposition foul worse than a Barca one tonight.

    While I don’t care either way as Real have had plenty go their way over the years, it’s getting very difficult to love the Catalans.

    If you solve their system, you play with 10. It’s that simple.

  28. Benjami

    I was a massive fan of Barcelona over the last few seasons but I am getting tired of them getting the other teams players sent off.

    They are one of the greatest sides of all times, yet, they have no class what so ever. Terrible losers and whiners to the referee.

    Would love Howard Webb to ref the final but of course he cannot. They should get Collina back out of retirement 😀

    Every Barcelona player who ran over to the referee after Pepe’s challenge should be banned from the home leg ;p That would teach players not to put pressure on the referee!

    Messi plays and acts with class however, wonderful 2nd goal. es un jugadorazo!!!!

  29. bluebayou

    Thanks for some interesting thoughts on the article I posted above and I think we all broadly agree that the professional sports set up in the States means association football will not have the same level of exposure for some time to come. Interesting to hear of the antipathy between some fans of the big 3 sports. I suppose I always assumed it was football in the winter baseball in the summer and basketball somewhere in between.

    You live and learn.

    And on the subject of skill as mentioned by Clive, I recently read an article that was really about hurling, but made the point that it is not inherently natural to kick a ball in the way we do. Just watch someone who has never used their feet for the purpose try to kick a ball. Picking up and throwing comes more naturally, even hitting with a stick. I hadn’t really thought of that but I suppose it’s true.

    And blokes using any excuse to run at each other and knock seven bells out of each other, well that seems to be universal?

  30. Ososdeoro

    Well. Interesting to have written what I did above and then go out and watch the first half of that CL game at lunch. Good Lord. And those refs sit there and take the abuse without putting up a card like they would in EPL.

    At the risk of being off topic, Be_Champions, I think you’re right. In fact I was at a Cal (American football) game this season where an Oregon Duck player ran a charted pick on a Cal defender, putting him out on injury for a few weeks (this is illegal, very dangerous, and when done in certain places on the field is out of view of the referees due to what they’re supposed to be watching instead). No problem with that of course. But at the same game a different Cal player purposely faked an injury to enable a defensive substitution (the need to do this involves an innovative way Oregon runs its offense that will probably necessitate a rules change before long). National outrage, literally, over that of course. So your point that “honorable” cheating is okay here, even if dangerous or violent, I find brilliant.

    Going in a third direction, I have no trouble with what Suarez did for Uruguay (I love their Rossini-like national anthem, btw). He knew what the consequences would be for what he did. If it’s still a problem, make the penalty worse. It’s kind of like being outraged over a basketball player committing a penalty.

    And Blue, there are plenty of couch potatoes in the US here that will watch any major sport. But a good amount of discussion is spent on which sports are better and people are passionate about their favorites.

  31. Anonymous

    Osos, I’m also a Cal grad. I wasn’t at the Oregon game, unfortunately. I was desperately looking for a bar that had a TV showing it and only caught the 4th Q.

    I wasn’t even thinking about the fake injury in that game, but it is a good example. I’ve always hated Oregon for being a nasty, violent team that hits people when they are unprotected. But that’s the funny thing- no one pays attention to that because it is so common, and hitting people is considered ok. Slow the game down with an injury? That’s reprehensible!

    I’m not trying to say that faking injury is correct, but I just do wonder besides my explanation (which doesn’t actually explain the mechanics of anything) why cheating in a way that is likely to cause irreparable injury is tolerated, but play acting is not.

  32. NorthernVA

    Some great conversation going on here today. My two cents worth is that any attempt to try to understand the sports culture my country will only leave you a headache. It’s too big of a country with various regional interest. Friday night high school football in Texas is literally a way of life while my home state of Maryland basketball, lacrosse, and soccer are king. SEC College football rules the day in the south while in New England nothing will surpass peoples affection for the Red Sox.

    I don’t really sense as much antipathy for various sports as may be believed. If the Washington Nationals started to top the National East like the Washington Capitals do in hockey then you would see more folks in the stands. I think we as Americans like to support winners. If you build a winning product they will come. That is why football has become essentially or national sport. The way salary caps are structured and revenue is shared leads to a somewhat level playing field. It really boils down to how effective a teams front office (board) is in evaluating talent. Also having a 16 game season helps with our extremely limited attention spans. That is a trait which crosses all regions. It helped George Bush get elected, twice!

