The Observer, Paul Wilson: “What a surprise this was. Not that Alan Shearer failed to have an instant galvanising effect on the Newcastle players – no one actually believes he is capable of miracles – but that the famous Geordie crowd did not manage much of a response to the return of a favourite son.”
Sunday Telegraph, Rory Smith: “The second coming briefly, brightly burned away the gloom which had shrouded St James’ Park ever since Kevin Keegan’s road to Damascus moment last year. Paeans to Shearer’s passion and iron will greeted the prodigal’s return. Limp defeat to a sub-par Chelsea proved that belief alone will not be enough.”
Sunday Times, Jonathan Northcroft: “THE Messiah moment came and went at around half past four. With a triangular passing move of sudden quality – far better than anything they managed during the rest of the afternoon – Newcastle played Michael Owen into a scoring position and his shot cannoned off Alex, struck John Mikel Obi, and dropped beyond Petr Cech.”
Independent on Sunday, Michael Walker: “His head shaking, the swear words tumbling forth, his body taut with repressed anger as he surely wondered about the decision he made last Monday, Alan Shearer endured his introduction to the brutal trade of football management yesterday. Looking emasculated as his beloved Newcastle United crumbled before his eyes, Shearer was as powerless as any of his predecessors to prevent one of Newcastle’s essential characteristics – dismal defending – from kicking in. Chelsea won with too much to spare.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “That sound from the north-east is the Shearer bubble deflating as second-half goals from Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda claimed the precious points.”
A beautiful sunny day, a whole squad away on international duty, the recent memory of a bitter defeat to Spurs and the return of a Geordie Messiah (just how many do they have up there?)… all begging the question of which Chelsea would turn up. Well the permanent pessimists with our worry line etched foreheads needn’t have worried. Just as in Europe, when everyone’s having their fiestas and ferias there’s always a sour-face party pooper in the form of lager soaked Brits ready to ruin the party, along came the poker faces of South West London, as if defending the honour of our recently departed agent, Dennis Wise, to bring the Barcode Party to a crashing close.
Standard good, bad and ugly fayre today on the basis of having watched the game on Sky.
- Frank Lampard. Or to give him his official title, Super Frankie Lampard. Utterly magnificent, scored a great opportunist goal and should have had another two. We should have won by five with Kalou and Anelka opting to miss at least two golden opportunities where it would have been easier to score.
- Salomon Kalou. Yep, another good game for Kalou whose work rate has increased dramatically this season and perhaps adding to the mystery of his recent spell on the bench.
- Branislav Ivanovic. Standing in at right-back he once again showed great composure in the tackle and with the passing. I honestly do see another Carvalho here and his concentration levels are so intense it’s almost frightening.
- The performance. Professional and calm. Like the Gaviscon firemen we came to the raging fire and applied a cool white coating of measured football, controlling the game from the start, grinding through an unspectacular first half before smothering the barcodes in the second.
- Steve Harper. Give them credit they do seem to know a good goalkeeper when they see one and having lived in Given’s shadow for some time Harper does seem to be coming to the fore. He stopped it being at least four goals. It’s a shame his defence is so accident prone.
- Florent Malouda. Hold it… I might need a lie down in a darkened room. Nope, I’m definitely not ill. Malouda had a GOOD game. Not great, but definitely GOOD, capped with a very well taken goal. It’s about time.
- Rob Styles. Yep, maybe I am ill then. A referee in the ‘good’ section – but he seemed to have a good rapport with the players, and although he made mistakes (who doesn’t?), notably Frank’s booking and Owen’s disallowed goal he at least applied consistency. He’s my ‘local’ ref and drinks at a local pub I frequent… maybe he deserves a pint.
- John Mikel Obi. Oh dear. Oh very dear. His recent demotion to the bench seems to have knocked the wind from his sails and restored his ability to tackle clumsily. Let’s hope it’s a blip.
