Premiership review: Watford 0 – 1 Chelsea

Match reports

The Observer, Stuart Barnes: “Kalou struck in the 92nd minute to paper over a performance lacking shape and substance but containing one vital quality, a never-say-die attitude, that ruined all the commitment and hard work Watford had poured into the game. The goal kept their team six points behind Manchester United – a gap Mourinho insists United can lose. ‘Three points against Chelsea and other results going against them,’ he said.”

Sunday Times, Duncan Castles: “Usually so accustomed in holding possession until their opposition cedes chances, Chelsea’s short passing suffered on the uneven surface and their long passing lacked accuracy. Opportunities were sparse.”

Sunday Telegraph, Roy Collins: “For much of the afternoon, it seemed that Chelsea were finally going to benefit from the United slip-up they have prayed so long for to turn the war of attrition at the top of the Premiership into a true title race. But as this game limped into overtime it seemed that it was Chelsea, having matched United’s run of six successive league wins before yesterday, who had blinked first.”

Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “The home crowd’s chants directed at Jose Mourinho predicted, “You’re getting sacked in the summer”. If so, this game illustrated why. Roman Abramovich, the man likely to administer the chop, sat glumly watching a thoroughly uninspiring performance that on the balance of chances created could even have brought an embarrassing defeat.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Neil Barnett: “All game Watford fans had been chanting to Mourinho: ‘Sacked in the summer, you’ll be sacked in the summer?’ Now the Chelsea fans responded: ‘That’s why you’re going down.'”

The good

  1. Let’s start with a cliché. International break hangover. The only player who seemed fully on his game was Petr Cech, who kept out numerous shots that ordinarily Watford wouldn’t have had. John Terry was roughed up within 90 seconds of the kick-off and defensively we never looked solid after that. On this performance you have to wonder why Watford are bottom of the table.
  2. Our never-say-die spirit. We’ve scored 24 goals in the last 10 minutes of games this season. A draw would have sealed the Premiership title for Manchester United. I’m not convinced we can still win it, but as long as Jose Mourinho and the players are then we have a good chance. At 3:45pm I stupidly allowed myself to get mildly excited that perhaps, just perhaps United would drop points only for them to come out in the second half and utterly destroy Blackburn Rovers. Football is cruel like that. Suffice to say I will remain pessimistic for the remainder of the season.
  3. Michael Ballack. If only for the tackle which gave the ball to Andriy Shevchenko who put in a great cross for Salomon Kalou to head home the winner.
  4. Salomon Kalou. If only for scoring another vital goal.
  5. Jose Mourinho. Compare the insipid ineptitude of Steve McClaren with Mourinho’s all-action tactical acumen. Now wonder how McClaren has one of the best jobs in football. (You can probably tell that I have a bee in my bonnet about McClaren.) Mourinho does everything in his power to change a game that’s not going his way, including getting into a scuffle with anyone within range on the sideline. In this game he knew his initial formation and tactics weren’t working and made several changes to counter that fact. In the end it won us three points and kept us just about in the title race. Imagine Mourinho in charge of England.

The bad

  1. The performance. It was a game for goalkeepers and Manchester United’s on-loan stopper Ben Foster nearly won his side the title from afar.
  2. Shaun Wright-Phillips. I was disappointed with him again. Just as you think he’s regaining something like his old Manchester City form he puts in another inconsistent performance. With Arjen Robben out for at least a month Wright-Phillips needs to step up to the plate (baseball season got under way in the US yesterday – keeps me sane during the summer months). Hopefully it was just a blip.
  3. Geremi. Ineffectual again. Surely he will move on in the summer.
  4. We’re still six points adrift of United. We’ve been trailing them since October last year. Does anyone truly believe we will overhaul them in the remaining seven games?

Man of the Match

Petr Cech.

Final thoughts

I believe the title race is effectively over. Even with Wayne Rooney playing like a Sunday morning pub footballer who had a skinful the night before Manchester United are still destroying teams. Break Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Scholes’ legs and we might have a chance. How’s that for pessimism?

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