    Soccer is growing at a rapid rate in our country. Kick and rush was the way we played in my youth however nowadays the kids are playing on much smaller pitches with five a side. More attention is being paid to technical development. Remember we have only had a league since 1996. The MLS clubs finally now have youth academies. Our new stadiums are much smaller and more soccer specific. Our national team really ain’t that bad. In 1998 we finish dead last out of the 32 nations with an embarrassing loss to Iran. Fours years later we beat Portugal in our opening game of the World Cup. Not just any Portuguese team however their Golden Generation (Rui Costa, Figo, Pauletta). We made the quarter-finals and outplayed the Germans and were an uncalled Torsten Friggs handball away from taking them to extra time. 2006 we were the only team to face Italy and not lose even though we had two players sent off under some dubious decisions. Last year we tied you guys and won our group for the first time in our history. The ratings for our game against Algeria surpassed that of the NBA Finals. The country is well aware of this foreign game and whether folks want to believe it our not we can hang with the best, ask Spain (2-0 Altidore 25′, Dempsey 73′). That’s why Chelsea come here in the summer and sell out from Seattle to LA to Dallas and Baltimore. Still have found memories of that game against AC Milan in Baltimore. Drogba set that packed stadium of 71k on fire with that piledriver from 30 yards. That stadium only usually jumps like that after Ray Lewis cleans a running backs clock.

  33. Anonymous

    BB, just to clarify, it is Football in the fall, Basketball in the winter, and Baseball in the spring/summer.

    What sports you like in the USA isn’t so different than the football/rugby/cricket thing in England. Where you are from and class has something to do with it.

    Pro Football is popular across the country. Very popular in the midwest/steel belt. If you count Buffalo and Missouri, you have 11 of the 32 teams located in that area. It also helps that there are no other major sports that play during most of the season (except for college football, and I’ll get to that).

    Basketball is more urban. More of the teams are in the West than in other sports (although two of the “western” teams are in Tennessee and Louisiana). Interestingly, three of the teams are based in Texas. Also, teams tend to double up on metro areas. So the Bay Area, LA and NY have two teams each. 1/4 of the league is in 3 cities, effectively. It’s a game that’s not very popular in the South. This is also reflected in College Basketball, which is very popular as well. Few southern teams are ever very good, while small schools from the Northeast tend to stay dominant powers. Basketball is also a bit smaller market, as you have teams in cities like San Antonio, Salt Lake, Portland and Sacramento that don’t have another major sports franchise.

    This may come as a surprise, but baseball is extremely urban. It is heavily based in the urban cities of the East, and then to a large degree in the West. There are 5 baseball teams in California. Teams tend to double up- the Bay Area, LA, New York, Chicago and DC/Baltimore all have two teams, except LA which has three (San Diego).

    Hockey is mostly just played in the Northeast and Canada. If you can’t go ice skating where you live, you probably won’t like hockey. There is talk of moving the teams in the south west, like Phoenix, back to Canada.

    What most people don’t realize is that College Football is almost as popular as the NFL. Definitely more popular than basketball. People choose their team based on where they live and where they went to school. Football is extremely popular in the South, and certain teams (Alabama, Florida, LSU, Texas) are as popular as NFL franchises. For this reason NFL teams don’t move to the South- the people there don’t care about the NFL at all, and they just follow the college teams. It’s also a big deal in the plains, where teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska have a fanatical following.

    To understand this, Football is a way of life in some parts of the country. Football is also the most rural sport (even though most people think it would be baseball). In Texas, high school football games often have a larger attendance than matches in the Championship. There is a certain rhythm to it- High School games are played on Friday nights, College football is played on Saturday, and NFL is played on Sunday. Everywhere. Places that are really into their football tend to think baseball is kind of silly. They ignore basketball completely.

