Monday 28 February
Mark Clattenburg has given Wayne Rooney a free pass after telling the FA disciplinary board that he saw the Manchester United striker’s forearm smash into James McCarthy’s face but that the offence only warranted the free-kick not a straight red card. The precedent gives Rooney rein to attack anyone but calls into question Clattenburg’s ability and impartiality: he is either Wayne Rooney’s real father (think Star Wars episode V, a man in black failing to punish his offspring) or so unwilling to admit he is wrong he is condoning physical assault.
Tuesday 1 March
Chelsea 2:1 Manchester United
How we needed that. Alex Ferguson paid Ancelotti the tribute of matching his 4-4-2 and, in doing so, bet that his side were better than Chelsea man for man.
Malouda started brightly but we didn’t really get a sniff, apart from John Terry’s effort from an early corner but the whistle had already gone. Slowly United started to dominate as we couldn’t find forward passes accurate enough for the front two.
Then disaster struck as Terry and Luiz were turned as the ball pinballed to Rooney and he lashed in from the edge of the box. 0-1. Wayne then decided his Christ celebration was in order. The boy beggars belief at times.
Most of the crowd busied themselves by shouting ‘shoot’ at Ashley Cole every time he touched the ball. Is that the best we can think of in the circumstances?
Just before the break the ball fell to Ivanovic but he flopped his effort into Van Der Sar’s gloves.
Manchester United dominated the half moving the ball much more effectively as Chelsea failed to press with anything like the intensity needed.
Vidic fouled Essien on the edge of their box and was booked but Cole, given the chance to ram the chants back down Salford throats, wafted the shot terribly.
Half-time and no changes but a brighter opening effort from those in blue. Yet without threatening until, until… Ivanovic heads on and David Luiz volleys in at the far post. 1-1. It wasn’t Luiz’s only contribution but his other work on the night got him a booking and could have seen him go for a couple of late challenges. Predictably Ferguson used the incident to protest that we always have the referee’s help at home. No, really, he drinks so much his face is permanently blushing but would still couldn’t tell if he felt any shame making comments like that after Wayne Rooney’s elbow at the weekend.
The momentum has clearly shifted to the home side as even Torres slaps a curler at the goal. Sadly it fails to curl and the ball squirts across the box.
Yuri Zhirkov then crashed into the box and was tripped by Chris Smalling, enjoying his return to the Bridge where he scored an own-goal for Fulham last season. Again Ferguson bellyached about a soft penalty but Smalling hung out his leg to stop the attacker’s run: what else is the referee supposed to do?
Lampard takes his time and rifles down the middle – 2-1 and twenty minutes to go.
Zhirkov nearly smashed us further ahead but his fierce shot clipped Vidic and then the post but the corner came to nothing.
One of the most delightful passages of play came right at the end of the match: Didier Drogba, on for the last half hour, danced the ball in the corner with various colleagues to run down the clock and United could do nothing about it. Nothing for the whole four minutes.
Vidic got so pissed off he hacked down Ramires and was sent off. A classic way to end the match and send United fans off on the short trip home with joyous blue songs filling the air.
FA Youth Cup quarter-final
Chelsea 2:1 Watford
There is something weirdly familiar about tonight’s game. The youth team fall behind early, 5 minutes this time, before fighting back to win the tie at the death.
Much fancied Watford arrived as many people’s favourites and made the tie hard work for the young Blues. Falling behind didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm and Bobby Devyne’s looped header pulled us level just before the break. We manufactured so many chances it was almost embarrassing. The winner when it came was an own-goal as the ball clipped off a defender’s shin after the excellent Billy Clifford’s strong cross.
We will play either Manchester United or Liverpool.
Saturday 5 March
Arsenal youth 4:1 Chelsea youth
This has to be the last time we face Arsenal this season. The young academy side shipped three quick goals but Dermot Drummy switched from a diamond to 4-3-3 in order to break up the fluidity of their midfield and was rewarded with a goal back from Deen-Conteh and a much improved performance.
In the Premiership, Arsenal couldn’t find a goal at home to Sunderland and so failed to close the gap on United at the top.
Sunday 6 March
It was a satisfying afternoon down the pub, for possibly too many beers in celebration of Manchester United losing 3-1 at Liverpool and Spurs dropping points at Wolves.
Monday 7 March
Blackpool 1:3 Chelsea
The 4-4-2 is still not working, alright the result was near perfect but for John terry’s opener and a spell of ten minutes after Salomon Kalou came on we floundered. Fernando Torres, against the weakest defence in the league, looked a passenger again.
