Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: “The pendulum swung to and fro throughout an enthralling afternoon before coming to rest firmly in Manchester United’s corner. Chelsea will strive with all their considerable might to get it moving again, but know they missed their last chance in the Stamford Bridge sunshine, conceding two priceless points at home to half-strength Bolton and leaving themselves five adrift in a title race which should now become a triumphant procession for Sir Alex Ferguson and his charging front runners.”
The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “Mourinho recognises the potentially crushing consequences of this disappointment. Having ridden a wave of adrenaline for several trophy-hunting months, it is amazing how vulnerable form, fitness and confidence is. In the pit of their stomachs, the Chelsea players must feel that the title race has gone horribly wrong. Can they recover momentum in time for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final, second leg at Anfield?”
Independent on Sunday, Jason Burt: “By the end [Mourinho’s] team were running on empty, losing their pattern, playing as individuals but not taking responsibility. They had plenty of time to score after being pegged back but frittered it away. To add to the insult there was injury to Ricardo Carvalho’s knee.”
Sunday Telegraph, Patrick Barclay: “If United win the Manchester derby next Saturday and Chelsea fail to win at Arsenal on Sunday, even arithmetical hope will desert Mourinho and his men. ”Manchester United must feel very close to it,” the Chelsea manager conceded; as matters stood, they would be able to lose at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday week and remain favourites.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “This 2-2 draw matched the one by Bolton here during José Mourinho’s first Chelsea season. On that occasion, it ultimately didn’t damage our championship dream. This time, that does not look so likely.”
- Michael Essien. The only real contender for Man of the Match such was the mediocrity on display from a lot of players. Tiredness is no excuse for some of them and Essien showed why his not being included in the PFA Team of the Year was such a laughable decision.
- The atmosphere. Considering the opposition only brought about twenty fans the place was a real pot-boiler today at times, although the frustration of the fans shone through towards the end. The Matthew Harding Lower was simply sensational today but credit to the other areas when the team looked like they needed a lift the place was deafening.
- An attacking performance. Bolton barely touched the ball for long parts of the game and we surged forward so many times in the second half I thought the pitch might start tilting towards us. However, every silver lining has its cloud and the piss-poor finishing meant that our attacking best was wasted effort.
- The weather – that really is all the good I can come up with.
- The injury to Ricardo Carvalho. Riccy has quietly become a darling of Stamford Bridge, in fact today is the first time I have heard his name sung. Unfortunately it was as he went off, blatantly in some trouble. Out for the game on Tuesday and maybe for the remainder of the season. Frankly this is a bloody disaster ahead of a Liverpool game where we will need every player on top of their game, but also for the FA Cup final and for a potential Champions League final. Will Jose Mourinho finally trust Khalid Boulahrouz? Will superman Essien be given the centre-back’s cloak again? It’s a big decision and one I’m glad I’m not making.
- Andriy Shevchenko. Terrible, appalling, dire, useless, waste of space. All of my own thoughts there, normally prefixed by the f-word, but words that were also echoing around the Matthew Harding Lower. Be honest here people, if anyone else had paid £30m for a player who’d been so truly useless we’d be ripping the piss out them. It’s hardly surprising the press are on his back, and if I was Mourinho I’d be thinking of telling Roman Abramovich where he can shove the useless Ukrainian, even if it meant my job. Am I being harsh? Maybe, but we are always loyal to our players whilst they get given a fair chance, but since the laughable Blackburn miss he has got worse and today he could have gone after 10 minutes as it was so obvious he was out of sorts.
- Rob Styles and his arse-istants. Terrible, appalling… a big fat ditto for this useless bunch of pathetic clowns. (That was not the c-word I was thinking of using!) Blatant handballs not awarded to us, accidental ones given to Bolton, time-wasting not dealt with, poor tackles from the Bolton Bruisers ignored whilst allowing Bolton players to climb over ours before giving free kicks against our players presumably for loitering with intent to try and play football. He drinks occasionally at my local and the landlord has barred us from talking to him. Just as well, because he’d find it difficult to reply with my hands round his throat.
