The Guardian, Louise Taylor: “For the second time in four days Chelsea lulled opponents into a false sense of security, imbuing them with real optimism before delighting at their eventual undoing. As against Hull City at Stamford Bridge last Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti’s side fell behind fairly early on Wearside, huffed and puffed for a bit and then, belatedly, reminded everyone why they are widely tipped to win the Premier League.”
Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “A personal landmark and a rescue mission for Frank Lampard. The midfielder hauled Chelsea back into this encounter and also struck for the 132nd time – a goals tally that drew him level with Jimmy Greaves, the fifth highest scorer of all-time for Chelsea – after the kind of disjointed first-half that will have had Carlo Ancelotti looking a little uneasily over his shoulder. After all this is trigger-happy Chelsea.”
The Times, George Caulkin: “Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea are proving to be masters of deflation. For the second match in succession, the title favourites allowed eager opponents the glimmer of an opportunity before snatching it away in the most brusque and brutal of manners. First Hull City and now Sunderland have seized the advantage and then been brushed away for their impudence.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A quality performance after the break that yielded Ballack and Deco goals and a Lampard penalty pulled this game around with ease. Yet again the Blues fell behind to a goal before the interval but sometimes you just can’t beat a good cliché and this was a true game of two halves.”
Only a short review tonight as it’s late and my mind is still relatively dazed. Dazed as to how well we played and how well some of our forgotten men performed. We really were awesome but more on that later.
With only one full training session between the jammy Hull win and the trip to the snowy wastelands of “The North”, Carlo would be relying on the experience, class and character of our squad to get the victory we needed to move to the top of the table. It may be early in the season but with our recent league campaigns all falling under the ‘nearly’ tag, it’s always nice to be leading the way. However, reading the weekend’s match reports and commentaries one would have been puzzled as to how this game would pan out. Paddy Barclay fans (I think there are some) would be watching this from Ladbrokes having placed their life savings on Chelsea running away with the title whereas others would be rushing towards North London having pledged their allegiance to the new Invincibles having seen a very good Arsenal side walk past a truly shocking Everton team on Sunday. Whoever you believed this would be a tricky game sure to test our sparkling new diamond.
Except it wouldn’t. The diamond was abandoned after the Hull victory and instead Carlo unleashed a new 4-2-3-1 formation including four changes to the starting line-up. Ivanovic was brought in to combat the Heskey-esque lump of Kenwyne Jones whilst Ballack replaced Mikel after a run of awful performances. Kalou replaced the anonymous Anelka in an obvious move whilst Deco was given the chance to impress in place of Malouda in his favoured number 10 position. Essien and Ballack would hold thus allowing Lamps, Deco and Kalou free roles in support of Didier.
Tonight, we were great. We started and ended the game pushing for goals and despite Sunderland somehow snatching the lead with a carbon copy of Steven Hunt’s rebounded special, we looked a totally different side. There was no sloppy and slow start, something which has become somewhat of a trademark for this side and despite most headlines inevitably revolving around Chelsea having to come back from 1-0 down again, that really doesn’t tell the whole story of the mtach. For 92 of the 93 minutes it was attack versus defence as blue wave after blue wave bore down on Sunderland’s goal, determined to score the goals which we missed out on against Hull. The midfield was looking brilliantly fluid, with great movement and playing at an extremely high tempo with each man given somewhat of a free role when in support of Didier. On paper at least, both Essien and Ballack were told to dictate play from deep thus allowing Lamps, Deco and Kalou the space to inflict maximum damage on a suspect Sunderland backline. However, they weren’t rigid holding midfield players, barred from entering the opposition half as at times both Deco and Frank would be sitting deep when both Essien and Ballack were attacking or vice versa. Perhaps it’s just me, but without the pondering and slow play of Mikel our midfield looked awesome tonight. As well as this, both Ashley Cole and Bosingwa had brilliant games providing the width which many have complained we will lack this season. But what struck me most about our performance was the tempo and pace of our attacking play. We didn’t seem to stop running and bombarding their goal for the first 75 minutes of the match and with 20 efforts on target compared to Sunderland’s four and at times having 75% of possession, to say we were dominating this game would be a relative understatement.
