Monday, 29 October 2012

Chelsea 2 Surrey 3

Ferguson commented after the game that Manchester United have never had the rub of the green when it came to refereeing decisions at Stamford Bridge. Throughout the many times where we have played his side I cannot really remember ever leaving a match that Chelsea has won against them and thought, "wow, we were lucky that the referee helped our cause today". On the journey back to their London suburbs, Manchester United fans must surely be honest and say that they were extremely lucky to take all three points yesterday. At the end of the season, if Manchester United win the league two points ahead of Chelsea then this will be the match that I will remember bitterly for the rest of my Chelsea supporting career.

We started pretty woefully and for the first half of the first half resembled a team that was in a different league from the visitors. There was not one single short on goal from us. Their lead was deserved as more woeful defending allowed them to have so much space that on some occasions it felt like they had more of their players in our half than our own! The defending for the first goal... normally, we have moans that central defenders are not close enough to each other horizontally... but on this occasion Luiz was nearer the half-way line than his own penalty box when the visitors began their attacking move (and then he ended up scoring for them!). We missed the Englishness of John Terry's defending.

The feeling before the game was one of dread. We have a fantastic attacking line-up but a weak defence even with a defensive midfielder in Mikel trying to help. We seemed outnumbered on the flanks in the opening stages and there was simply not enough cover to counter their attacks. Seeing Rooney and Van Persie facing us did not fill me with confidence and pre-match there was little atmosphere in the stadium. That all changed when we finally woke up after 25 minutes and played some excellent attacking football. Mata brought us back into the game with a brilliant free-kick and the momentum remained with us up until the first red card. Ramires' mandate seemed to be to mark Rooney and he kept him quiet. I was overjoyed when we equalised and also to see him score - with a header!

It is rare that a match brings up such puerile emotions in me these days but I must admit that when we brought the game back to 2-2 all I could do was run down the gangway and stick two fingers up at the nonchalant away fans who see no hypocrisy singing about our racist centre back when their very own gets away with calling Ashley Cole a "choc-ice".

There were no real complaints about Ivanovic's red but then the main decision that brought so much ire to the fans. The fact is that Torres was fouled. Whether he embellished it or not is irrelevant. It is all very well for their manager to claim that he would have been through on goal had he not fallen over (though he would not have been as there was a covering defender ahead of him) but at the time we were down to ten men. Ferguson should know that a free kick would have been welcome in such circumstances. His own goalkeeper was already wasting time twenty minutes into the game when his side were winning by two goals to nil. Different scores and situations in a football match lead to different mentalities.

Chelsea played fantastically well even when down to nine men and I must admit that even having not seen a replay it seemed obvious to me that their winner was offside. To lose the game in such a manner was sickening and in the final ten minutes it almost felt like Clattenburg was awarding our side free-kicks for 50/50 challenges in neutral areas to make up for earlier mistakes. If he really did use foul and abusive language towards our players then he should be suspended... but watch the media now start discussing hypocrisy in a game where players go unpunished for doing the same. It was all Chelsea's fault probably!

We are still top of the league and the side should take a lot of heart from the hard work they put in. Our attacking midfield looks more exciting by the week and expect more games like this throughout the season. Enjoy this year if your heart can take it. It will not be a smooth ride but finally it feels like the passion is back in the stands and there is more adventure on the pitch - something that has been missing for a while. If you are a Chelsea player or a fan then you can place your hand on your heart and honestly say that the match was a moral victory for our football club.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Tottenham 2 Chelsea 4

Tottenham has always been a strange fixture for me. I have never really felt a strong animosity towards Spurs as I have to media darlings such as Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United. Even the players have never been ones that you could particularly detest and I must admit feeling guilty after Gary Mabbutt signed an autograph for me in the East Lower tunnel at a derby game in the late 1980s and all I could say to him was, "nice own goal, Gary".

The fans of Spurs are a different matter, but just like West Ham fans those that I know personally are entirely reasonable. It is only when you approach the environs of one of the ugliest areas of Britain to have an away fixture take place that a darkness descends. While walking from Northumberland Park station towards the away end it felt like I was back to where I grew up in Camberwell in the 1980s.

The difference between the two teams yesterday was simply the quality of finishing. Chelsea started the game brightly and really should have gone in at half-time two goals to the good. Cahill's goal brought a tear to my eye and he is currently looking an excellent understudy for John Terry both in the short- and long-term. Four goals already this season! Tottenham created many chances and Sigurdsson in particular squandered a fair few with many being hit straight at the 'keeper. Lennon and Defoe impressed as per usual but many including me were thankful that Dembele, Bale and Parker were missing. At full strength their first team could easily finish in the top four again this season.

As the first half wore on Chelsea became more sloppy and cocky. Silly flicks to try to show off in dangerous areas of the park led to Tottenham finishing the stronger. When the second half started I had a bad feeling in my bones which was for once correct as Tottenham raced into the lead. Luiz again showed what a liability he can be at times with a silly foul and this followed another strange decision not to head a ball away early from defence - he needs to worry less about style and more about substance - get a bloody haircut!

Mikel had an excellent game and some of his touches were sublime. Mata was thoroughly excellent although his constant cutting inside while on the right wing due to his dependency on his left foot will be noticed by our better opponents. Nevertheless, his brilliantly placed equalizer showed that he still is our most consistent attacking midfielder and the interplay for our third between him and Hazard was sublime.

The biggest worry for me was the general attitude of Torres again. Quite why he receives so much support from our fans when better players who wear the blue shirt have been booed is beyond me. He acts like a spoilt child when things do not go his way and this later reflected in his general effort during the second half. Chelsea fans can forgive ineptness as long as the attitude and effort of the player is correct. It is the first time for a decade that I have actually shouted out for one of our players to eff off. Something is not right mentally with him and he needs to improve his demeanour soon or else a place on the bench will call for a man who undoubtedly has the potential to be a Chelsea great. Let's hope there is nothing going on behind the scenes that we do not know about.

Cech saved us from losing two points with minutes to go before we scored the fourth and White Hart Lane emptied. He is a player of enormous quality and professionalism who I am thankful is in our starting XI.

There is no doubt that this is a Chelsea side that is exciting to watch and it feels like finally Roman has the kind of side he has been after since taking over the club. We do look vulnerable at the back against the better teams with such an attacking setup (essentially 4-1-4-1) although we have only conceded six goals in the league.

As the confidence builds perhaps this could be a chance to win the league in style and shut the allegedly neutral media up. This could be a very interesting couple of weeks so come on Chelsea - keep up the good work!