- Our finishing. Frankly we seem determined to turn into Arsenal. Just when you want a player to put some leather on the ball they try one fancy damn pass too many in an attempt to create a football work of art instead of a goal. Bollocks to that, what we want is to see a keeper being worked and made to make saves. Despite the pressure I’m not aware that Jussi Jaaskelainen had too much to do. Salomon Kalou’s miss near the end was embarrassing, but nowhere near John Obi Mikel’s laughable air shot. I wonder what happened to old fashioned centre forwards who didn’t mind using a technique known as “the diving header”? Is it just me or are the foreign players too eager to stick a speculative foot out rather than be brave and dive in?
- Our defending. Geremi is no right-back and it’s hard to see what he gives us at the moment. The first Bolton goal was defended woefully, but the second one made the defending for the first look like a model of defensive efficiency. Bolton didn’t deserve to be in the game but somehow we managed to give them just the right opportunities to punish us, as they did two years ago when they drew 2-2 at the Bridge. If we repeat this against Liverpool then we’re dead and buried.
- Petr Cech: Had little to do but when needed was left helpless – 6/10
- Michael Essien: A superb display and really looked like his heart was in the game – 9/10
- Ricardo Carvalho: Looked brilliant while he was on but his injury is a mighty bad blow for us at the worst possible time – 6/10
- Wayne Bridge: Better than Ashley Cole at the moment – 8/10
- John Terry: When the troops needed a leader he went missing today. The worst I’ve seen from him in my living memory. Which means by his standards he was average today – 6/10
- Lassana Diarra: What’s happened? Is it the curse of the right-back? Looked out of sorts and a booking waiting to happen – 5/10
- Salomon Kalou : Scored a good goal and unlucky to have the second chalked off to a Jaaskelainen own goal. Does the hard work but seems prone to making the wrong selection in the box – 7.5/10
- Shaun Wright-Phillips: Seemed a bit lost and at one point when Essien pointed to some space for him to run into he ignored him. Essien didn’t do it again – 7/10
- John Obi Mikel: Average, no more, no less. Shocking air shot at the end which he’ll want and need to forget before Tuesday – 6/10
- Geremi: Average and nowhere near good enough to be a regular. Made some very poor choices with his crossing – 6/10
- Andriy Shevchenko: My jury has come back in – sell him and buy Michael Owen, Kaka, Carlos Tevez or anyone that can live with the pace of the Premiership. He can’t and it’s about bloody time he learnt that you don’t get time and space on the ball in this league – 2 out of 10 and he’s lucky to have got that.
- Didier Drogba (Sub): Had 60 minutes rest and replaced the useless Ukrainian. A handful for Bolton but no real chances – 7/10
- Joe Cole (Sub): Livened things up a bit, went down too easily a couple of times but it’s better to have him on the pitch than off – 7/10
- Frank Lampard (Sub): 30 minutes rest as he replaced Riccy. Did well enough but still looking under par – 7.5/10
Man of the Match
Michael Essien by a distance.
It’s over. To all intents and purpose we have handed the Premiership title to Manchester United on a plate. Yes, I know the Blue Faithful will say we can still do it, but it would take a collapse of Devon Loch proportions for United to lose their last three games. On current form I can’t see us beating them at the Bridge and my prediction for the United and Arsenal games are for both to be draws. If United are to be crowned champions then they get my congratulations. It’s hard to deny a grudging admiration for the way they’ve played and the way they’ve exhibited such self-belief and determination. The league position doesn’t lie.
In the end the chase was too much for us, but we didn’t lose it today. We lost it through silly defeats away to Middlesbrough and Spurs and a disastrous Christmas campaign of three consecutive draws against Reading, Fulham and Aston Villa. We lost it by having too many injuries and too thin a squad. We lost it by selling two centre-backs on the last day of the transfer window and not replacing either. We lost it because the experiment of a lean squad failed. I may live to regret writing these words, and I hope we do win on the back of a never seen before collapse from United, but I just can’t see it happening.
Lastly, if we get Tuesday out of the way and progress to the Champions League final, then our efforts need to be channelled into winning that and the FA Cup. Rest some big players at Arsenal, and when United visit us. Play some kids between now and the end of the season and make sure we have our very best for the final two games of our season. Then hopefully when we have two more trophies Jose can spend the rumoured £75m transfer kitty on some backup to the African contingent, get a decent striker to help Drogs, a decent right-back to challenge Glen Johnson, and another centre-back to challenge and back up JT and Riccy.
I’m off to drown my sorrows with too much Magners. As Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show would say: “Bugger”.