The Observer, Duncan Castles: “Guus Hiddink had been making a habit out of the sturdy single-goal victory as Chelsea manager, gradually racheting up the pressure on Manchester United at the summit of the Premier League. A run of six domestic victories ended at White Hart Lane as the Dutchman fell to a 1-0 defeat – his frustration increased by the knowledge of United’s aberration at Fulham a few miles south-west.”
Sunday Telegraph, Trevor Haylett: “With Manchester United’s capitulaton there was the opportunity to reduce the gap at the top of the Premier League to a single point but in a manner that had the home faithful crowing all the way down Tottenham High Road, Chelsea also met defeat and that could prove crucial in the final reckoning.”
Independent on Sunday, Jason Burt: “Because of a delayed start – a suspect vehicle meant the match kicked off at 3.30pm – Chelsea knew what had happened at Craven Cottage. It made it all the more annoying for Hiddink, whose ire must have been directed at lacklustre displays by Michael Ballack and Nicolas Anelka in particular. Still, Spurs were indebted to two outstanding saves late on from Heurelho Gomes.”
Sunday Times, Nick Townsend: “In recent days Chelsea have reminded you of the rogue truck driver in Steven Spielberg’s film Duel. They have promised a relentless pursuit, driving their quarry to distraction and constant glances in his wing-mirror. That image stayed in the mind yesterday as events across London at Craven Cottage filtered through. Yet despite the rare act of neighbourliness from Fulham, who subjected Manchester United to a second consecutive league defeat, Chelsea failed to capitalise. And like the denouement of the movie, you suspect that the Blues’ title aspirations crashed and burnt here.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “It was an afternoon of huge frustration, with Man United suffering consecutive defeats long before this delayed kick-off was over.”
“We’ll always have spuds and eejits,” (from “Memoir” by John McGahern novelist 1934-2006)
“Three Point Lane” is starting to get to me. Those long unbeaten years seem to be coming back to bite us on the backside. Our tilt at the title suffered there last year and now this.
We knew we had to win every game and four of those games were London derbies. As Wenger has pointed out, it’s difficult for London teams to win the league precisely because of the number of derbies we have to play.
But think of a derby and you imagine pace, intensity and passion. These were all curiously lacking in the first half. Was it the delayed start? I don’t know but the late kick-off was just part of what was unfolding as a strange afternoon. Once we got into the ground, it was soon abuzz with news that Fulham were 1-0 up against 10-man United. For some reason it was shortly rumoured to be 2-0. Why? Who knows?
However it served to rekindle some of the atmosphere that had leached away in the confusion and waiting around. We sensed an advantage. But it wasn’t just the bladders of experienced fans, who found the well-timed journey between pub and ground thrown out of kilter, that seemed to suffer strain.
What seemed a conservative line-up; lacking Carvalho (another worrying injury), with Belletti, Essien and Lampard ahead of Ballack holding, Drogba and Anelka up front, certainly played with a lot of caution. Spurs had also set out to contain and the first half passed in a bout of shadow boxing. At times Essien seemed to sit as deep as Ballack and while looking lively, never got into the bullocking form of last week.
What few chances there were mainly fell to Spurs and several came from casual or misplaced passes. They were pressing hard but as long as we kept focused we retained possession quite well. But there was no end product for us. We were too narrow and there was no service to Anelka and Drogba.
“We can’t let ‘em score first,” said a mate of mine and he was right. It had that feel. We would struggle to score.
We expected a change from Hiddink at half time. If not of personnel, then of approach and formation. We expected our boys to put the squeeze on, step up five or 10 yards and take the game to them. But no it was the Spuds who stepped up a gear, we were loose and unfocused and bang, one nil down. We failed to clear our lines convincingly, the ball came back, was put out wide, then cut back to Modric who floated into an enormous gap on the edge of the box, between our back line and midfield.
Quaresma was brought on and seemed set to make a difference as he put in a superb cross that Lampard nearly squeezed in at the far post. We waited for things to start clicking, but it was all so much huff and puff. Spurs managed to isolate Quaresma and double-team him with no overlap from Bosingwa or a midfielder moving out to help.
Some service did get into Drogba who started to create problems but we seemed strangely disjointed. We couldn’t get a real grip on the game. It was summed up when with maybe 10 minutes to go, Ballack broke up a move close to the edge of our box sprang forward with options to the right and left and managed to pass it straight to a retreating Spurs defender.
Yes we did create some chances late on. Gomes made a couple of good saves, Alex hit the bar, we had one cleared off the line as things got frantic. Fulham had won 2-0 but it couldn’t have mattered less.
Hiddink has gone back to basics and set out the team to play to the strengths of what he sees as the key players. Width has been a problem all season and we can get bogged down trying to go up the middle against reasonably well organised teams. But irrespective of tactics and formations, we need to play with bite and intensity. With our recent form I’m sure Spurs were waiting to be run over by a bus. But we turned up in a clapped out two-door.
Why? I have absolutely no idea. I cannot explain why we seemed to lack drive today. You will all have opinions on who should have done what to whom but the bottom line is that we turned up without looking to be in the frame of mind to get the job done. We were often a yard slow and lacked any real rhythm.
I can understand the first half where we perhaps made sure we gave nothing away, but the start of the second mystifies me.
You would not have thought that Manure could lose two in a row. It’s a pity we couldn’t take advantage.
Yes, there will always be the Spuds but today we feel like the eejits.
So to the player ratings, which can be nothing other than expressed through the medium of the humble potato.
- Petr Cech – Boiled – steady if unspectacular but a staple.
- Jose Bosingwa – Microwave Jacket – not as good as the oven baked version we’ve had before.
- Alex – Lumpy Mash – some smooth bits but lots of chewy bits.
- John Terry – Proper Chips – you know what you are going to get.
- Ashley Cole – Soapy Boiled – a little watery and crumbly in places.
- Juliano Belletti – Smash – has to do when you don’t have real mash.
- Michael Ballack – Cold Roast – very good when hot but not when not.
- Michael Essien – Crinkle Cut Chips – steady fare with that bit of extra class.
- Frank Lampard – Roast – could have been a bit more crispy.
- Nicolas Anelka – Dauphinoise – complex dish, creamy, needs the right setting.
- Didier Drogba – Spicy Wedges – lacked the sour cream and chive dip.
- Ricardo Quaresma (sub) – Patatas Bravas – tasty but can it be more than tapas?
- Florent Malouda (sub) – French Fries – you’d rather have chips.