According to Google the longest time breath held voluntarily (male) is 24 min 3.45 secs and was achieved by Aleix Segura Vendrell (Spain), in Barcelona, Spain, on 28 February 2016. I am sure I beat that on Saturday. It’s the game I want to win more than any other but increasingly the game I least enjoy attending. Over the years the atmosphere has become increasingly toxic and I’d have to say if we hadn’t beaten a team in a fixture spanning back 26 years I might be a bit miffed and desperate when attending. Last year captain leader Legend coined the hashtag not on my watch and I am sure that is how we all feel every time this fixture rolls around. We know by the law of averages it has to happen one day but …
So going to the game I pondered the 26 years , the six wins in a row, the six clean sheets and their exit from the Champions league. It had to be their day my warped mind told me. For most of the first half it looked like I may be right. They negated our new way of playing, had an energy that belied their mid week excursions and had us under the cosh, or did they? An offside goal was followed by a decent goal. The defending leading up to the finish was not great but if TC was going to be beaten it had to be special and it was. On reflection though, how much more was our keeper called to do? There was one shot form Kane which TC comfortably palmed over and that was it. The main threat was their ability to stop us doing what we had been doing. Worryingly for the first 30 minutes our ability to find a team mate in a blue shirt had been lost and several of our players had disappeared into last season mode and its fair to say that maybe the opposition had got to them.
Before half time we picked it up and one of the turning points for me was the fact that Dembele got booked. He’d bullied Matic and Kante but overstepped the mark once too often. Once he was a bad foul away from a red his influence waned and we got back into the game.
Just before half time we were shown once again why we go to football. A moment of pure unadulterated brilliance, a lovely pass from Matic found Pedro on the edge of the area, a breath-taking turn took out three defenders and a quite sensational curling shot was in the back of the net. The half time whistle blew amongst complete delirium. Personally as an opposition fan, I would have been gutted. A half where they had been mostly dominant they went in 1-1 and the full weight of history would have weighed heavy around their necks. Whatever their manager would have said to them at half time , the injustice of that equaliser just before half time and last season would have told them whatever happens we are never wining here and so it proved.
On the other had Conte’s team talk would have been slightly different but he would have not been kind after what he had just witnessed.
The second half mirrored the first but the other way round we harried chased and would not let them settle nor play out from the back. We looked like we had when we destroyed Everton and it wasn’t long before we took the lead. A tremendous move down the left produced a great run form Diego, a sweeping cross to the oncoming Moses, 2-1 and cue bedlam. Within aanother couple of minutes the selfless Diego produced a stunning cutback from the right for Alonso but sadly his shot is still travelling towards the sun. Arguably had that gone in there may have been a repeat of the previous hidings handed out recently but sadly that wasn’t to be the case and so a tense last 30 minutes had to be endured.
One thing that it did highlight is the fact that our squad is thin. I never thought that a day would come where the potential absence of Victor Moses would have me so worried but that is where we are. The substitutions seemed to be inviting them on to us and so it proved. It would have been a fine tactic had everyone been firing on all cylinders but that wasn’t the case and speedster that is Eden Hazard had already gone off. All that being said one metre either way and Oscar may have got on the end of Diego’s pass and finished it and ultimately we won for the seventh game in row. There were a couple of scares most particularly when Brana was attacked and the evidence is there for all to see we need more back up in this department. I think the common consensus is that Aina isn’t ready yet but I am not quite clear what has happened to Tomori. One thing is for sure though, our manager knows what he is doing so as long as he is backed there should be little cause for concern.
I should at this point just say a few words about Cesar. His reading of the game and assistance to both full backs and centre halves is outstanding. His fitness and calmness under pressure should not be underestimated. For all the money we have spent on left backs we should not forget that he cost £7 million when bought in 2012!
Finally let’s talk about David Luiz. I am finding hard to understand why he is not yet wearing the armband. I have nothing against Gary Cahill and maybe Conte thought it needed to be an Englishman but for all intents and purposes Luiz is the leader of the team. During the first half they pressured us hard when we tried to play out from the back. The occasion and the tension had got to the crowd and it started, the shouting, the screaming, the panic imploring the ball to be hoofed out of danger. During one such episode Luiz implored the Matthew Harding Lower to calm down. He was of course correct and my interpretation was he was trying to say, look this is how we have been told to play and you getting on our back isn’t going to help. He may well have added and we’ve won the last 6 games without letting in a goal playing like this so chill. Anyway the point was it was him, with everything else going on around he was the one that talked to the crowd. He was the manager’s spokesman. He tells his colleagues what to do and he is now the leader so terribly lacking when JT isn’t on the field.
So there we are 26 years and counting. Lovely.
Author of “Palpable Discord. A Year of drama and dissent at Chelsea” Published by Gate 17
Podder and blogger for The Chelsea Fancast