CHARLTON ATHLETIC 2-3 CHELSEA
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to see Chelsea win away. Okay, so it is a bit early to be singing corrupted carols, but believe me, after today’s match little things like that just do not seem to matter in the slightest. A beautiful sunny day, a table right next to the bar and as low on the optimism count as I have been since the days of Ian Porterfield meant that nothing could get me down. Please forgive me, but I expected defeat today. Not because the Addicks have a better team, simply because Charlton over the last few seasons have sorted their tactics against us to a fine art. Defend for 90 minutes (or 95 at the Bridge) then score a bloody streaky goal right at the end to sod us all off.
Well, sadly for them, it all went badly wrong today and they had no one to blame but themselves. They only went and scored in the eighth minute — some fool called Konchesky — and I knew then that the days of their Indian sign over us were going to come to an abrupt end. Of course, I became even more sure when the same player decided to flatten Enrique de Lucas in his new ‘trying to look like Eidur’ haircut. I have to be honest, it did not look that bad from where we were sitting, and Enrique (didn’t he just have a number one?) was down no longer than it takes to boil an egg (if you like your eggs runny). But how many times has our friend Graham Barber shafted us? Game over. Twenty minutes gone and they are down to ten men. He, he, he.
Richard Rufus — he sounds like a dog and plays like one (well, one with three legs anyway) — decided to add a bloody second. Now hang on a minute, you lot have not read the script. You defend, we attack, you score one goal, we don’t and everyone goes away grumbling. Now we had to play, and play we certainly did. Just before half time the very impressive Zenden finished off a mazy run with a lovely pass to Franco to slide the ball past Kiley in the Charlton goal. We had time for Bolo to hit the bar only for the ball to bounce out before half time came and suddenly the world did not seem so bad anymore.
With around an hour gone, Eidur came on for the very poor Manu and looked full of beans, considering this was his first proper run out after missing much of pre-season. We certainly posed a threat up front that we had not shown too much of previously with Jimmy Floyd looking really out of sorts. We bossed the possession for the majority of the game, as you would expect against ten men, but other than an impressive effort from Petit just prior to going off — which was well saved by Kiley — it all came to little.
Then, with about 75 minutes on the clock, a bold and brave switch from Claudio turned the screw. Carlton Cole came on for Franco and Jesper Gronkjaer for Jimmy Floyd. Straight away Carlton looked a dangerous proposition, with a excellent effort on goal fizzing just wide. Five or six minutes to go and Carlton produced some clever skill before flashing the ball wide of the diving Kiley and things were all square. I would not want to heap too much praise on one so young, but just maybe we are seeing the birth of the new king of Stamford Bridge.
Unlike last season, we did not settle for the draw and continued to press. Finally, after some poor defending, Lumpy found himself clear in front of goal and made absolutely no mistake. Three-two and how we went mad. We had looked to the whole world dead and buried after going two down, but now we showed a new fight and spirit that has not always been apparent in the past. Some excellent performances today — Lampard never stopped (loved the kissing of the badge at the end by the way Frank), de Lucas was outstanding until he moved in off the wing and Desailly played like the World Cup winning captain that he is. There was little for Carlo to do. Charlton had only three worthwhile efforts, two of which resulted in goals and one header right at the end where Carlo did what we know only he is capable of by forcing himself across goal to tip it wide of the post.
Claudio often gets slaughtered, sometimes rightly so, but today he got everything right. The team selection was spot on (he even had Chappie instead of Mario Melchiot at right-back, so he must have been taking sanity pills) and the changes came at the right time. One game gone, and we are already in a Champions League spot. All we need to do now is destroy the Mancs on Friday night and the title will be ours. Optimistic? Not me. I always knew we would win today.