The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “For a man unfamiliar with these parts Carlo Ancelotti’s sense of etiquette was exquisite. There was a great sporting event in progress at The Oval and Chelsea were self-effacing. The bashfulness, of course, did not prevent them from winning to maintain a perfect record in these early days of the Premier League season.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “It was a lovely Sunday afternoon for a Thames cruise and Chelsea certainly enjoyed themselves here. The sky was blue and so were most of the moves. Carlo Ancelotti’s players had loads of space to spread out and express themselves. Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka scored while John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were so untroubled they could have got a barbecue going.”
The Times, Oliver Kay: “In terms of euphoria and intensity, the celebrations could not begin to match those down the Embankment and over the river at the Brit Oval, but, as a glorious afternoon turned to a balmy evening in London, there was a growing feeling in the pubs around Craven Cottage, too, that this might be 2005 all over again.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Sometimes it is the power of Didier Drogba that wins Chelsea games, sometimes it is his pace. Yesterday, Fulham just seemed to capitulate on the basis of his reputation alone. This was the old warhorse at his very best, sweeping aside a defence, winning a game, all on his own.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea continued where we left off at Sunderland – with a performance of dominant possession and excellent movement. Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka scored the goals.”
What a splendid Sunday of sport. I began it with a round of golf, much of which I spent listening to updates from the Oval via my iPhone and Test Match Special (to the irritation of at least one of my fellow golfers). Then it was on to the pub to watch the Ashes and today’s game. I was pleasantly smashed by 4 p.m., and I had one eye on the television showing the cricket throughout the 90 minutes. Fortunately for me, the game turned out to be a stroll in the park compared to last weekend’s emotional rollercoaster at the Bridge, and I don’t think I missed a great deal. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to have a hangover tomorrow. I doubt it’ll be as bad as Freddie Flintoff’s though.
Team news: squad rotation was the order of the day and Ancelotti made four changes to the the starting XI that beat Sunderland in midweek, with Carvalho, Mikel, Malouda and Anelka replacing Ivanovic, Essien, Deco and Kalou.
- Another three points. Our eighth successive Premier League win, and it couldn’t have been more comfortable. We outclassed Roy Hodgson’s Fulham, who looked to be suffering the effects of Thursday’s Europa League qualifying match against Amkar Perm, from the second minute to the final whistle. Dempsey gave us a scare in the opening seconds when he escaped the attentions of Carvalho and fired over, but after that it was one way traffic. It wasn’t a very exciting game – surprisingly, the cricket had the monopoly on that particular emotion – but there are days when all you want is an easy, relaxed win and today was one of those – it allowed me to watch quite a lot of the action from the Oval, and it didn’t leave me feeling like I had been emotionally wrung out. Hodgson had done his homework and set his team up with two holding midfielders, obviously with the intention of containing and frustrating our attack. It worked for much of the first half. We bossed possession, played some slick passing but hardly threatened Schwarzer’s goal. In fact, Drogba’s strike in the 39th minute was our first shot on target. I expected Fulham to change their approach in the second half and look for an equaliser, but they didn’t and we continued to have the majority of the possession. Fulham’s players looked jaded and rarely threatened. We finally put the game beyond the Cottagers in the 76th minute when Drogba turned provider and set up Anelka, who rounded Schwarzer with ease and slotted the ball into an empty net. It was his first goal of the season.
- Didier Drogba. Another superb display from a unique player. There were times in the first half when we appeared to be playing a 4-3-3 formation with Drogba the focus of our offence. His hold-up play throughout the 90 minutes was exemplary, and the majority of our best attacks originated with him taking control of the ball and either laying it off or turning and running at Fulham’s back four. He topped off another Man of the Match performance with a well taken goal and an assist – his control, turn and pass to Anelka was sublime.
- Clean sheet. Our first of the season and only our second in the last nine matches. It made for a refreshing change not to have to come from behind to win, as we had to in our first three games of the season if you include the Charity Shield. Carvalho impressed me. He soon got over a shaky start and showed on several occasions what a class defender he still is. I’m relieved he didn’t leave the club in the summer.