    The rules are different everywhere. Really big cities like all of their sports. The Northeast (NY, PHI, BOS) doesn’t care much for college football. The South doesn’t care much for the NFL. Texas is all football all the time (but has a large enough population that people watch other sports). Hockey is always a minority interest, and is tinged with “canadianness”. Depending on where you are from, what sport you primarily play helps determine what other sport you like and what you dislike.

  34. Anonymous

    NoVA, you posted that as I was writing mine. Didn’t mean to step on you.

    I agree that soccer is increasing in popularity in this country, but I disagree on the trajectory of the US team. Beating Columbia in 1994 was a fluke. Beating Spain was also a fluke. The Confederations Cup final against Brazil wasn’t even close. The World Cup still makes me angry, and Bob Bradley is public enemy #1 for me.

    We are a side that is plucky enough to sometimes get results when we are outplayed. But the key is that we are always outplayed. It’s great for results but terrible for the development of the team that we have such a great GK. We can try to play tight and hope to keep it close. But we can’t attack, and until we can do that, we won’t be a good (let alone great) team.

  35. NorthernVA

    Be_Champions I did notice the double post. Pure coincidence however we seem to be pretty close in our analysis of our national sports. As far as our national team goes I think we can attack with the best of them. Unfortunately it takes us going a goal down for Bob to get out of his shell. Case in point the recent 1-1 draw versus a full strength Argentina.Great move with throwing the young Agudelo up front with Jozy.

    Remember we did score more goals than any other CONCACAF side in WC qualifying. I believe we also had the most come from behind wins as well which just highlights the shackles Bob imposes. My problem with Bob is his complete lack of trust in starting a game with our most creative players. Feilhaber and Torres were by far our most creative mids however Torres was effectively scapegoated by Bob for the horrific first half performance vs Slovenia and never has seen the pitch since. Benny changed games for us not only last summer but in the Confed Cup he pulled the strings for Clint’s goal and don’t forget his winner in the Gold Cup final against our neighbors down south but seems to be only an impact sub in the eyes of Bob.

    The WC does still leave a bitter taste when we think of what could have been. We didn’t lose to Ghana because of a lack of chances. We created the better chances however we just didn’t take them. I thought Jozy had an excellent World Cup and was a handful for most every defense we played. Look at the number of bookings he forced. However he is only 20 and is not the most clinical of strikers but who is at that age. Don’t say Chicharito he is 22. We got our hands full this summer with that match winning fucker.

  36. Cunningplan

    Well Sir Purplenose has certainly had adequate warning as to what to expect at Wembley in May. The only area where Utd can match them, is surrounding and harranging the referee, he might need some GPS device so other officials can find him when it happens.

    And to go back to BB’s point on Barca, if you work them out chances are you play with 10 has become so blatant it beggars belief.
    Why the media don’t start to highlight this and start to crucify them for it, it will continue to happen, they really are a bunch of cheating c****s!

    This competition is getting more corrupt by the year.

  37. NorthernVA

    I believe the referee Stark was the same fella who did the return leg of the Chelsea Inter Milan Round of 16 game. Where we had three legitimate appeals turned down. Samuel on Drogba, Motta on Bran, and Lucio on Malouda.

  38. Anonymous

    I didn’t see the game because I thought the Masterchef final would be more exciting. I was a bit shocked when chef Tim was lying on the floor, by his workstation, holding his face.

    Was the sending off of Pepe the correct decision?

  39. bluebayou

    It’s make your mind up time.

    It’s not studs up in the classic Scolesean mode but unnecessary. A yellow card would be in order, but is it a red? The ball was there to be won. Difficult to see how that level of contact could spin a 71kg man around but there you go.

    • Der_Kaiser

      I think the expression is ‘minimal contact’.

      Alves, Busquets, Pedro – they were all at it. Mascherano could start a fight in an empty room and whilst Messi might be a superb player, he’s one of the worst culprits in the referee hassling / imaginary card waving stakes.

      Vile, vile team. But they’re going to win it, barring miracles. Let’s just hope the old goat from Govan still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

      • bluebayou

        I think I’d still rather Barca won it, ’cause my antipathy to Man U is greater. We only have to watch the this Catalan circus every spring whereas the Mancs our in our faces lecturing us on what constitutes proper football all year round.

