Wednesday 1 April
England 2:1 Ukraine
John Terry, in his captain marvel cape, swooped in the grab the win we sort of deserved and to rescue the game from under Andriy’s nose.
We started fairly well, Rooney nearly bicycle kicked us into the lead, making few chances but controlling the game, and eventually setting up Peter Crouch for a volley and another stupid dance celebration. Again JT was in the heart of the action, he headed down Frank Lampard’s ball in for Crouch to score.
Andriy Shevchenko picks his moments, Ukraine had created fewer chances than Slovakia did on Saturday when from a free-kick our loaner striker prodded the ball home.
John Terry’s intervention, probably from an offside position, came as an enormous relief, even Capello was fist pumping celebrations at the final whistle. Beckham’s free-kick ballooned over the box, Gerrard headed the ball back and JT scooped it into the net with his rusty left foot. He was given offside at the weekend from just that kind of ball but got away with it tonight.
Meanwhile Frank had a shot cleared and one wide, he doesn’t get involved enough from the deep position that Capello thinks is his best for England.
Ashley did extremely well, again, not to get booed. Although, he did lose the ball deep in his own half, his confidence seems to be returning. Solid.
Elsewhere, Bolivia thrashed Argentina 6-1, The Republic got a draw with ten-man Italy, Ballack scored another screamer as Germany brushed aside Wales. Guus’ Russia only managed a 1-0 win against the might of Liechtenstein. We can only assume his mind was elsewhere.
Petr Cech was a loser in the Czech-o-Slovakia derby but Miroslav Stoch, elevated from the U21 played the final fifteen-minutes to win his first cap in a competitive match and another feather in the cap of the academy.
Oh, and Newcastle confirm that far from an April fool they have appointed Alan Shearer until the end of the season.Friday 3 April
Say what you like about the Shearer effect it has already blown one thing away – in the pre-match press conference Guus was not asked whether he is going to continue at the end of the season. Miracle.
Guus had a breakfast meeting with South Korea’s prime minister, gave him a Chelsea shirt and they relived old glories. Nobody mentioned offside goals and Italy but they were all having such fun it seemed wrong to spoil it.
Saturday 4 April
Newcastle United 0:2 Chelsea
Geordie messiahs come and go but the Chelsea machine marches on. The breathless expectation of the Geordie nation was that Alan Shearer would bring instant miracles and with 52,000 odd present he certainly brought out the punters. What he couldn’t do was create a coherent performance from the team.
Apart from one chance when Obafemi Martins prodded wide after Alex slipped, Newcastle only had the odd corner and a few heart-in-mouth moments as we waited for a blue shirt to clear. Throughout the first-half we had the clearer chances, Kalou’s headed chance was saved and Anelka, played through superbly by Frank, had his blocked.
The worst moment of the opening half was seeing Peter Lovenkrands stretchered off with an oxygen mask on. The challenge from Malouda that crippled him looked innocuous.
The second-half was easier for Chelsea to control, Newcastle simply weren’t organised or fit enough to live with our control and passing. Frank opened the scoring reacting fastest when Anelka’s shot came back off the bar. We know that Frank cherishes every goal he scores with his head.
The second was long ball tactics, Petr Cech thumped it long, Anelka on to Frank who found Malouda, who found the net. Those in black and white stripes had stopped singing after the first goal and apart from the odd chanted loyalty to the new messiah there wasn’t much left from fans or team. Until, they scored, well they didn’t but everyone seemed to think the ball had gone in but the ref. Michael Owen spooned a shot, which took several deflections before Ashley whacked it away. It did look in but in the absence of cameras in the goal we’ll have to reassure the Geordies that it evens out over the course of the season.
Kalou had a great chance when sent clear from Ballack’s lofted pass but his chance was snuffed. Ballack, Franco di Santo and Franko di Lampard all had chances for 3-0 but it remains another solid and professional away win.
Liverpool beat Fulham with an injury time goal so they take over at the top from Manchester United who play tomorrow.
Chelsea youth 3:1 Charlton Athletic youth
Comfortable and largely drab game for the youth team and a big improvement on recent results. Josh McEachran chipped in the first after being presented with the ball by their ‘keeper. They equalised with a fine solo goal only for Adam Philip and Jacopo Sala pounced on further mistakes to seal the win.
Sunday 5 April
Manchester United receive a massive shot in the arm when Villa let back to win from 1-2 down. It is the kind of boost that will help them over the line to the title and real sickener for everyone watching and trying to remember when United had lost three in a row.
Monday 6 April
Didier trained, he came through the whole session and might just be fit for Wednesday.
Big headline across the front of the Guardian says the senior players have asked for the return of Mourinho. We don’t know the source so we can’t comment but you have to wonder.
Tuesday 7 April
Fulham reserves 2:1 Chelsea reserves
International man of mystery Mineiro scored his first goal in a blue shirt but that was as good as it got. Perhaps the team where overawed by playing the game at the Cottage?
We started brightly as well, bossing the possession and showing a bit of invention and spark. It was one of those nights when a young Chelsea side get mugged, put all the work in but get nothing, Jan Sebek was hardly involved, except to twice pick the ball out of the net.
Ricardo Quaresma lent an air of class to some of our play. He dropped into the reserves because he is cup tied in Europe.
