Monday 3 February
Manchester City 0:1 Chelsea
That is how you park a bus – with the engine running. Jose Mourinho played a blinder. As if we needed reminding that he is a master tactician he played Luiz and, the outstanding, Matic as holding midfielders and stopped City’s danger men by attacking with Eto’o, Hazard, Willian and Ramires.
City only looked dominant for the first ten minutes as we adjusted to the game. During this spell they summoned up only a couple of half-
Cech almost did a Payton Manning as the Chelsea keeper was out of his area like a hare but too quick for Gary Cahill. The subsequent muddle and scare passed but it was a near thing.
We started to assert ourselves on the break. Willian, Eto’o and Ramires all found chances before Hazard beat his defender out wide ran across the pitch and, via an exchange with Ramires and Ivanovic, set up the Brazilian for a shot. Hart saved that one but the ball broke to Ivanovic on the edge of the box and he nearly broke the net with an instant left foot shot. 0-1.
The goal made up for the four-on-one break that we wasted a few minutes before.
Hazard celebrated by cutting to the byline and pulling back for Eto’o to slam the ball onto the angel of post and bar.
City looked shell shocked as they trudged off at half-time.
The expected onslaught after the break never came. Nemanja Matic was immoveable at the heart of our midfield and not shy of going forward. He even found a thirty-yard belter again off the angle of post and bar. Gary Cahill made it three knocks on wood as his header from a Willian corner thumped the post.
Cech had only two saves to make, one from a free-kick where Willian was punished when Toure kicked him. It could even have been worse for City as Nastasic pulled the substitute Oscar off his feet when he was clean through. Admittedly he was on half way but he would have been through on goal.
We should have added to our lead but by the end our dominance had completely changed perceptions of the title race. We move up to two points behind the leaders and level with Man City.
The positive aspects of this performance are immense: Willian and Hazard going forward looked dangerous and hard working. Matic and Luiz in midfield dominated City and Terry and Cahill at the back were immense.
Mourinho chirruped something about a small horse, a glass of milk and the title race after the match but we were too busy eating sardines to pay much attention.
Friday 7 February
Fulham U21 1:2 Chelsea U21
After a week of rereading the reports from Manchester and pinching yourself it was time for another football match as the reserves returned to winning ways.
Motspur Park hasn’t been spared the filthy weather but this young Chelsea side are becoming stronger and dominated the side currently at the top of the league. Goals came from John Swift and Lewis Baker in the first-half gave us enough leeway to give away a penalty in the second.
Lamisha Musonda has made a permanent switch to Belgian side KV Mechelen not a loan as we reported last week.
Saturday 8 February
Chelsea 3:0 Newcastle United
Chelsea are top of the league after a near perfect run of results. This was no cakewalk as Newcastle could have taken the lead, should have equalised and might have hit a late consolation but somehow Eden Hazard scored all the goals.
The start was a bit strained as David Luiz settled into defence in the absence of John Terry. Things felt a little uneasy but our forward play was still working and Oscar and Hazard had early shots.
The lead took some time to arrive but did so with a bang. Hazard raced forward exchanged passes with Ivanovic and lashed in the return ball first time. 1-0.
The second was even better a rapid break from Willian found Hazard running at the Magpie defence, the Belgian used Willian’s run outside as a distraction and played the ball into Eto’o whose back heeled return was passed into the net by Hazard without breaking his stride. 2-0.
The goals set up an air of expectancy that the second-half couldn’t really match. Eden got his hat-trick from the spot when Eto’o was rugby tackled at a corner. 3-0. You have to say Eden has a deadeye technique from the spot. There was nearly a comedy goal as Tim Krul slipped under a high ball that bounced wide with Oscar on the chase and the three late subs – Salah, Ba and Schürrle all had chance on the break that would have led to goals if they had looked to pass instead of shoot. That said Salah hasn’t yet absorbed the tracking-back message and we looked a bit too open towards the end.
Arsenal’s thrashing at Anfield and Manchester City’s inability top beat Norwich mean we sit at the top of the pile for the first time since September.
Sunday 9 September
To complete a staggeringly good week of Chelsea football, plucky Fulham snatched a draw at Old Trafford to leave the Red Devils 15 points behind the leaders of the Premier League.