One thing promised when Rafa Benitez took over the Champions of Europe? A tighter, more organised defence. After the Southampton debacle and Adam Le Fondre’s two goals in 8 minutes tonight, there’s very much an argument that it simply hasn’t happened. Drawing away to Reading is bad enough, but in that manor? Well.
If put bluntly, the first half was dire. Although in control, Chelsea lacked urgency and the game seemed more like a training exercise against a side who were quite clearly of a lower standard. Oscar and Juan Mata were the only bright sparks in a dull Chelsea side and it was Oscar who earned the free kick that gave Chelsea their first chance of the game. An inswinging ball from Frank Lampard was met by an unmarked Gary Cahill, unfortunately he couldn’t steer his diving header into the net.
The last kick off the half proved to be the only source of excitement for Chelsea fans. A neat passage of play between Fernando Torres and Mata resulted in the striker playing a tidy chipped pass into the path of his fellow countryman, who didn’t waste the opportunity. Mata volleyed low and hard into the bottom right of the Reading net.
The second half continued in the same fashion. Oscar showed brilliance in taking a ball into his chest and immediately trying an acrobatic volley inside the Reading box, he could have tried to find Torres but after what he did to Pirlo & Juventus? I don’t blame him for having a go.
Then, on 66 minutes, what should have been the clinching goal, came. Frank Lampard attacked a Juan Mata corner and powered the ball past Pavel Pogrebnyak who was on the line. 196 goals in blue now, another ‘sign him up’ rant would be justified but it’d only be repeating everyone but the Chelsea board’s thoughts.
The end of the second half saw a rare cameo from Yossi Benayoun, he released Oscar but the Brazilian could only hit it straight at the oncoming Adam Federici. A third goal, like hindsight, would have been a wonderful thing.
87 minute onwards is when the capitulation started. Hope Akpan, formerly of Crawley until this transfer window, found Adam Le Fondre behind the Chelsea backline and his shot crashed past Ross Turnbull’s near post. The 95th minute saw a last ditch Reading freekick be flicked on by Jimmy Kebe, to Akpan, to Le Fondre who was unmarked alongside another two Reading players. Needless to say, he didn’t need a second invitation and volleyed past a hapless Turnbull.
The game summed the season up to a tee, just absolute disappointment. The light at the end of the tunnel last year was becoming Champions of Europe, this year it’s watching Benitez leaving Cobham with his possessions in a cardboard box. Hopefully next season will see someone credible do something outstanding with the blank canvas that is the current Chelsea squad. Keep that thought in mind and KTBFFH.