        It might also convince Roman that other than appointing Nick Hytner as coach/artistic director and recruiting heavily from the RSC and the National Theatre, its better to look at a management team who can regularly compete in the league as opposed to hiring and firing based on results in this annual farce.

      • Cunningplan

        The only way to stop the imaginary card waving is for Uefa to give the directive to book players for doing it.
        Also as far as the play acting goes and clutching various parts and writhing around when no contact has been made, is rertospective punishment from video evidence.

        I won’t be holding my breath on either being implemented.

        • Der_Kaiser

          Agreed. I’ve never been a fan of the whole ‘rugby does X, Y and Z’ argument as the two games are fundamentally different in terms of the emotions people attach to them (amongst many other things), but why the ‘captain only speaks to ref’ rule can’t be implemented, I have no idea.

        • Anonymous

          I agree that ‘faking it’ is irritating and distasteful. The only problem is that every club has their own actor. Look no further than Drogba.

          • Anonymous

            Whilst I agree that we have Drogba, he has cleaned his act up a lot. Alves howver has been conning and cheating for years and fuck all has been done about tit. To cap that along comes a new one in Pedro who was an utter disgrace. I hope either of them come up against a real leg breaking clogger who gives them every reason to roll around like they’ve been hit by AK-47 fire. Messi, as great as h is, isn’t averse to a bit of feigning, not Xavi or Iniesta. They have a veritable cast of actors and have done for years and yet nothing is said or done. Drogba swears into a camera and UEFA jump on that within days.

            I’ll say it. Barca afre crooked, cheating, play acting cunts of the highest order of Utter Cuntery. as much as I dislike United, for this game I will be hoping they fucking slaughter Barcelona whilst inflicting some typically British tackles and injuries on them.

          • Anonymous

            Generally I don’t use the ‘C’ word but in this case I think your use of it wholly appropriate. I agree with you that a nice solid British tackle on Alves would be justice.

            It makes me think back to an after dinner speech from Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris when he related how, when he felt an opponent needed some special attention, he would call out to Ossie “roll me one Oz”. The King duly obliged by rolling a pass between Chopper and his opponent 40:60 in the opponents favour. The crowd would groan at what they perceived as Ossie’s slapdash pass. The opponent knew he had to go for the ball since it was 60:40 in his favour, even though he knew he was staring down the barrel of a gun. Chopper duly obliged with a flying lunge, unable to get to the meat of the ball but able to land his studs on the exposed shin (real men didn’t wear pads in those days). On with the wet sponge.

  40. bluebayou

    Yesterday evening I posted this

    “And on the subject of skill as mentioned by Clive, I recently read an article that was really about hurling, but made the point that it is not inherently natural to kick a ball in the way we do. Just watch someone who has never used their feet for the purpose try to kick a ball. Picking up and throwing comes more naturally, even hitting with a stick. I hadn’t really thought of that but I suppose it’s true.”

    There is as always the exception that proves the rule………….

    • Cunningplan

      Lets just hope for the clubs sake that the parents of said child haven’t been creative with some video editing.

      On saying that it is rather impressive, I’m sure Wenger is currently on the phone attempting a baby snatch.

  41. bluebayou

    Note how with the first ball he picks it up and moves it forward a few metres closer to the target. Already a pro.

  42. Anonymous

    … and let’s not forget Porto’s diving and cheating when they won the Champions League so for Mourinho what goes around comes around.

    • Anonymous

      – or indeed the astounding amount of shameless time-wasting and injury-feigning that Inter indulged in after they scored in the 2nd leg at Stamford Bridge last season.

      However, I do think the rather better current examples of Karma corner are that not only is Uncle Avram looking an increasingly good bet to steer the Wet Spammers to relegation almost as skilfully as he did Pompey, I see that the well-known rhyming slang, Stephen Hunt, is looking an equally good bet for his third consecutive relegation from EPL this season with Wolves, to follow on from those with Reading and Hull.

      Surely both these prats must soon be unemployable at EPL level?

  43. bluebayou

    You could add the decisions that went Inter’s way in the first leg last season.

    Yes we all have our flop ‘n drop specialists, but it’s rare to see the level that Barca took it to last night.

