Premiership review: Wigan Athletic 2 – 3 Chelsea

Match reports

Sunday Telegraph, James Mossop: “On many a Saturday Jose Mourinho becomes the clown with the scowl but here absolute honesty prevailed. He admitted that Wigan deserved a point, that his Chelsea side thought the match was over when they went two up and publicly thanked his central defender, Ricardo Carvalho, for covering up the errors of his team-mates.”

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “While their comeback at Everton was gripping, here it was much less inexorable and decidedly cruel on Wigan. The home side had fought back brilliantly from two goals down to come within four added minutes of holding a top four team for the first time and giving Sir Alex Ferguson the most unexpected of 65th birthday presents, only to be undone by Arjen Robben with two minutes remaining.”

Sunday Times, Jonathan Northcroft: “If the championship is retained, it will come down to something more precious than even Roman Abramovich can buy ”” a priceless spirit. Of all the qualities Mourinho has brought to Stamford Bridge, this is the special one. Having moved five points ahead at the top of the Premiership with their victory over Aston Villa earlier in the day, Manchester United’s lead was reduced to two by Robben’s stoppage-time goal. It was classic Chelsea, a strike of solo brilliance that arrived out of nothing and seemed unlikely when the team was under pressure a few minutes before.”

The Independent, Jon Culley: “It was with a goal in stoppage time here on the opening day of last season that Chelsea launched their title-winning campaign and they were celebrating again at the last gasp yesterday evening. Coasting after scoring twice in the opening 31 minutes, the champions suffered the unaccustomed experience of seeing a two-goal lead wrested from them as Wigan mounted a wonderfully spirited comeback.”

Official Chelsea FC website, Neil Barnett: “Chelsea threw away a two-goal lead but won the game with Arjen Robben’s first goal of the season two minutes into stoppage time. Jose Mourinho now has 100 wins in 142 matches as Chelsea manager.”

The good

  1. The first forty-four minutes. Sublime passing, movement and two well taken goals. You just had an inkling that it wouldn’t last, didn’t you?
  2. Three points. Largely underserved maybe, but with United showing no signs of slipping we’ll take everything we can get, whether it be good, bad or indifferent in terms of performance.
  3. The spirit. The relative lack of a decent challenge to the Blues’ dominance over the last two seasons did raise a few questions as to how Mourinho’s men would cope with any kind of pressure on them. The answer has been both emphatic and thrilling to watch – this team currently has the kind of mindset that is incredibly rare in sport; they simply will not lay down and accept anything other than victory.
  4. Carvalho. He can frustrate at times, but when it comes to delivering under pressure he is rarely found wanting – one of our best players this season thus far and coping well in the absence of John Terry.
  5. Mourinho. Yet again the tactical switches proved crucial. Admitted we didn’t deserve the win and apologised to Andy Johnson all in the space of a week. Must be the Christmas spirit…

The bad

  1. After the first forty-four minutes, the back wheels fell off in spectacular fashion. Wigan deserve credit for taking hold of the game and fighting back to 2-2, but the majority of the second half was yet another dreadful showing by Mourinho’s men. Taking defenders off and flinging the kitchen sink at the opposition may have paid off handsomely in recent weeks, but it cannot be relied upon as a long-term strategy.
  2. The rearguard. Boulahrouz definitely has potential, but at present he is looking like a liability. The lack of Terry and Cech is obvious, but I’d echo Tony’s sentiments that Makelele has been far from his imperious best this season. And saying that actually feels like telling a room full of children that Santa doesn’t exist and topping it off by drowning a bag full of kittens.
  3. I almost feel obliged to apologise to Wigan and their fans; decent performances against us at the JJB in the last two seasons that deserved a point or better; twice they have been robbed at the death. Paul Jewell looked to have aged about twenty years in his post-match interview, but if his team continue to play as well as they did in the second half (ideally starting on Boxing Day…) he will certainly enjoy better days.
  4. To repeat Nick’s question from the Newcastle game (and several others); when are we going to turn up for both halves?

Man of the Match

Arjen Robben. Two assists and a vital goal, his first since February – he will be crucial over the Christmas period.

Final thoughts

If we win anything this season, it will be a triumph of tenacity and spirit above all else. To win games in such a thrilling manner having largely played like the kind of mid-table fodder we have feasted upon in the last two seasons defies belief; Sir Alex will certainly be confident in his own team’s abilities, but to be stalked by such a relentless machine as Mourinho’s Chelsea must be slightly unnerving at times. When this team adds the football we know we are capable of with the kind of spirit we have shown recently, literally anything is possible.

And apologies to my neighbours for the general unrest and bad language emanating from my residence over the last couple of weeks; if you could hold off the ASBO until after Christmas, I’d be very grateful.

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