Monday 12 September
Oh for God’s sake shut the fuc… it is driving us mad. Torres has been journalists endless drone for the last nine months – how much he cost, can he play with Drogba, when is he going to score, is the formation going to change to accommodate him, did Ancelotti leave because he failed to get the best out of him, was Villas-Boas appointed to get the best out of him, why wasn’t he in the Spain side, did he call Frank Lampard old and slow, was the interview authorised, will you fine him, how much will you fine him?
The constant obsession with the £50m striker means every Chelsea mention on Sky Sports News is about him, every newspaper article, every match report and every question in a press conference starts with him. No other news can eek out from under such a collective monomania.
That said we’ve managed to bury today’s good news under a rant about other people’s obsession with Torres and, by doing so, we do a disservice to young Billy Clifford, who signed a new four-year contract today. The deal links the talented and versatile, playing in any position from front to back, as long as it is on the right (presumably he topples over like a Weeble on the left) player to us for four more years.
Up-and-coming footballers over the years have had to live with the demands of comparison. No fledging career, since Edwardian gentlemen kicked seven bells out of each other, has been complete without teenagers being labelled ‘the new’, as in ‘the new Puskás’, ‘the new Pele’, ‘the new Eusébio’ etc. ‘The new Maradona’ has been a popular one spanning various players careers from Gianfranco Zola to Lionel Messi, just as ‘the new Messi’ will inevitably emerge. The label might be lazy journalism but it helps the game keep a sense of history and continuity football otherwise struggles to create. Chelsea’s latest signing from Glasgow Celtic, Islam Feruz is stuck with a weight of expectation of a wholly different order; he is the ‘Scottish Wayne Rooney’. Just imagine the fat lunk in a kilt and you’ll realize why the youngster would do well to define himself as quickly as possible.
Rumours about Feruz have been swirling all summer but can only be confirmed after he signs a professional contract on his sixteenth birthday in October. Celtic are deeply unhappy about the deal, £300,000 is meagre compensation, and you have to acknowledge the bitterness of a club that develops a youngster only to lose him to English giants.
Carried over from Saturday:
Coventry City youth 3:2 Chelsea youth
Adi Viveash was extremely positive after a late goal robbed his side of a draw. Philipp Prosenik and Reuben Loftus-Cheek scored the goals that gave us a first half lead after we’d fallen behind to a soft penalty.
Adi thought we should have taken a lead ourselves: “We had some fantastic attacking play at times, the big difference I think was that in the first 20 minutes we could have been three or four up but we weren’t ruthless enough”.
Tuesday 13 September
FC 05 Chelsea 2:0 SV Bayer 04 Leverkusen
It wouldn’t be a group game without a few sweaty moments but AVB will have been encouraged by the verve of the attacking play and the significant jump in tempo.
Leaving out JT altogether and putting Anelka and Lampard on the bench Villas-Boas showed a flair for a gamble.
David Luiz made his first start of the season and was lucky not to pick up a couple of yellows but his contribution continued his personal theme of dangerous and thrilling attacking play allied to hair raising defending; the boy likes to live on the edge.
What a start: Bosingwa and Sturridge ping the ball around and Torres tries an audacious overhead but is just wide. Leverkusen trip down the other end and win a corner. From the kick the ball is bundled home but the ref had already blown for a foul nobody could see. Straight down the other end and Torres back heels, Meireles tries to flick and though the ball trickles in Meireles is given offside. He didn’t touch the ball.
As scarum starts go it was a corker. Things did settle down a bit but we were still end to end.
Mata is proving an excellent addition and it was his ball that Torres fumbled into the goalkeeper on ten minutes before a stray ’keeper’s punch was ambitiously headed back by Malouda but wide.
The Leverkusen fans wanted to let us know they were there and the visitors seemed bemused that we contented ourselves with rounds of applause as our defenders snuffed out their movement time and again.
Sturridge lashed a cracking shot saved by Leno in the German goal.
The rest of the half consisted of bits and pieces headers saved, shots wide and half-time came on the dot of 45 breathless minutes.
Leverkusen started the second period with more purpose the excellent Kiessling slipped just as he was about to receive the ball and then suddenly Ballack is through on goal but Cech blocked and won a goal-kick in the same movement. Both threats came while David Luiz was limping around looking for all the world like he wanted to subbed.
Daniel Sturridge looked the most likely to provide the spark in the face of concerted German attacks; first he wriggled a cross that Torres met early but wide; then he met Ashley’s Cole’s cross on the volley but the ’keeper pawed the ball away. Then, surprisingly he is being hauled off, to be replaced, alongside Meireles, by Lampard and Anelka. Michael Ballack was taken off to a huge standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house; it is funny to think that the big Ossi made such an impact on the home crowd.
The substitutions seemed to act as the distraction Luiz was waiting for: He leaped up the pitch laid off to Malouda, his pass found Torres, Torres laid off and Luiz meets the ball to curl a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. 1-0.
Almost immediately Mata has a couple of efforts saved, as Chelsea look to finish their prey on the break and at the double. Mata and Ashley Cole combined for Anelka to head home for 2-0 and a comfortable and to the evening only someone has his flag in the air and is not putting it down until everyone stops celebrating and pays attention to him. Watching replays in super slow motion it is impossible to detect an offside.
No Matter, Juan Mata followed Torres’s break into the box and the Spanish striker laid the ball back to his colleague and Mata stabbed it in. 2-0.