There isn’t really enough time to go through every major incident and chance which we created but I hope the Sky highlights presented an accurate portrayal of just how well we played tonight. Despite Sunderland scoring from their only foray into our half in the whole match, their goal didn’t change the game in any way. We continued to batter their goal and despite missing clear headers, 20 yard shooting opportunities and set-piece chances, we would eventually get the goal our play deserved. It may have come after half time but a clever Ivanovic header from Frank’s corner was swiftly turned home by Ballack. Soon after, Didier went on a brilliant mazy run in the inside right channel only to be brought down in the box. Frank scored the resulting penalty with ease. And to round off our second half blitz, Deco crowned a glorious performance both personally and team wise with a wonderful, swerving shot from 18 yards. And that was that. A 3-1 victory was the least we deserved but after Saturday’s laboured victory, tonight was the first sign that we are undoubtedly the team to beat this season. A little over the top perhaps? Not if you saw the whole game.
- The team performance – Absolutely brilliant. Everyone was great, well apart from Cech as he touched the ball once in the whole 90 minutes and that was to pick the ball out of his net, but everyone else really was very good indeed. A performance full of movement, pace and class only lacked the finishing skills of a Villa or Pato otherwise we would have scored seven or eight. Creating another 20 scoring opportunities for the second game running highlights our dominance but the intensity and quality of our play impressed me most.
- Deco – An outstanding performance from him. He gave a masterclass into how a classic number 10 should play and on this form neither Malouda nor Zhirkov will get into the side. Carlo gave him a free role tonight and his goal was the perfect ending to a brilliant outing from the Portuguese playmaker.
- Lampard – After a relatively quiet game against Hull, he was back to his best tonight. Another goal to take him level with Jimmy Greaves on the Chelsea goal scoring list but it was ability to influence the game from all positions which was most impressive. He was again given a free role and that freedom definitely suits his game.
- Carlo Ancelotti – An inspired move from a 4-diamond-2 to a 4-2-3-1 enabled us to get more width, pace and movement into our side but as well as that, his brave decision to make four changes to the starting line-up showed us all that apart from our untouchables (Cech, JT, Ashley, Essien, Lamps and Didier), every other position is up for grabs and that he won’t be influenced by big reputations or past achievements (that refers to you Mr. Anelka). He’s definitely one of the most tactically astute managers in the world and on this showing will go closest to emulating Jose’s incredible achievements. Some will say that we’ve been here before, especially after Phil’s start, but this season everything feels a lot more professional, powerful and skilful. Despite only having the same squad to work with, Carlo appears to have worked wonders with it already.
- Sunderland – Only once left their half and fair play to them, they got their goal. But they had to surely show more ambition than they did when 1-0 up at home?
- Finishing – Only a minor problem but we really should have scored four or five in both games so far and I still believe we need a world class finisher as Didier plainly isn’t it.
- Cech – 6/10 – Didn’t do anything so only a 6.
- Bosingwa – 7.5/10 – Was a constant threat down the right flank and certainly enjoyed his battle with George McCartney. The only problem still concerns his inability to defend properly as he yet again let a runner (Bent) stroll into the box unchecked to score.
- Ivanovic – 7.5/10 – Towering in the air and is quickly becoming a Carlo favourite.
- Terry – 7.5/10 – Didn’t have to do much due to Sunderland’s lack of ambition but his distribution was very good.
- Cole – 8.5/10 – A brilliant performance from the world’s best left-back. Not much more I can say apart from that.
- Essien – 7/10 – Offered more power, pace and quality than Mikel in the holding role but was also given more freedom to attack by Carlo. Seems to have forced Mikel out for the foreseeable future.
- Ballack – 7.5/10 – His quality on the ball is rarely matched by anyone in our squad and despite a lack of pace, his class and experience improves everyone’s game.
- Kalou – 7/10 – No goal for him but he added some much needed pace and width after the Hull game.
- Deco – 9/10 – A masterful showing from the only natural number 10 in our whole squad. He may not be consistent but when on form we can see flashes of the genius he still possesses.
- Lampard – 8/10 – Another goal, another brilliant performance. Simple as that.
- Drogba – 7/10 – Terrorised their defence but his finishing let him down so -1 for him.
- Ancelotti – 9.5/10 – An inspired move to switch to a 4-2-3-1 and his decision to not make any changes at half time despite being a goal down showed experience and great judgement.
Man of the Match
It could only be Deco. A few more performances like that and there’ll be no more calls for Pato or Aguero. Enjoy it while it lasts but for tonight at least, he’s back to his very best.
We were slick and classy tonight. That’s the best way I can sum it up. Slick passing and slick movement as well as classy management got us the three points and on this showing we’ll take some stopping.
Sorry if it’s a bit rushed but it’s bed time, so goodnight.