The Observer, Joe Lovejoy: “City were good value for their victory, secured by goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, but Mark Hughes and the record attendance must have feared the worst 10 minutes from the end, when Nedum Onuoha brought down Didier Drogba and Howard Webb pointed to the spot. Up stepped Frank Lampard, normally deadly from 12 yards, but this time he shot too close to Shay Given, who plunged low to his right to rescue his team’s winning position.”
Sunday Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “Remember that poster, Welcome to Manchester? It was sky-blue, and dominated by the face of Carlos Tévez, the City summer signing grinning as if in mockery of his United past. A record crowd of over 48,000 at the City of Manchester Stadium watched the tireless Argentinian direct all his derision at Chelsea with a winning free kick that arrested Man City’s run of seven straight draws and stopped their opponents’ title charge, however briefly, in its tracks.”
Sunday Times, Duncan Castles: “There are some things even Mark Hughes has not been able to buy, such as John Terry and a Premier League win, but Terry and company swaggered up to Eastlands yesterday to put the second of those right for their opponents by having one of their flaky away days.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea suffered a first league defeat in six games at Manchester City on Saturday, after giving away an early lead.”
Once again, our Dear Leader set out to prove that there is no such thing as a hoodoo and that curses are non existent. Funny then how I’m the only one who has to write reports on losing games. The curse is simple. If it’s televised and we’re away from home AND I watch the game live then we will lose, as sure as eggs is eggs. The omens weren’t actually good because I had to watch the game in ‘near real time’ after the V+ box decided to make the picture unwatchable through jumping and flickering. Luckily (well unluckily it turns out) I had set it to record the game, so at half time with me none the wiser, the box was rebooted and I watched from the beginning but 45 minutes behind. Oddly enough the recording from ESPN HD was top class. Which is more than can be said for having the worst and most fuckwitted pundit in the commentary box in the form of the hideously biased Joe Royle. More on him later.
Another bad omen that our Dear Leader swatted aside along with his choice of jinxed match hack, was the dreaded Barclays Manager of the Month award for Carlo. Last month van Persie got the player’s award, and then got injured for the season. Yesterday Bullard got it and limped off today against Villa. And of course, Carlo got it and… well, jinxes and curses… humbug surely?
So, we went into a game without Bosingwa again, and no Kalou, on the back of a midweek defeat in the Carling Cup, but with a mostly rested side. Carlo, though, seemed to disregard last week’s heroes and bring in Deco and Ballack for the unfairly maligned Joe Cole and Mikel Obi. This game, for me, had all the hallmarks of another Villa. A tricky away game against a team loaded with talent but not yet showing the consistency that one might have expected. It was a potential banana skin but as long as we didn’t get carried away I thought the worst we’d get was a draw.
In light of True Blue’s comments earlier in the week, I took off my West Ham and Liverpool kits, donned the blue and watched in anticipation…
Carlo decided to tinker with the team a bit and plumped for the same side that scraped past United a few weeks back. Including my least favourite player, the wasteful and lazy Deco. But to be fair, his recent appearances had offered very tiny glimpses of commitment and passion, so let’s give him a chance I thought. But I’m right. I may not know anything about football but I do know Deco is a rotten apple in the barrel.
As usual if you want formations and tactics then surf the web for plenty of anal football sites, suffice it to say we started with the regulation 11 players. A good start from us for a change looked promising as we came out of the blocks. Both sides had reasonable early chances, but from our side of things Drogba had a glorious early chance which he should have buried following on from one which required a trigger pull rather than trying to beat a resurgent Richards. My memory started to drift back to the Barcelona games last year as an impending feeling of déjà-vu swept over me. City looked slick though and Tevez always looked a threat, leaving Robinho in his shadow somewhat. I still think Tevez for Deco would have been a good deal and maybe having him at the tip of our diamond would give us an even bigger edge. Who knows?
