We were good today. In the first half we had chances, but put none of them away. It was good to see de Lucas back, even though he was only pretty good — both he and Morris were subbed at half-time. Hasselbaink looked a bit ponderous. All in all, a 0-0 half-time score was just about right, since none of our chances deserved a goal.
I saw the match at Anfield between Liverpool and Sunderland. The Scousers had seventy per cent of the possession and nine shots to nil, but they never got past the magnificent third-choice goalkeeper, Macho — good name. So, at half-time we had reasons to be worried. On come Petit and Gudjohnsen as Ranieri went with two out-and-out strikers with Zola just behind them. Could we be more creative than the Scousers? Yes, we could. From a Le Saux corner, Gallas blasted home. From another one, Desailly repeated the trick at the far post. The scorers were particularly nice since I had two French pals with me — magnifique.
The third goal came just before full-time, after at least 5,000 Chelsea fans had left early. Hasselbaink powered past the defence to shoot and score from fourteen yards.
Was it good? Yes it was. Some of this football is not as pretty as it was under Vialli, but it is far more effective and the team, at last, has spirit and backbone. Cudicini made a few saves, all good. Le Saux was mostly good, except for always wasting throw-ins in the first half by throwing to the opposition. Gronkjaer regularly beat his man and, wait for it, crossed or passed well. At least two more goals could have come from his centres. Lampard worked his nuts off and tired towards the end. Petit was effective. Gudjohnsen seemed a bit off the pace. As for the back four, Gallas and Desailly were both solid. Our ex-hero Toré Andre Flo got nowhere against them.
Minds move on to next Wednesday against Everton in the Worthingotn Cup. The Toffees will surely give Wayne Rooney a ninety-minute run out. Rooney against our central defenders will be something to see.
So how good are we? One answer is that we will find out in the two matches against Everton. We had a murderously difficult start to the season, with early matches against Man United, Arsenal at home and then Liverpool away. These three now clash with each other and some points will be spilt. We could end the year in a solid third place, which is pretty damned good. I rate Ranieri — he is gradually sorting this team out.
But before this ends, I must mention Gianfranco Zola. That is because you leave the best till last.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Melchiot, Gallas, Desailly, Le Saux — de Lucas (Gudjohnsen, 45), Morris (Petit, 45), Lampard, Gronkjaer (Stanic, 81) — Hasselbaink, Zola
Unused subs: de Goey, Terry