Mineiro is destined to become a pub quiz question. Signed early in the season when injuries in midfield, especially Michael Essien’s, looked to undermine our progress. Arsene Wenger gave him a trial with Arsenal but during a training game with Fulham, Mineiro was so poor Wenger didn’t bother to watch the second-half. At 33 many thought him too old or too unfit but Chelsea signed him. Many have speculated that he had been recruited as an ally for Scolari in the dressing room but given his limited involvement with the first team, he can’t have done much before Felipão left in February, leaving Mineiro a spare part.
Wednesday 8 April
Liverpool 1:3 Chelsea
Where do you start? Everyone is stunned, the crowd, players the whole of the Pineapple – Chelsea produced a performance out of all proportion to expectations to thrash Liverpool on their own pitch.
It all started so badly as well, Liverpool tore into us for the first five-minutes had one chance deflected wide by Ivanovic, playing right-back, when the Chelsea defence disorganised in their attempts to clear dropped off and allowed an Arbeloa cross to reach Torres. 1-0.
Still, minutes later Kalou nicked the ball and fed Drogba, only for Didier to hit the ‘keeper but it was a clearer sign of how the evening would progress than Liverpool’s chimeric threat. We pressed, won free-kicks and had a few chances wide or blocked before Lampard almost gave away the tie, turning to try a pass to the right-back, whose name was cursed for being Sinclairishly absent, Frank was robbed by Torres who sent a curling chance just wide.
Overall we were controlling Liverpool’s attacking threat with Essien and Ballack playing deep to smother any forward movement. Didier had another clear chance from an incisive Ballack pass but punted it high into the Kop. When what-do-you-know the right-back ambles forward for a corner; Branislav Ivanovic has scored plenty for Serbia since he joined us but hasn’t had the chance to show us what he is about, he was the only player on the move in the box and headed in Malouda’s corner with five stranded defenders around him. He went mental but then who didn’t.
They almost struck straight back but Petr got the better of Kuyt and we reached the interval comfortably. Suddenly a Liverpool-Chelsea game was being talked of as gripping rather than grinding.
Liverpool tried at the beginning of the second-half to find the same rhythm they had in the first but our midfield kept them at a comfortable distance and we kept getting chances going forward. Didier did everything but score controlling and beating Reina only for Carragher to clear off the line.
JT then crashed into Reina to earn the booking that means he misses the return.
Ivanovic’s second lit up the night like a rocket, another unmarked header, this time Gerrard lost him, sent the home side into a panic, they threw every long ball they could think of at the Chelsea defence but we always looked to break through them and, the much criticised, Florent Malouda stormed onto, the much criticised, Ballack’s perfect pass and crossed for, the much etc, Didier Drogba to bury the ball, the match and, probably, the tie.
We still had twenty minutes to play but we didn’t sweat it and Liverpool simply couldn’t breakdown such confident opponents. Without being too cocky, it now looks like JT’s booking will clear his slate ahead of the semi-finals rather than hamper us in the return, although the Reds down our way kept saying it is only half-time in the tie and remember what happened in Istanbul. To which we can say what, you had a legitimate goal against you chalked off for a fictitious offside that would have had you 4-0 down at the break, you had a goal allowed when you’d been flagged offside in the build-up, dived for a penalty and scraped a penalty shootout win when your ‘keeper repeatedly dived before the kick (that usually has to be delivered without taking a breath). They are right though, you can never underestimate the sentimentality of European referees but surely Hiddink and this group of players are not going to let this slip?
Post match comments: “If a team feels that an opponent can be hurt in some parts it would be stupid not to go for that. The team knows that and if a team smells that it is good. It is good that the Chelsea team had that smell here.”
Saturday 11 April
Chelsea 4:3 Bolton Wanderers
Ah, a score to take you back, back to the worst season on record and a famous 4-3 at home to Bolton only that time we were going down and came back from three down, and this time we are supposed to be challenging at the other end and let it slip form four up.
Bolton have actually done Guus a huge favour, earlier this week the players were paying lip service to the tie with Liverpool not being over, now they know it isn’t. Liverpool will not be the first team in ages to score three at the bridge.
Bolton started brightly. Carvalho started and Obi John came in for the rested Essien. Bolton’s early rhythm was gradually eroded but the had the better chances in the first ten minutes. We didn’t so much find our own rhythm as string a series of staccato movements together. Drogba chipped one, flailed one into the crowd, Malouda blasted, Lampard’s free-kick was whipped in and well saved. In between they still had chances, Davies volley and Taylor’s header.
The dam burst just before the break with a deceptively simple move. Ballack broke, played a one-two with Kalou, slammed it into the net.
2-0 was similarly straight forward, Lampard passed a free-kick intot he area Drogba prodded home. A handball penalty followed, put the lie to many conspiracy theories, and Frank scored. Drogba poked in from and Ivanovic knock down and having reached a comfort-zone we collectively relaxed. Bolton played their part but our own indifference tot heir goals was the real problem.
O’Brien was clearly offside for their first, he then clattered into the ‘keeper to physically stop him winning the ball and then prodded in. The goal shouldn’t have stood for so many reasons. But then hey we’re still three up. The Cech for some reason failed to reach up and collect a cross and it is 4-2, then 4-3, Taylor heads in after a punt from the back.
The Jaaskelainen made sure Anelka couldn’t get up to prod home his own shot and they had a couple of squeaky bum moments at the end when Jaaskelainen came up for a corner that somehow went wide.
The team talk for Tuesday has written itself.