Monday 25 January
Obi John is into the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations with Nigeria after scoring in the penalty shootout against Zambia. Obi John did have a shot saved in regular time but everyone fell asleep long before the end, thankfully a few journalists set their alarm for penalties.
Frank Lampard trained today but Belletti will definitely miss Birmingham on Wednesday. Didier and Salomon should be back with us on Wednesday but no decision will be made until they have trained with the team again.
Wednesday 27 January
Chelsea 3:0 Birmingham City
On a night when all eyes were on Old Trafford awaiting the fireworks Chelsea romped back to the top of the league with a game in hand on our nearest challengers. We made a bit of a mockery of the absence of our four African players as well. Obi John might be preparing for his country’s semi-final and Essien hops the Eurostar tomorrow for a spot of knee surgery in Paris but with Drogba and Kalou already back we have dashed Sir Alex’s hopes that we might struggle in their absence.
Somehow Birmingham City’s decision to dress up in an Ajax kit didn’t bode well for them.
One of the most notable traits of Ancelotti’s sides has been their ability to start matches with goals and it took four minutes for Joe Cole to skip a couple of challenges and deliver a chipped cross for Malouda to head past the stranded Joe Hart. 0-1.
After the 0-0 in Brum at Christmas many feared another heroic performance from the young England goalkeeper but the header was so emphatic that the exposed Hart had no chance.
The much-maligned Deco was the creator in chief tonight but he was occasionally clumsy, letting in Brum players for the odd half chance.
We continued to slice them open with Joe Cole responding to calls for a bigger contribution with devilish runs and crosses.
This was, if anything, a better performance than that at the weekend but chances were not going in as easily. Terry’s header thumped the post from a Malouda corner before Joe Cole lashed one wide.
The second goal came out of nothing. Ballack played a square ball to Lampard who teed himself up and blasted into the bottom corner from twenty-five yards out. 2-0.
Ballack had a golden opportunity to head us three in front and Malouda and Cole both had scuffed efforts as Birmingham looked to press forward. On one sloppy moment Carvalho was lax and they contrived a chance on target but Cech was alert and furious with his colleagues.
Lampard put the thing to bed with his second consummate strike of the night as he ran onto Malouda’s ball took a touch and buried the ball. 3-0.
They were Frank’s twelfth and thirteenth goals of a season.
Meanwhile, the FA Cup tie with Cardiff is going to be streamed by the FA website from 12 noon on Saturday 13 February. So, no going down the pub with your mates if you haven’t got a ticket, they’ll all be sitting round your kitchen moaning that the screen isn’t big enough.
Tom Hayden announced his departure tonight to continue his studies. It has been clear to youth watchers that he is struggling to mix full-time studies with training. After 27 youth team games Tom hopes to study Sports Sciences and we wish him well.
Thursday 28 January
Chelsea youth 1:0 Portsmouth youth
A rainy old evening at the Bridge but a good crowd and a couple of outstanding performances from Conor Clifford and Josh McEachran made it all worthwhile.
Oddly Portsmouth brought only their home kit so Chelsea played in their white away shirts.
Clifford scored the goal early in the first-half after interplaying passes with McEachran, Sala and Marko Mitrovic while running half the length of the pitch and falling over while shooting a class goal in off the underside of the bar. Chances were at a premium but both sides played entertaining football. Ultimately it was comfortable for Chelsea as the second-half wore on we dominated possession and hit the post with a couple of efforts.
Meanwhile in Angola, Michael Essienless Ghana at least gave the Chelsea man something to smile about by beating Obi John’s Nigeria to reach Sunday’s final.
Friday 29 January
Patrick Van Aanholt has joined Newcastle United on loan until the end of February. The young Dutch defender has impressed immeasurably since joining from PSV Eindhoven and made 20 appearances for Coventry City in the season until the New Year.
The High Court has lifted an injunction John Terry had won last week to prevent disclosure of his private life. The details are unnecessary and fall broadly under what interests the public rather than what is in the public interest but then that is the raison d’etre of the News of the World. Level-headed pundits have already called for Terry to be stripped of the England captaincy, this from a newspaper that claims to want us to win the World Cup in the summer.
Ashley Cole’s brush with the law today was lower key: he was banned from driving for four months and fined a thousand pounds for driving at twice the legal speed limit. Let’s hope that is it for legal stories for a while.
Finally, it was jeans day for Haiti at Cobham and Carlo Ancelotti demonstrated his effortless cool by wearing a pair with dignity, well more dignity than Clarkson ever managed but that is not saying much.