The whistle blew immediately the Germans kicked off and the relief around the ground was palpable because while the score stayed low there was always a chance they would equalise. The real problem was how shaky the defence looked, again, although we restricted the Germans to a few half-chances we ceded possession too often and too easily. Matches at Old Trafford and Eastlands will require more composure and more cover from the holding midfielder and the clamour to play Luiz there is growing.
It was a thrilling ride but one only enjoyed by 33,820 hardy souls. The German club actually subsidised their fans tickets when they found out how much was being charged.
Meanwhile, in other news, strapping young Croatian ’keeper, Matej Delač, has gone to Dynamo České Budějovice on loan until the end of the season. Budějovice play in the Czech premier league but are struggling with one point from six games.
Wednesday 14 September
Our win last night seems in better perspective this evening; Mancheters City and United managed draws with Roma, at home, and Benfica, away. Neither side looked sparkling and Arsenal’s away draw with Borussia Dortmund yesterday means we are the only English side to start with a win.
Juan Mata was unveiled to the press this afternoon and confirmed that Fernando Torres had urged him to sign for Chelsea and he also hinted that, although linked with Arsenal for half the summer that it was Chelsea who made the first concrete offer for him.
Friday 16 September
Rumours of a training ground match to sharpen the reserves, who are in the middle of a month long limbo as the new reserve calendar leaves them without a fixture. The interesting thing is that both mystery men scored: Dominik Mašek the Czech striker has been linked with us for ever from FK Pribram and is still not officially a Chelsea player, the other is Islam Feruz who has been coming from Celtic all summer and is finally here but not ours until he turns 16. Adi Viveash will be rubbing his hands in glee.
Saturday 17 September
Watford youth 2:2 Chelsea youth
A battling display that saw both sides down to ten-men after a bit if a melee around a tackle on Adam Nditi before Chelsea were down to nine when Nat Chalobah was also dismissed after the incident and before the quarter hour.
The rise and rise of Ruben Loftus-Cheek might sound like a late seventies television play but it is happening in episodes every week for the academy team; this time he gave us the lead. A couple by the hosts by early in the second-half required an equalizer from Alex Kiwomya both scorers for Chelsea are still schoolboys, imagine what they’ll be able to do when they can shave. Todd Kane had a late chance as he beat the ’keeper but saw his effort cleared off the line.
Sunday 18 September
Manchester United 3:1 Chelsea
For all the gloating a posturing by the winners we were robbed by two offsides and couple of open goals. This finished 1-1 on legitimate goals, so perhaps AVB can take some positives from an unlucky afternoon.
News of the team was positive; unlike the matches in April picking Torres seemed like the right choice, while Meireles came in for Obi John and gave us a more direct approach. This match was as far from the cagey sparring Mourinho was fond of as both sides sprang forward at each invitation as fast as possible.
The match started with Ashley Cole at full stretch down the left volleying over for Ramires to shoot straight at De Gea; Daniel Sturridge was in a better position. The next significant action was their first goal. A soft free-kick on the far right is headed in by an unmarked Chris Smalling. 1-0. Unmarked, perhaps, because he was clearly offside. A depressing opening as the officials hand United a head start.
Still we came on: Sturridge won a corner, Torres flopped one wide after Anderson played the ball to him on the edge of the box.
On 26 minutes Ramires contrived to find De Gea rather than the empty net when Torres unselfishly squared. Worse was to come, as instead of an equaliser we conceded again. Irritating little rick, Nani, is standing offside when the ball is played cross field onto his instep. Flag, offside, Chelsea continue with a free-kick; only this is Old Trafford and the lineman on that side didn’t bring his flag or has a hefty wager on the number given offside in the match. Nani runs on, is not closed down and Cech flaps at his driven effort. 2-0.
The next goal was actually legitimate but extremely fortunate. Phil Jones ran forward Terry tussled, won the ball but his clearance was deflected to Rooney. 3-0 and half-time.
The half looks a calamity on paper but we had more chances and better possession. We didn’t score but then we were stretching forward to compensate for their two offside goals.
Anelka replaced Lampard at the break and made an immediate impression, laying the ball into the path of Torres’s run and the Spaniard dinked his shot past the advancing ’keeper. 3-1. Surely, now we would get some reward?
We started to pile on pressure as Mata nearly collected a chipped pass but the ball just ran away from him. Then, what do you know, they get a penalty. Nani again finds the room to shoot and as the ball cannons back off the bar Bosingwa lunges for the rebound and gets the ball but Nani trips over himself and wins the penalty. Thankfully Rooney slips and the ball thunders wide.
Lukaku came on for Sturridge and almost forced a goal form a corner. Torres skipped into the box and De Gea saved only for Torres to thump the rebound over the bar.
Next on the end-to-end-of-the-pier-roller-coaster is Rooney who hits the post and Hernandez hits the side netting. Cole is booked for catching the United forward after the ball had gone, but it was an honest attempt to get the ball.
Suddenly Torres is free at the other end, round the goalkeeper, an open goal suddenly it is 3-2 and game on but inexplicably the Spaniard skews wide. It is not our last chance but the moment you know the game is up.
Heads went down a little after that miss.
Afterwards Villas-Boas summed up: “It didn’t fall our way, not just in terms of goalscoring opportunities, but also the refereeing and linesman’s decisions. I was really unhappy with the way the linesman performed.”