We started brightly enough, with Didier Drogba and Torres up front, Zhirkov replacing Malouda and Bosingwa coming in at the back. It was a strong enough team. But… set up with a flat four in midfield we lacked numbers and once John Terry headed us in front from an early corner (0-1), Blackpool started to boss possession and the midfield.
Thankfully the Seasiders couldn’t make anything more of the ball than Jason Puncheon’s shot that Cech scrambled to tip onto the post and a wayward cross that the big Czech ’keeper palmed behind for a corner.
Drogba and Torres looked like strangers; even stopping after one attack to try to figure out who should go which way.
The second-half brought more of the same until Didier appeared to pull stomach muscles and Kalou, eventually, replaced him. Our second Ivorian made a telling contribution. Playing deeper than Drogba had he picked up and ran with the ball to far greater effect: first to win a penalty that Lampard scored (0-2), and then to collect a pass between their midfield and defence and tickle a pass through to Frank to score his first goal from open play in an age. 0-3.
Bosingwa then cast a downer on proceedings by clumsily giving away possession allowing a swift break and goal back from Puncheon. 1-3. But for all their late drive we hung on.
Ancelotti declared himself happy with the way Drogba and Torres meshed, again pointing to good movement but he could not disguise the fact that, against the most porous of defences, neither striker managed a shot on target in the first-half.
We now have a two week break to work on things but if we don’t improve and find more bodies in midfield Manchester City could walk away with the points and push us back into a fight with Spurs for fourth.
Tuesday 8 March
Bolton Wanderers reserves 1:2 Chelsea reserves
The reserves continue their fine form with a young side conjuring another win with goals from Todd Kane and a cracker from Fabio Borini.
Milan Lalkovic was again central to a lot of what Chelsea do well at this level.
In the Champions League Barcelona beat Arsenal 3-1 but the Gunners were left with ten men after Van Persie was inexplicably sent off. The Dutchman had been flagged offside and as the whistle blew he was completing his shot. The ref deemed him to be kicking the ball away. That his first yellow was for a shoulder to shoulder collision with Danny Alves who went down clutching his face suggests that referee’s are going to ease Barcelona to another crown. No Barcelona players were booked.
Afterwards the argument seemed to be that Barça would have won anyway because they had more of the ball and play pretty football. It is an absurd argument because it rests on the assumption that we should abandon goals as a measure of success and rely instead on possession percentages, shots on target and artistic impression.
So, for once we have to agree with Arsene Wenger that the sending off materially affected the game.
Wednesday 9 March
Ashley Cole will not now be imprisoned over shooting Tom Cowan. That the police deemed it necessary to waste their own time investigating this far, suggests the Government are completely justified in cutting 25% of their budget. Maybe then they’ll be forced to investigate crimes instead of accidents.
Tottenham Hotspur are in the quarter-final of the Champions League after a gritty 0-0 at home to AC Milan. There is something about the Italians and diamonds that the early Pink Panther films did not utterly explain: the Milanese played a diamond midfield and Spurs found the subsequent limited width easy to defend.
Friday 11 March
Just as you thought it was safe to open a tabloid one greedy, overpaid, footballer is banned from driving for speeding at 90 in a 50 mile-an-hour zone: to everyone’s surprise it is Frank Lampard who coughed to the offence and will not be driving himself to Cobham for three months.
Saturday 12 March
Chelsea youth 1:1 Birmingham City youth
With no first team football this weekend, again, the only Chelsea on display was a very young academy side with a couple of school boys and mostly first years as Dermot Drummy tests his squad depth ahead of the next round of the FA Youth Cup.
He saw some decent performances as well: Bobby Devyne continued to look lively and Marko Mitrovic made his first start back from injury. It was Devyne’s ball that picked out Buomesca Na Bangna who headed in. Mesca has impressed in the little time injuries have allowed since his arrival from Sporting Lisbon a little over a year ago.
We shipped an equaliser after the hour as Birmingham dominated after the break but we still fashioned chances.
Sunday 13 March
Chelsea women 0:1 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Ah feck, the best laid plans of the ‘ladies’ team went up in smoke, having made a hatful of new signings Chelsea strode out against Doncaster and limped back in having been dumped out of both the Womens FA Cup and next year’s European Cup. Because of the switch to a summer timetable the finalists of this year’s cup will qualify for the premier European competition. So we can look forward to the ‘ladies’ playing a handful of league games over the summer. The bad news for the women just got a little gloomier with the news that Casey Stoney is moving on to Lincoln. The former Arsenal striker and England regular used her Twitter page to thank the players and staff for the last three years and complain about how long the tube take to get her home … it was ever thus.
The academy side will play Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup semi-finals after the Salford club overcame Liverpool at Anfield. Liverpool took a 2-0 lead but United came back to win 3-2. Both sides had two players sent off.