- Missing Link
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Monday 3 December
Middlesbrough U21 2:3 Chelsea U21
Billy Clifford and Lewis Baker gave us a 0-2 half-time lead only for the second period to turn around. A third from Alex Davey took us three goals ahead but Middlesbrough roared back into things and we had twenty-minutes to defend the lead.
The win for Wolves U21 means we finish third in the group and could still qualify for the elite groups as best third place side but the chances are slim.
Avram Grant’s name has been bandied about already as Benitez flounders but the club put the kibosh on the story fairly quickly. Who would you rather have in charge? A failed ex-Liverpool manager or the serial failure who, admittedly, took us to a Champions League final but then took both West Ham and Portsmouth down.
Tuesday 4 December
We have signed the Brazilian right-back Wallace from Fluminece. Wallace Olivera Dos Santos is an 18-year-old attacking right-back and will stay at his current club until the end of the Brazilian season. It is the next step in the Brazilification of West London. We don’t mind this process as long as salsa bands are not allowed through the gates. There is a too far in this process and at the moment most of us want to be left alone to mourn the passing of a promising season. Jaunty music wouldn’t fit the bill.
Manchester City might feel the same as defeat in Dortmund drives them out of Europe without the consolation of the Uefa League. Why has nobody said Jürgen Klopp when talking about a new direction for Chelsea. His side do a mixture of Barcelona and Real Madrid with high smothering and a mixture of speeds and attack depending on how the opposition try to defend.
Wednesday 5 December
Chelsea 6:1 Nordsjaelland
A lucky general he is not. When Benitez needed a win and a dose of luck he got just the former. A loser even when he wins.
Goals in the first-half from David Luiz and Fernando Torres papered over the cracks. We could have been a goal behind after the referee demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the laws on handball. First he gave a penalty when the ball struck Gary Cahill’s arm outside the box, then he gave us a penalty when the ball ricocheted up and hit the arm of the substitute Beckmann. He topped it all off with the penalty that Luiz scored, when the ball was thrashed at Patrick Mtiliga from a foot and a half away. 1-0.
Torres had spent his usual time slipping and mis-controlling but finally bundled his way on to a Victor Moses pass and found the net from the rebound as the ’keeper saved. 2-0.
With the score still level in the Ukraine we were still in with a chance. That blew in the second: firstly Joshua John for the Danes scored the kind of goal that has unhinged us in the recent past – 2-1 – and just as Gary Cahill headed us back into a two goal lead – 3-1 – news came through that Juventus had taken the lead against Shakhtar and the rest of the evening is a waste of time.
For the record: Torres scored another and ran around the rest of the night looking for a hat-trick. Mata scored on the run and at the second attempt and Oscar finished things off with twenty-minutes to go they seemed to stop and wait for news from the Donetsk but none came.
Benitez wittered something about glory in the Uefa cup and clutching at straws it is the only thing we haven’t won.
News in the afternoon that Obi John Mikel signed a new five-year deal is a bit of an eye-opener. Five-years seems a very long time. Obi John has always divided opinion after replacing Claude Makelele as the hub of the defence he always struggled to control games quite the way the French wizard could but anyone would look poor in comparison with Makelele and Chelsea generally prosper when Obi John plays well.
Thursday 6 December
The FA launched a whistle blower’s charter under which anyone reporting racist abuse will be blamed and then banned.
John Obi Mikel has been fined £60,000 and banned for three matches for confronting Mark Clattenburg. The message from the FA is clear: report our officials for racial abuse and we will punish you.
The referee’s union, Prospect, was dismayed by the leniency of the punishment. Er, let us recap – Clattenburg sent off two Chelsea players and awarded an offside goal for our opponents. He was then allegedly clearly heard to call two of our players racially inappropriate names and players felt compelled to seek an explanation from him. He refused to give one. He was such a man about the situation that instead of issuing a red card to Mikel on the spot, he crawled away and hid until the independent FA had processed the case.
Prospect and the FA are clearly two institutions that have not understood what institutionally racist means.
Friday 7 December
John Terry will miss the club world cup in Japan. He is close to a return but with a dicky knee he has been told not to take any long haul flights.
But hang all that the real story is a new credit card partner in Japan called Orico. They become the latest in a long line of partners for various services although their full name is Orient Corporation suggesting we were lucky to win their business from Leyton.
Saturday 8 December
Sunderland 1:3 Chelsea
Let’s just hope that is all over for another year. The autumn of each year seems to bring a plunge into poor form and self-harm at Stamford Bridge this year we have lost a manager and been kicked out of Europe. As if that were not enough we’ve fallen out with the whole refereeing community and not won in seven league games.
So it seemed an ominous start when Eden Hazard broke into their box and a Sunderland hand clearly held him back. Conscious perhaps, of his reputation Hazard stayed on his feet but should have been awarded a penalty. Nine legitimate penalty shouts and counting.
We enjoyed our usual share of possession early on and Hazard looked to be buzzing about and it was his cross that saw Torres react to poke the ball home on ten minutes. 0-1.
Petr Cech saw rather more of the ball than he would have liked but Sunderland looked toothless and didn’t seriously threaten. Ramires probably didn’t expect any action just before half-time when he chased a ball to the byeline only suddenly he’d been tripped and we had our first penalty since October. Torres, rather surprisingly had not taken one in England buts cored with style. 0-2.
The second-half was barely underway when Torres chasing everything too hard for a hat-trick thumped a prodigious effort off the bar and Juan Mata tucked in the loose ball. 0-3.
We should have been relaxed and cruising but fumbling at the back made things more edgy. Cech appeared to let a shot from Adam Johnson whistle by before realising what he was there to do. 1-3.
But Sunderland are poor this year and for all the huffing and puffing, free-kicks and corners they couldn’t manage so much as another scare.
Frank Lampard had a short run at the end and the thump at goal for good measure. It will be good to have the old man back.
Sunday 9 December
Chelsea will play Monterrey on Thursday morning while Corinthians play Al-Ahly the day before.
Monterrey’s manager seemed confident of overcoming Chelsea – he’s probably been watch our European games – after his side beat Ulsan Hyundai 3-1. The BBC will be coving our games in the relative wilderness of the HD channel or online.
The team landed in Japan later in the day and travelled to their hotel and settled in.
George Saville is pinching himself all over as Oriol Romeu’s ankle problem booked him a seat on the plane. Saville has yet to make his bow for Chelsea but this will be great experience.