The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "When Chelsea cannot dominate, they rediscover their survival instinct. Following the expulsion of John Terry, they had to keep Everton at bay for an hour."
The Times, Oliver Kay: "These were the first points Chelsea have dropped on their travels this season and it says everything about a difficult night on Merseyside that Luiz Felipe Scolari will prefer to see it as a single point gained. With Terry sent off in the 35th minute for a late lunge on Leon Osman – rightly, despite the inevitable protests of Scolari and his players – Chelsea spent much of the evening hemmed up against the ropes by an Everton team chasing a rare home win."
Daily Telegraph, Mark Ogden: "Chelsea’s failure to reclaim top spot from Liverpool leaves them just six points clear of champions United, who can wipe out the deficit by winning their two games in hand following their return from the Club World Cup in Japan."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "The first league draw on the road this season keeps the Blues off the top but playing most of the game without John Terry, a hard fight was needed to take a single point back to London."
Christmas is coming and the ref is getting fat.
Riley is bad, but Dowd’s a fucking twat.
Actually the ref, Phil Dowd, is already fat. And a bastard. But they’re all bastards. If I was a player I wouldn’t shake their hand or speak a word to them. No matter what decisions they made. But then I can sulk for England.
Despite all the hype I did think this game had ‘draw’ written all over it beforehand, and unfortunately I think West Brom might well be the same. Something isn’t clicking and although tonight’s performance was about grit and pragmatism, we are definitely not getting some of the generous luck afforded Phil Scolari’s predecessors.
A brief review tonight people as I’m winding down for the laughably named Christmas ‘break’. I’ll be at the West Brom game so might be on point for that review as well. But tonight I feel like the little boy who thought he’d get a Raleigh Chopper at Christmas but instead got a second hand scooter.
And yes, that really did happen once.
The Santa Claus’s – those who made me smile
- Jose Bosingwa. Looking to be the best right-back in the country at the moment. Tries too hard from time to time, but rather that than standing around Florent Malouda-style and shaking his head.
- Petr Cech. Made some great saves under pressure, made some great catches and his distribution was quick and decisive. Almost completely the opposite of last season. But Christophe Lollichon is still there… so what’s happened?
- Big Phil Scolari. Well, tonight he showed something on his knowledge of tactics. A game we were controlling suddenly goes awry on 34 minutes when John Terry receives a straight red card. Michael Ballack is marshalled back to John Mikel Obi’s role, Obi sits in for Terry until half time, Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka get subbed for Didier Drogba and Branislav Ivanovic, sending out a clear ‘game of attrition’ message. Tactics worthy of Jose Mourinho and in the end equally successful. The lad is learning…
- John Mikel Obi. Another assured performance arguably under more pressure when we went to ten men, but along with Ballack he played with the archetypal midfield general poise and tranquillity. I reckon he’s all the potential of a future Franz Beckenbauer.
- The overall performance. Whilst it wasn’t a lot to shout home about from a watching perspective… I’ve watched more exciting episodes of Songs of Praise… it was worthy of one important point, that being we can still grind out results against tough opposition in hostile grounds. We won two back to back titles making that a speciality and although this year I fear we may not be good enough for the title, I do think it shows some of our old backbone and that can be strengthened and developed. Games like this build team spirit.
The unwanted presents – never to be discussed or seen again
- Phil Dowd. Booked three of our players and sent Terry off for a tackle that was a definite yellow but not a red. Seems that Julio Arca’s tackle on Saturday might have influenced Dowd as no doubt Keith Hackett read the riot act to the collective of referees (what is the collective term for referees? A garbage of referees? A cesspit of referees… ooh… I like that one… answers on postcards please). Or at least he should have done because Arca should be banned for a long time and the fact he just got yellow for what look like an attempt at amputation shows the utter incompetence of these guys and the stupidity of not allowing video replays. Having said that the fact that not one Everton player got booked seems to indicate a degree of Homer-ism about Dowd. Setanta didn’t show it clearly but I didn’t see any of our players go near him at the end.
- Frank Lampard. Sorry if this upsets anyone, but Frank was a shadow player again tonight, even outshone by the stupefying mediocrity of Deco. Poor corners, poor and sloppy passing, a silly booking and for long parts of the game it seems his Romulan cloaking device did exactly what it said on the tin.
- Craig Burley. The Setanta version of Andy Gray. Without the brains. Said some of the biggest load of bollocks I’ve heard from any co-commentator.
- Petr Cech – 9/10 – Magnificent.
- Jose Bosingwa – 8/10 – Slow start but picked up quickly.
- John Terry – 6/10 – Harsh red card so an early exit.
- Ashley Cole – 7/10 – Hard working and lots of mazy runs.
- Frank Lampard – 5/10 – On a bad run of form.
- John Mikel Obi – 8.5/10 – Thoroughbred winner.
- Deco – 7/10 – Better than previously but wasteful of chances and tries the complicated thing instead of the simple thing.
- Michael Ballack – 7/10 – Hard working but needs more playing time.
- Nicolas Anelka – 7/10 – Barely saw any service and was doomed from the moment Terry went off.
- Joe Cole – 7/10 – Like Anelka worked hard but the minute Terry went off Scolari was always going to ditch him way before Deco. I think he may be on his way next summer.
- Alex – 7.5/10 – Played a solid game but could have gone for a petulant stamp on Tim Cahill.
- Branislav Ivanovic (sub for Terry or Joe Cole… who knows) – 7/10 – Understated class but plenty of bite.
- Didier Drogba (sub for Anelka) – 7/10 – Worked hard but the fancy stuff still fails him more often than not. I would have started him alongside Anelka and sacrificed Deco.
- Wayne Bridge (sub for Deco) – 6/10 – Solid but only on for a few minutes.
- Overall team performance – 7.5/10 – A gritty and hard earned point under pressure from a resilient and hard working Everton team
Man of the Match
Petr Cech. When needed he really did stand out amongst the players and not because of his bright orange shirt.
A good game ruined by a harsh refereeing decision. Once Terry went off the crowd and the likes of me were cheated a bit because like the old Chelsea we seemed happy to dig in and earn the point. Everton would have had it hard anyway but in the second half we were happy to play the resilience game. Better that than a defeat though. Scolari certainly knew from that point what battles could be won and lost and it made for a grim second half with both teams equally frustrated, albeit Everton with their tails up getting the better chances and unsurprisingly having the majority of possession. No-one can doubt that the sending off changed the game completely and I, for one, was glad to see something of the old Mourinho-esque Chelsea tonight rather than a gung-ho, fancy dan display culminating in defeat.
However we lack something at the moment, maybe it’s team spirit forged in the heat of tense and fraught encounters like tonight’s. We still seem guilty of over complicating and I lost count of the chances where I thought a shot was on but we still tried to thread it through a packed defence. We’re under par at the moment but as fitness returns to the likes of Joe Cole, Ballack and Drogba, and Scolari learns a bit more I think we can at least emulate last season.
At the moment though Manchester United and Liverpool look the most likely candidates for the title, through patience and support from the respective boards (Rafael Benitez has been given the time to build and Alex Ferguson shows he can still play with the big boys in the market place) and the right funding and development policies. In Liverpool’s case they’ve kept Benitez for five years and stuck by him for the most part. In United’s case they have the backing of some people who seem to know sport and a wily manager who has seen off many rivals including our own Special One. What we need is stability for the next few years so calling for Scolari’s head is just plain daft. Let us not forget that he has bought in two players only so let’s see what he builds going forward. If we win the next six games, I wonder how many will be shouting a crisis then?
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!