After eight minutes we struck and a fortuitously granted corner led to a passage of play with Ballack putting in a great cross for some penalty box pinball, a stinging Anelka shot and Given’s save rebounding in off Adebayor. Unlucky for Citeh, but due reward for our play to that point. But then as per usual we sat back and let a determined City come at us, and in truth they seemed completely unfazed by the setback whereas we were starting to look like rabbits in headlights. City had done their homework on Cech’s flapping tendencies as they launched in several good looking crosses. Credit where it’s due, they matched us everywhere and then as the game wore on started to win much more of the ball. I don’t rate many pundits but Craig Burley called it bang on at half time when he said the game was in danger of slipping away from us. Yes, City got a goal on 35 minutes despite some Carvalho heroics immediately before which led to the corner from which passage of play they scored. Yes, there was a 50-50 handball decision there, but our goal came from a corner we shouldn’t have had. Swings and roundabouts indeed. I could feel the heavy presence of the curse farting in my general direction.
As the second half got under way it looked as if we’d carry on as we left off, starting to look a bit fragmented and, dare I say it, jaded. The rain was torrential and the pitch slippery, and as the half wore on tempers started to fray. City got a very lucky free kick on 55 minutes, a poor decision from the ref, but we can’t complain as we all know this happens week in and week out. What was poorer than the decision was the wall and Cech’s comedy positioning. Arsenal fans lambasted Almunia for his last ditch positional change before Drogba’s goal last week, well my friends Cech’s was far worse. Tevez’s low shot went through an ineffective wall and had Cech stayed his ground then the ball would have hit him. After that an older Chelsea came to the fore. A rattled and undisciplined one. As the game went on Drogba had chances and one which can only be classed as a sitter which he turned wide. A bad day at the office for our iconic Ivorian. Anelka was busy as usual, but his pace deserted him a tad today, although his first half display was possibly one of our only bright spots. As the yellow cards were flashed, some fairly, some unfairly, the game was slipping away. Belletti came on for Carvalho who was patently losing his head. Only for Belletti to be even worse. He was lucky to stay on after one tackle, but his dissent and petulance was mystifyingly ignored by Webb. He’s one very lucky player.
We did start to apply the pressure but City dug deep, and I sat there imploring Carlo through the TV to get Deco off. He was truly hopeless, giving the ball way, poor passing and utter laziness in refusing to track back. He simply has to go in January. Conversely one our rejects, Shaun Wright-Phillips was having a blinder and his return to City seems to have seen a resurgence of form the likes of which tempted Mourinho to sign him. He made Deco look like a pub player. I would have bought Joe Cole on to give City’s wobbly defence another option to worry about, but failing that Malouda might have welcomed the chance to trouble Richards and the lumbering Lescott.
Drogba tried his best and was rewarded with a penalty when brought down in the box. At this point I was thinking we might get that worthy draw as the oddly anonymous Lampard stepped up to the plate. When I saw his face though, I didn’t see Frank. Instead I saw Andrei Shevchencko in Istanbul lining up to take a penalty to stop Liverpool winning the Champions League. It wasn’t a great strike, but fair play to Given, he called it right and made a good save. I think quite a few Chelsea fans would rather see Given in our goal than Cech, and that includes me. He is for my money, the best goalkeeper in the Premiership and has been for some while.
As the final five minutes of time came and went, the heads dropped and the sadly inevitable truth dawned. We’d been caught napping today and a heavy price was paid, especially with United thumping West Ham.
After the whistle there was a very loud bang from the collective sound of Chelsea fans crashing back to earth.
The Charlize Theron section (phew)
- Branislav Ivanovic. Superb today and must fall into the near priceless bracket as one of the few genuine back four players who can play in any position across the back.
- Manchester City. Well, I’ll now be labelled a closet City fan, but this blog has never been frightened to give the opposition credit where it’s due. They were hungry, hard working, passionate and good on the ball. A far cry from their teams of the past. The draws will harm them with no doubt, but a good run from here and they’ll be one of the teams that potentially keep Liverpool out of the top four.
- Shay Given. No wonder he left Newcastle. He’s always been a good goalkeeper but today he was world class. Shame he isn’t English.
- Drogba and Anelka. A bad day for them when set against what they’ve done so far, but they still looked like the only ones who might keep us in the game. Anelka terrifies defences with pace and skill, and Drogba… well he was unlucky today and his passion did show.
The British weather section (unrelentingly grim)
- Lampard’s penalty. Criminally poor and when we needed the big moment he flunked it. I do wonder why he doesn’t vary the style, especially when facing a renowned stopper like Given. It needed power, not placement.
- Drogba’s misses. Habs commented rather critically about DD’s one on one issues, and it’s hard to argue that point after today. He is still a great striker, but I think he needs to work on this situation.