Saturday 30 January
Burnley 1:2 Chelsea
Only just and only just that John Terry show his mettle by ignoring the massed booing to head us into the lead with eight minutes to go. Burnley, having beaten Manchester United here and drawn with Arsenal had the scent of blood in their nostrils in the second-half after Steve Fletcher turned a rusty looking Alex to rifle their leveller.
Biting northern humour came from the Burnley fans: “Chelsea, wherever you may be, don’t leave your wife with John Terry”.
It had all started so well; after fencing at each other for ten-minutes we started to come forward with purpose. Retaining the midfield shape with Cole and Malouda providing the width gave Ancelotti’s side penetration but openings were few and far between until we had a chance to counter – Joe Cole picked up Cech’s throw chipped a perfect ball over the defender’s head and Malouda squared for Anelka. 0-1.
You’d be furious at the defending if you were a Burnley fan; Anelka’s run went completely unnoticed and unmolested. It is the Frenchman’s sixth goal in six games and his twelfth for the season.
That was on 26 minutes and the rest of the half passed with little incident; we dominated possession but appeared content with a single goal lead.
Steve Fletcher made a mockery of the complacency four minutes into the second-half. Latching onto a punt he turned Alex and fired home from the edge of the box. Yes, it looked like he handled it at least twice while fighting off Alex but if there was contact it was invisible to the referee. 1-1.
Joe Cole had the ball in the net five minutes later but the linesman spotted that the very back of Joe’s shorts were in an offside position when the ball was played.
We pressed with more urgency and controlled the ball and our build up with some spirit. Alex, Ashley Cole and Lampard all had efforts thwarted before the headline writer’s dream as Sturridge won a corner and John Terry headed a powerful winner. 1-2. Terry scores away from home.
The post match press melee was more about John Terry than the game. Ancelotti was clearly a little bemused and annoyed: “John is a fantastic professional player. Anyone can have a problem and it’s important to stay focused on his job … he is the captain of this team and I am honoured and very proud to manage John Terry. Not only the players, the management and everyone at the club support him and his family.
What is all the fuss about? Football Focus sat in judgement of John Terry this morning and agreed that there would need to be a new England captain. Mark Lawrenson (49 caps for the Republic of Ireland, 59 brain cells) said that the England captain has to be “squeaky clean”, Martin Keown added depth to this earnest ethical discussion by saying: “you have to feel for Wayne Bridge in this situation.”
Chicken Little (23 caps for Nursery Albion, 0 goals) added a note of mature perspective when she said: “the sky is falling, the sky is falling”.
Someone needs to bash some heads together at the BBC and in the media as a whole. England captains do not need to be squeaky clean. They need to be good footballers and better leaders and John Terry is both. Who he sleeps with should have no effect on his position, he is not a Tory cabinet minister spouting about the central importance of the family while banging his secretary; there is no hypocrisy involved.
Martin; the person you need to feel sorry for is Toni, seeing her husband’s behaviour paraded in the papers and commented on by idiots.
The basic principle is that who and what you do in the bedroom is the business of nobody but you. Any betrayal of that privacy is regrettable but should not have an impact on your job. Thankfully Fabio Capello is a grown up who will keep his mouth shut until the tabloid moral typhoon has blown itself out and quietly announce that John has done nothing to affect his confidence in his captain.
Crystal Palace youth 1:1 Chelsea youth
Anton Rodgers smashed in a 30-yard thunderbolt to spare our blushes as Palace grabbed the lead but Chelsea hogged possession and hit the post twice through Bobby Devyne and Marko Mitrovic.
This was a much changed youth team from the FA Youth Cup side that played at the Bridge on Thursday and we welcome a new blue as schoolboy Todd Kane made his debut at right-back; Nathaniel Chalobah and John Swift were the other two schoolboys on show.
Finally, on a busy day John Obi Mikel’s Nigeria beat Algeria 1-0 to record their seventh bronze medal performance of the championships stretching back to 1976.
Sunday 31 January
Ghana 0:1 Egypt
Sadly Michael Essien did not have anything to cheer as Egypt made it three in a row. It was the usual stuff, crap pitch chaotic defending, erratic refereeing and a sumptuous goal from Mohamed Gedo who has scored five goals all of them as a substitute.
Manchester United demolished Arsenal at the Emirates 1-3. Alex Ferguson said afterwards that Arsenal should shrug off the defeat and “better” Chelsea next Sunday, as if Arsenal are going to be in the mood to do United any favours.
Manchester City players wore Team Bridge tee-shirts in support of their colleague during their 2-0 home win over Portsmouth. Wayne has kept a dignified silence during this whole mess but his plea for his privacy to be respected, probably won’t be observed by our slavering press.