The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “Scoring nine goals in four days seems like a more than reasonable way to get a defeat out of the system. During the second-half tornado a blue force ripped through Blackburn, inhabitants of the Shed End jumped with enough vigour to test the stand’s foundations, and there was a buzz in the air that made you wonder if Carlo Ancelotti had found the X-factor Roman Abramovich has long been after.”
Sunday Telegraph, Gerry Cox: “Joe Cole was back –and back to his best – as Chelsea moved back to the top of the Premier League by destoying a weakened Blackburn Rovers side. Cole made his first league start since January and showed no adverse effects from the knee injury that had kept him out of action for so long. The England midfielder was full of inventiveness, always looking to play in team-mates with his trademark tricks and flicks, and fitted smoothly into a well-oiled Chelsea machine that got back to winning ways in the league after their defeat at Aston Villa last week.”
Sunday Times, Jonathan Northcroft: “Chelsea, in their past two away games in the Premier League, lost at Wigan and Aston Villa, but for the team and their manager there is succour to be found at Stamford Bridge. Blackburn were dismissed even more emphatically than Atletico Madrid were in Europe on Wednesday. Chelsea, having now scored 21 times in their own stadium this season and conceded just once, went back to the top of the Premier League and preserved the competition’s only perfect home record.”
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Pilloried last weekend after losing a second successive away game at Aston Villa, Chelsea soared back to the top of the Premier League with another emphatic victory to follow the 4-0 demolition of Atletico Madrid three days earlier.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Nine goals in two games has been some response to the defeat at Aston Villa and this latest victory, with Michael Ballack pulling the strings and the movement of the forward running players terrific, must have delighted Carlo Ancelotti who returned from visiting his sick father on Friday.”
Good grief. I actually got called to match duty by Our Dear Leader, and got a thumpingly great game to write about. So very different from last week and sufficient to say that Nick has possibly lost his mantle as Descartes’ Evil Genius, because asking (ordering more like) that I write about today was in retrospect an act of pure altruism. This could be one of the most sycophantic match reports ever.
Still, today would be interesting to see. Blackburn can be an occasional thorn in the side, and Big Sam’s Bolton were quite often party poopers at Stamford Bridge. To be honest I rather like Big Sam. He’s honest and passionate and was treated shabbily by the clowns running the Newcastle circus. I often smile wryly when conversing with a member of the Best Fans in The World (© The Deluded of Newcastle) as I tell them that had Allardyce stayed, they’d still be the Premier League, but no, they knew best. They had to have a Geordie in charge, and it had to be the spent force of Keggy Keegle. Anyway, that’s enough Allardyce praise, we needed a good reaction to the loss at Villa last week and despite a good showing against Atletico Madrid, the Premiership is what counts most dearly to the hardcore fans. I rarely see any half full glasses on initial viewing, but even my cynical jaded old eyes couldn’t foresee a failure against a Blackburn side depleted in strength and not very good on the road. I’m still recovering from the op and therefore still in some pain. A 1-0 cruise would have done me as I was confident I could remain calm for one goal.
So, of course, with me being fragile we had to go and score five. Bastards.
The first bit of good news was the inclusion of Ballack. I described him as a Marmite player last week and still I hear the barbs aimed at him. I’ll say this much. If you can’t see the value that Ballack adds then you simply do not understand football and should retire from watching the game until you’ve passed Level 1 of Understanding The Beautiful Game (© Chelsea Tony’s Football for Dummies College). The second bit of good news was the long overdue return of Joe Cole, and boy what a return… more of that later. Of course in every silver lining there is a cloud, and the absence of Ashley Cole was a bit of a shock, as was the choice of Belletti to cover him. Oddly it worked though, and one can’t help but think The Eyebrow may well have worked out just how good this squad can be.
Anyway, the match started brightly with Lampard chipping a delightful cross into Joe’s path only for him to miss what was really a banker. In fact I’d go as far as saying it was harder to miss than score, but hey, he’s been out for nine months and the chance just came too soon. I don’t normally discuss formations (Red Arrows aside) as frankly they bore the shit out of me, but it appeared we were still on the diamond ruby thingy. Anelka seemed to the left sided player, Joe Cole at the tip bit, Frank on the right and Essien at the bottom*.
* Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… oh sorry bored myself to sleep there.