    Seems to me you either get the officials who cave in to Barca and send someone off (most of ’em), or decide to give nothing (like the 1st leg semi last year, not right either) or Tom Ovebro, who gave us nothing but sent one of theirs off (I’ll never work out what he was up to).

  44. Anonymous

    JOSE I SALUTE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    “[Barcelona’s Pep] Guardiola is a fantastic coach, but he’s won one Champions League which I would be ashamed to win after the scandal at Stamford Bridge and this year, if he wins it again, it will be after the scandal at the Bernabeu”

  45. PeteW

    Barca were horrible last night, Real weren’t great but Barca are experts at manipulating officials and they never ever get called on it. Have any of their players or managers EVER been punished for things they have done or said? It’s clear favouritism.

    In all of the games we have played against them I have two real abiding memories – one is Ballack chasing Ovrebo, the other is from 2006 when Del Horno fouled Messi and six or seven Barca players just went into action like actived Cybermen, moving in smooth formation to the referee to have their say. At the time, Chelsea were coming under a lot of pressure for they way they surrounded refs and we all know about Keane and Andy D’Urso but this was the worst I’d seen, a professional, orchestrated press gang. I don’t think it got mentioned at all in the papers the next day and we ended the season being branded the most hated champions of all time for doing exactly what Barca had done throughout those two legs.

    On US attitudes to football, one of the best descriptions of the game I have ever read came from an American writer this summer.

    • Cunningplan

      And as everyman and his dog laud Barca and it’s academy, we’re only going to see more of the same from the kids, as the culture of hounding referees seems to be part of their DNA

  46. Anonymous

    Still going to back Barca in the final though. The thought of a month-long media w**kfest over whether this is the greatest ever Manc team makes me want to throttle myself.

    But I won’t watch the game.

    Did the whole chasing-the-ref-in-packs thing exist before the Keane/Schmeichel/Neville Manc outfit of whenever that was? (mid 90s?) I completely associate it with them. But I suppose it must have been around before.

    I get the appeal of the rugby rule too. Would be great to see free kicks marched 10 yards forward at the tiniest smidgin of dissent from anyone but the captain. But if they found themselves having to book people for talking to the ref … the first game where that rule was implemented would have to be called off after the tenth red card.

    Incidentally, the smugness of rugby people about how gentlemanly/Corinthian/whatever their sport is also grates pretty horribly after a while. I took my kids along to watch London Welsh a couple of years ago since it was a nice day and it’s virtually free to get in, and the supposed bonhomie and good-fellowship was very much not in evidence in the crowd at least. We got scowled at and ignored by all the regulars.

  47. NorthernVA

    To be honest I have no sympathy for Jose and Real. Remember it is Jose “and” Real. Much like last year it was Jose “and” Inter who knocked us out of this competition. He pretty much used the same tactics against us however maybe the enemy of football was the lesser of two evils when compared to the evil empire. Or potentially according to this article it is easier to get away with roughing up big Ivorians and Serbs rather than diminutive Brazilians and Catalans.

  48. Cunningplan

    I don’t think it matters whether people have sympathy or not for Jose/Real/Inter or whoever, it’s the continued pattern of Barca’s players behaviour that’s the concern. In defence of Jose, and I’m certainly not spouting conspiracy theories, it does seem a bit of a coincidence, that this is the fourth game in a row he’s lost a player against Barca, and five if you count the last time when they played with Inter.

    It certainly looks like officials are more favourable in some instances, either due to the way Barca are portrayed in the media, or the hounding and play acting of the shits on the field. I just wonder how Fergie will set his team out in the final, because last time he was conned into playing an open game against them, rather than copy what we did in the semi.

    Whatever happens, I got a feeling someone from Utd will be taking an early bath, and if he picks Scholes it will be a certainty.

    • NorthernVA

      Point taken, I am no Barca apologist however just to take your point abut the players Jose has lost due to red cards versus Barcelona. With the exception of Pepe’s red card the other three occurrences Ramos, Di Maria (two yellows), and Albiol all were deserving of early showers. Pedro, Busquets, Alves are all scumbags however that doesn’t necessarily excuse Madrid for their recklessness. Those three earned their walking papers.