- Fulham. I was expecting more from Hodgson’s side. I know their record against us is poor (one win in 16 Premier League games before today), but they’ve given us some good games in the last few seasons. Today though we completely outclassed them. What struck me most was their unwillingness to press, they seemed content to sit back and let us pass it around. At no point did I feel we were in danger of conceding an equaliser, which is unusual for me – I’m usually in a state of constant fear when we’re leading by a single goal. Fulham will have to improve if they’re to match last season’s achievements.
- Um… today was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I’m not feeling in the mood to come up with anything bad about it or the game. Was there anything bad about our performance?
- Cech – 6/10 – I can’t recall him having a save to make, so poor were Fulham coming forward. He did flap at a couple of long balls, but apart from that he had very little else to do.
- Bosingwa – 6/10 – Didn’t get forward as much as Cole, but did do a good job keeping Fulham’s new signing and Chelsea old boy Damien Duff quiet. Duff didn’t come back to haunt us as a few feared he might.
- Carvalho – 7.5/10 – Allowed Dempsey the space to turn and shoot in the opening seconds, but soon recovered and was his usual composed self. Got Terry out of trouble with a splendid sliding tackle, and rescued Cech with a great header in the second half. Made one or two of his customary forward runs as well.
- Terry – 7/10 – Kept Fulham’s two big front men quiet. Even managed to get in a good long-range strike from 25 yards in the first half, which whistled over Schwarzer’s cross bar.
- A. Cole – 7.5/10 – Continued in fine form. Combined well with Malouda down the left. Got into good crossing positions time and again, and even found himself in Fulham’s penalty area on several occasions. Has yet to put pen to paper on his new contract, but it’s just a matter of time.
- Mikel – 7/10 – Great long range volley in the first half which swerved wide. A better performance than against Hull. He wasn’t put under as much pressure by Fulham though, who didn’t seem very interested in pressing the ball. Still, improvement is improvement. I hope it continues.
- Ballack – 7.5/10 – Solid and hard working. A lot of his best work goes unnoticed. Failed to find the target with a free kick and saw a header blocked by some good defending by Etuhu.
- Malouda – 7/10 – Was at the heart of our best periods of play. Provided the width down the left and combined well with Cole.
- Lampard – 7/10 – Good movement and passing. Strange to see him substituted with 10 minutes to go.
- Anelka – 8/10 – Seemed to stay mostly out wide on the right of a front three in the opening period. Worked hard though and dropped into the centre to play a lovely through ball for Drogba to score the first. More central after the break, looked good in possession, made some good runs and continued to work hard. Was rewarded with a goal after Drogba repaid the favour. There are signs that the two of them could form a formidable partnership this season.
- Drogba – 9/10 – Vintage Drogba. Scored the first goal and set up the second. Held up the ball brilliantly, played some lovely forward passes, and again there was no diving and no feigning injury. Awesome display. Man of the Match for the second weekend in a row.
Man of the Match
There’s only one contender: Didier Drogba. He won us the game.
Three games in nine days. Three wins and nine points. We’re second in the table on goal difference behind some north London side (no, not that one. Amazingly, it’s the other one). I have a feeling that this season could be one of the most exciting yet. Manchester United and Liverpool have lost a game in the opening week, Spurs look good (going forward anyway – Carlton Cole gave their defence a hard time today) and so do Arsenal. Spurs’ visit to the Bridge after the international break is already looking like it could be one of the more important games of the season. If Redknapp’s side can get something out of it then we’ll have to start taking them seriously (I must be drunk).
Next weekend it’s Burnley at home. The Premier League newcomers have already beaten United and Everton, so it won’t be as easy as it looked on paper before the season got under way. With Ancelotti declaring himself satisfied with the current squad, and saying there won’t be any players arriving in the last week of the transfer window, it’ll be interesting to see how well we do at breaking them down if they pack midfield and play for a draw as you’d expect them to. A repeat of the Hull game and Ancelotti might wish he’d spent some of the money available to him on another striker.
I’m going to lie down in a darkened room with a bed in it. I’m predicting the bed will be spinning as much as a Graeme Swann off-break. Good night.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!