Anyway it was fairly obvious that Allardyce’s game plan was to park the bus and hope his under strength side could hold out for a grim scoreless draw. Oh dear. Just what plan do you put in place when that last resort one fails so dismally? After pretty much controlling the game the inevitable happened on 20 minutes and a superb defence cutting pass from Ballack found the lightning fast Anelka who put in the sort of cross that strikers love so much… well he’d know wouldn’t he? Drogba was there for the tap in and the unfortunate Givet had no option but to intercept, more in hope than anything else, that his intervention might luckily save the goal. Oh dear. It didn’t and the ball was safely ensconced in the net and we were on our way. Or so it seemed.
I had managed to celebrate the goal very calmly, confident that this game would cause me no further grief and we’d probably waste more chances but it wouldn’t be an issue because it was obvious Blackburn were in shock and awe. After the goal we had chance after chance and it seemed that maybe we would be hoisted on our own petard of profligate finishing. Other teams may have had the wherewithal to capitalise on this but Blackburn were bereft of the required talent or guile to craft any sort of meaningful assault on our goal. Robinson had an inspired session between the sticks, blocking an Anelka chance, just managing to deflect a stinging Drogba drive round the post, be in the right position to collect a Drogba goal bound header from a corner and pulling out an inspired save from a Terry goal bound volley. I was beginning to wonder if were going to be struck down again by the heroic goalkeeper of a visiting team. Still at half time we looked good value for the lead and could count ourselves unfortunate we weren’t four or five goals up. As good as we’d been it still wasn’t an indication of the utter brilliance to follow in the second half. As pulses fell for the half time oranges, one player had started to look like the missing link though. Joe Cole had run and run and tricked and flicked and hassled and tackled and passed like a man with a big point to prove. Which to be fair, is exactly what he is. A man who has to prove to a new coach his value to the team and a man desperate to be on the plane to South Africa driving England onto what could just be its finest footballing hour. Even the most ignorant spectator would have noticed how he made the front players link up well and how he was bringing them into the game. Someone commented on this august blog previously that he was never going to provide what Deco does. Well, he did today and more, plus he has something Deco doesn’t… explosive speed over a short distance. The sort that Rooney has, and today he used it superbly.
The second half began much like the first and after a mere two minutes Essien had played Drogba in, who turned his man, slid the ball across the goal where it was only half cleared and fell to Frank. Two weeks ago I reckon this would have ballooned over or wide, but confidence is an odd thing and after his goal on Wednesday, it seems to have come back and he duly buried it. 2-0, and comfortable. My celebration had caused a bit of unnecessary pain, but I’d probably not have to worry again. Still we came forward in waves, reminiscent of last week against Villa where we played some great stuff. And then on 52 minutes Essien, The Bison, picked the ball up and smashed a 35 yard curling strike into the right of Robinson’s goal. At that point I forgot the doctor’s orders about resting and leapt into the air. The pain was immediate and excruciating, so much so that within a nano-second of the leap I was sat back down gingerly feeling the wound to ensure a gaping hole hadn’t suddenly appeared. I was safe and after that I knew we were hosed and home so any further goals cold be met by warm applause and no forgetful leaping. Chances arrived and the football was breathtaking, Ballack supreme, Anelka world class, yes world class, playing the Sparky role plus, Joe playing some of the most delightful stuff I’ve seen him play, Frankie confident and surging, Ivanovic looking superb in the tackle, Essien being awesome. In fact every player looked good today although Drogba wasn’t at his hustling best; he still made a major contribution with his goal, and won the penalty as well. At 5-0 down with 25 minutes left Blackburn fans must have feared a rout. Every attack from us cut through them like my warm spoon through Haagen Daaz ice cream. Sublime. Superb. Mesmerising. Spellbinding. Awesome. Every adjective perfectly apt. As good as it gets. Eventually Carvalho went off for Bruma. Belletti made way for Ferreira and Joe took a standing ovation as he was replaced by Sturridge. With 10 minutes left, feet left pedals and we went into cruise control passing the ball around and letting Blackburn chase it. They had a couple of goes to be fair to them, but at 5-0 it’s got to be impossible to be anything other than depressed and demoralised.
A great performance was needed to erase the memory of defeat last week in the competition we all want more than any other. And we got it in spades today.
- Joe Cole. Hungry, hard working, cheeky, tricky and brilliant. Fabio Capello should have been here to see this.
- Anelka. I know a fellow contributor of this parish doesn’t rate him but today he continued to show how much more of a rounded player he is, smiling and enjoying his game. He plays the Mark Hughes role better than Hughes did; his ball control is a joy to watch. Magnificent and generous.
- Alan Wiley. Fit and sensible. Good decisions, allowed the game to flow. Showed Fergie up for the ignorant arse that he truly is.
- Lampard. Back with a bang. Just like the old days…
- Spurs losing to Stoke at home. It just never stops making me smile.