- There is a temptation to put Coloccini in here as he made a terrible error of judgement for the first goal, or even Newcastle in general but that seems a bit unfair. He doesn’t look a bad player and they don’t look a bad team, just an unfortunate, until now, mismanaged basket case. I think Shearer looks the part and the crowd certainly love him but I fear time has just run out for them and they are now one of my tips for relegation. That would be sad in my view because a Premier League without Newcastle, despite the monochrome nature of the aesthetics, would mean a less colourful division.
- Peter Lovenkrands injury. An innocuous looking clash with Malouda led to him being taken off with an oxygen mask on. Never a good sign. I hope he’s OK.
- Mark’s seating position. He must have needed oxygen and crampons to reach that lofty position. Was it something you said?
- Nothing from this game but… the spectre of Liverpool winning the Premier League after yet another injury time winner should be enough to give all of you nightmares.
Player ratings (out of 10 and from the default score of 6 with marks added or subtracted for being good or bad)
- Petr Cech – 7/10 – Had barely anything to do but seemed to control the box well and no flapping at crosses today.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 7.5/10 – Super performance and his lack of regular matches is mystifying. Carvalho-esque.
- John Terry – 7.5/10 – Just carrying on from where he left off…
- Ashley Cole – 7/10 – Consistent and saved us a from conceding a goal… which was… err… a goal.
- Alex – 7/10 – Commanding in the air and composed overall.
- Frank Lampard – 9/10 – Wonderful.
- John Mikel Obi – 6/10 – Seemed to be trying to prove a point a little too forcefully.
- Salomon Kalou – 8/10 – Clearly improving and can justifiably be a bit miffed at being dropped recently.
- Florent Malouda – 7.5/10 – That’s his highest rating ever from any of us I think. A little too late to start playing well and will still leave in my view.
- Michael Essien – 7/10 – Survived an early scare but subdued compared to his recent games. Still a huge bonus to have on the pitch.
- Nicolas Anelka – 7/10 – Quietish performance but did well for the first goal. His substitution was Hiddink keeping him ready for the midweek game I can’t bear to mention.
- Franco Di Santo (sub for Anelka) – 7/10 – Has he beefed up a bit? Needs a goal.
- Michael Ballack (sub for Essien) – 7/10 – Came on and did yet another calm job. Also should have scored.
- Overall team performance – 8/10 – Gaviscon and on and on…
Man of the Match
Super Frankie Lampard. Marvellous.
As I say, this is based on watching the game on Football First whilst nursing a niggly hangover. I said Newcastle were rubbish and we’d win 2-0. I was right on one thing, the score. The first half was fairly equal and Newcastle seemed to edge the midfield. Nil-nil was looking the most likely outcome by half time. The difference is the top teams can find another gear and that’s what we did. We got the rewards for patience and discipline. Newcastle found out in the second half that they’d been in top gear all along. They aren’t rubbish though. They are distinctly average and looking at the team they should be vying with Spurs and West Ham rather than looking down the barrel of the relegation gun. But that’s what mismanagement does for you, from the top right down. Fair play to Ashley he is trying to rectify it, but Joe Kinnear is not, and never was, the man for them. Shearer may plan to do a Gus Hiddink and return to his former post but I think that Ashley will do whatever it takes to keep him and Dowie on, relegation or not.
The spectre of Liverpool now looms large over us and whatever we might think, they are playing like a team destined for trophies. Last minute ground out victories are the hallmark of such teams and despite this win I still feel Manchester United will have to win all their games to keep Liverpool at bay.
However there is one huge influence on the destination of the title this year. Our friends in North London, Arsenal have to play all of the top three in the remaining games of the season. They have Liverpool and Manchester United away, and us at home. It’s worth noting their recent return to form as well which seems to have cemented the usual suspects in the top four. Arsenal are more than capable of beating all three sides and so the title destination still seems more open than it did a few weeks back.
I’d rather see United do a hat trick of Premier league titles than see Liverpool lift it. As for us, we’ve a few big games ourselves to come. Not least of all the first of the nightmare games against this resurgent Liverpool.
It’s time to don the tin hats folks.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!