      Ferguson is already working the refs. He’s got Rio rounding off real-time on twitter having a go at Pedro and Alves. I sense that the media’s love affair with Barca is beginning to fizzle. For once it wasn’t just Martin Samuel yelling at a cloud calling that club to account.

      Mark- Dennis Wise would definitely throw the standard deviation of that study out of whack. Speaking of Ferguson didn’t he once say Dennis could start a fight in an empty house.

      • Cunningplan

        I agree, the media and pundits love affair has been put to the test since Wednesday. It’s long overdue in my opinion, as Chelsea fans we’ve known this from at least 2005

  49. Ososdeoro

    Chelsea were after Alves, correct? Would have been interesting to see if he acted the same way in the parallel universe where signs with Chelsea and plays for Carlo. How much does the manager have to do with this sort of behavior? Quite a bit I’d reckon.

  50. NorthernVA

    I take back everything I said earlier regarding the Real Barcelona match. Just start the video at 1:28 when the foul occurs. Pause it and count the number of Barcelona players converging on the referee. I got about eight including Valdes. Then just play it out. I spent the last few days thinking Pepe ever so slightly caught Alves. These clowns have no shame whatsoever. UEFA needs to use video evidence for retrospective punishment in cases of simulation. This competition becomes more of a farce by the year.

  51. Anonymous

    Terrific game which we deserved to win one way or another. Today — “another.”

    Very impressed by Modric (as usual) and Sandro. Bale seemed a big Welsh waste of space, and Van de Vaart was invisible. Spuds were interesting to watch but really they never got anywhere near our goal.

    I’m feeling a bit smug now about not having joined in the Drogba-bashing of a month or so back. The man was stuck out of position, played with complete commitment, won balls all over the shop, ran back to defend (as did Nando) and was generally terrifying. And even picked up a Drogtastic yellow card for complaining to the ref.

    Good stuff all round and pleasing to get some luck to go with it.

  52. Anonymous

    Thoroughly enjoyable game all round, sweeter for winning like that. I’ll try to get the report done tonight but have just got in and need feeding and watering and then some chill time before MoTD

  53. Jon

    Kalou was excellent today – surely must start for us now not just be a supersub. I think him and torres will play well together

  54. Blue_Mikel

    Two dodgy goals and we have got it 🙂 well sometimes we must be lucky, may be this is the day.

  55. Ososdeoro

    oh dear, well, too bad for Spurs! Bale and VDV looked invisible because they were extremely well defended. And the midfield won the day. I liked the effort, but there were so many mistakes on the attack today — there’s a constant misfiring between players with the ball wanting one extra touch instead of passing to a guy on the run — that sort of thing. Glad for the win and looking fwd to the wee hours of the morning here in CA. Ramires is still good, and I’d like to see Ramires/Lampard/Benayoun with Kalou/Drogba/Torres.

  56. Anonymous

    No complaints about the result, there was only one team after the win. We huffed and puffed and got it due to awful decisions more than perseverance.

    We’re definitely a Modric short of being as free flowing as we should be. Mikel was head and shoulders ahead of most (other than Drogs) but Essien and Lamps seemed content to break up most of our play with poorly placed passes and bad decision making.

    Kalou is still the enigma. Lucky to be a goalscorer yesterday (was definitely offside), on another day we’d be cursing him for continuing to run up cul-de-sacs with the ball then trip over it – which he still does too much.

    So, we’re preachers at the church of Wenger today. Hoping for miracles on consecutive Sundays. Over to you Arsene…..

  57. Biggs

    the linesman decision regarding our first goal is really not that controversial. the ball crossed the line 95%. we only saw that after many tv replays. from where he is standing, and given the split second time he has to decide, it’s a good call. and if the linesman was not in position to see the ball (and he WAS) how were the spurs players in position to see it WASN’T?

    i will never complain about getting a lucky call, and i will always complain of getting an unlucky call…because i am football supporter. let’s say collective thank you to lady luck…and hope she will not come back at the other side at old traford. providing arsenal play for us today.

    and a thought i have been developing lately: does anyone else think that modric should replace lampard, starting next season?

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