- Ballack. Seriously serene and steely. It’s no coincidence that the games we’ve lost this season have not featured him in the side.
- The Eyebrow. Good to see some early-ish subs, especially the use of Sturridge and Bruma.
- No set piece disasters. Mind you Blackburn only had one or two at most and they didn’t have a single corner.
- Blackburn. No doubt the critics will say we won because they were so poor, and to a degree they were. But they were poor because we were so good. They’ll survive the season because Allardyce is a wise and experienced man, but as he alluded in his post match interview, after the first goal they abandoned the game plan and replaced it with… nothing.
- We should have had six at least. But maybe I’m being picky.
- Or maybe just the bizarre. Drogba unleashed a 30 yard bullet that Robinson struggled to deflect round the post. At the resultant corner, inexplicably Drogba decides to change his boots AS the corner was being taken. So our key striker is at the halfway line putting new boots on whilst Frank takes a corner (a very poor one). Why not wait a minute. How desperately did they need changing for him to do it when we had a corner?
- Cech – 6/10 – Didn’t have a lot to do but still looks amazingly suspect in the air. Please Pete, get some old Manchester United videos and watch Peter Schmeichel. If you want to be the world’s best then learn to be the boss in your own box like Schmeichel was. His defence were bloody scared of him such was his commanding style and persona.
- Belletti – 7/10 – Did a decent job. Lovely feet at times.
- Terry – 8/10 – Back to his commanding best.
- Ivanovic – 8/10 – Better than Gallas and more reliable than a Swiss train timetable.
- Carvalho – 7/10 – Much much better this week. Obviously used his midweek break to get some good thinking done.
- Lampard – 8.5/10 – Yep, that good today. Welcome back sir.
- Joe Cole – 9.25/10 – Utterly magnificent. Tired by the time he was subbed but a wonderful return. Carlo’s hug as he left the field of play said it all. That hug was from all of us Joe. All of us.
- Ballack – 8.5/10 – Wonderful and virtually flawless. Took the corner for Drogba’s goal. And what a great corner it was. Drogba headed straight to him for the celebration because he knew just how good it was.
- Essien – 8.5/10 – Awesome game and awesome strike.
- Anelka – 9/10 – So very close to being Man of the Match. Truly superb today and deserved a goal.
- Drogba – 8/10 – A bit quiet at times but still nearly scored twice in the first half, got the penalty and scored from Ballack’s corner. So, not bad then.
- Ferreira (sub for Belletti) – 7/10 – A good option to have on the bench and to be fair despite dropping down the pecking order he hasn’t whinged about it.
- Sturridge (sub for Joe Cole) – Didn’t get the chance to do much.
- Bruma (sub for Carvalho) – 7/10 – A sterling and sound performance and good to see another youngster given a chance on the big stage. Shouldn’t he be the sweeper? (I’ll get my coat.)
Overall Team Performance – 9/10 – It could have been higher but they lose half a point overall because of how poor the opposition were. Still marvellous to watch and at times I was reminded of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s other fine piece of commentary and one which is less well known.
“Oh, that was sheer delightful football. They seem to be taking it in turns to give an exhibition.”
He was commentating on the 1970 World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy and was just overwhelmed, like me, by just how fabulous Brazil were that day. I’m not saying we were that good, it just seemed like it at times today and that for me is worth celebrating.
Man of the Match
It could have been any from Lampard, Ballack, Anelka, Essien or Ivanovic. I was really struggling with these thoughts during the game, but then Ancelotti made my mind up for me. His hug for Joe Cole as he left the pitch was heart-warming and must have made Joe feel like a king. Deservedly so because today he played like one. Well done Joe, here’s the Chelsea Blog flowers and Champagne son. He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where… Joey Cole… Joey Cole…
Don’t let the shine be diminished by the inevitable critics decrying the opposition as it is disingenuous to Chelsea, who went out to prove a point and did so with style. A great performance that showed if we get the consistency then few teams will live with us this year. It was good to see the cobwebs brushed away by the introduction of Bruma (sorry… couldn’t resist that one either) and Sturridge as well as seeing old faces Joey Cole and Ferreira back in the side. If we can keep all of them fit then this could be a very good season. I was able to watch Match of the Day with a smile tonight, will watch the ESPN HD repeat again tomorrow, fitting it in with Goals On Sunday and then watch with objective interest as Liverpool take on United… Rafa’s Last Stand maybe? An afternoon of West Ham and in-form Arsenal completes a weekend to sate the desires of all real football fans.
These days are rare folks and we should allow ourselves a wallow in the swamp of Blue smug self satisfaction.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!