- A two point gap. It’s hardly a gap really. Hopefully today was a blip because I don’t want a rerun of the last three seasons where we were pressured by United and choked every time.
- Petr Cech and the wall. Pathetic wall formation and commitment, and piss-poor positioning from a goalkeeper along way from his previous heights of glory.
- Carlo’s starting choice. I just think it was tampering for the sake of it when facing a team that also beat Arsenal, but professes to play in a similar fancy dan open way. Leaving Deco on was unforgivable and as such he deserves a few brickbats. Not for the season, but just for today. Carlo got it very wrong today, very wrong indeed.
The Anne Widdecombe section (ugly, ugly, ugly)
- Joe Royle the horrible biased prick. What the fuck are ESPN thinking of? This misogynistic, biased, blinkered failure has huge associations with City and so I had to endure 90 plus minutes of his ‘bon mots’ of wisdom on how great City were and how hideous, arrogant and dirty we were. He might have been right about us, but it’s out of place in the public arena of co-commentator. I seriously despise him.
- Deco. You are the weakest link. Now fuck off.
- Petr Cech – 5/10 – Dodgier and dodgier.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 9/10 – Hard as JT and showed a lovely burst of passion after Adebayor cheated the ref and got him booked. English swear words are obviously not a problem for him.
- John Terry – 8/10 – Magnificent and how the City fans must have looked on with envy. Worryingly limped off.
- Ricardo Carvalho – 7/10 – Seemed to lose his head a bit, but I can’t blame him really.
- Ashley Cole – 6/10 – Oddly subdued today and maybe jaded a bit.
- Michael Essien – 7/10 – Good as the holding midfielder, but if Obi can do the job then Essien is much more effective and dangerous in an attacking role.
- Deco – 2/10 – Lazy. Wasteful. Arse gravy.
- Frank Lampard – 7/10 – So quiet today I had to check he was on the pitch. Not his best season this year.
- Michael Ballack – 7/10 – Unbelievably quiet today. Missing that penalty must have knocked the Teutonic confidence. Let’s hope he he’s back to his best soon.
- Nicolas Anelka – 7/10 – Great ball play and passing, but just an off day on a day when others were slightly out of kilter.
- Didier Drogba – 7/10 – Ditto Anelka comment.
- Juliano Balletic (sub for Carvalho) – 6/10 – Very lucky not to see a red card. Very lucky indeed.
- John Mikel Obi (sub for Ballack) – 7.5/10 – We looked better when he came on and Essien was freed. Give the boy a chance.
- Overall team performance – 6/10 – Not quite what we’ve come to expect. An abject lesson in what complacency can do no matter what you do to try and prevent it.
Man of the Match
For the whole game it would be our old boy, SWP. But that’s against the blog rules. Our best today was the wonderfully reliable, hard tackling, poker faced wunder-defender Branislav Ivanovic. Well done Branners, you shouldn’t have finished on a losing side.
So I was right. It was another Villa, except this time we can’t claim to have battered them as we did Villa. In fact, in all honesty the result was perfectly fair as far as I’m concerned. If we’re to be Champions then we need to be consistent, and this season if we allow a downgraded Manchester United when compared to last season to sneak the title then something is very wrong.
As Habs said in his immediate post match comments, we need one or two more players and to lose one or two of the less effective ones. Starting with Deco. I am also mystified why Carlo thought that starting with the same side as started against United was the right thing to do. Yes, we beat United but that was also one of the poorest displays of the season. The balance just looked wrong and Deco just doesn’t work enough for me.
I’ll try and get the glass half full and say it was a blip, but with less than half the season gone and three away defeats I still think our tentative grip on the title is still very fragile indeed. Wenger may have spouted some insane bollocks post match last week, but he got one thing right. We will drop points and this was a game we could and should have drawn, but for a lack of concentration and a drop off in performance. Another weekend with no Match of the Day then.
And finally back to the world of omens and curses. As I stated in a comment after the defeat to Blackburn, we lost in 2005 to Charlton in the same competition. At that point we had a five point lead over Manchester United and went on to win our second title by eight points. It was the year before an African Cup of Nations as is this year. In the previous season we lost our first game in the Mourinho regime to… Manchester City, and went on to win the league in style that year.
Or complete bollocks?
Of course it’s all bollocks, but on a dismal, rainy, miserable Saturday evening it’s the only straw to clutch at.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!