That was the week that was …
Thursday 2 March
The London Football Awards named Antonio Conte and N’Golo Kante as manager and player of the season despite the season not actually being over … yet.
Frank Lampard was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the same dinner.
Monday 6 March
West Ham United 1:2 Chelsea
We were bound to slip up, they said, after all we’d lost in the league cup, they said, the chasing pack inched closer at the weekend, the gap was only seven points… they said; it appears the team and the manager were not listening.
We didn’t dominate but we were in complete control as Eden Hazard accepted Pedro’s return pass on the break, rounded the ’Ammer’s ’keeper to put us one up. The second came from a corner as Diego Costa was left free to knee the ball home. Imagine leaving someone like Costa unmarked at a corner, no wonder West Ham are struggling.
There was a sublime moment in the second-half when Hazard’s jink found Costa whose swivel and shot deserved goal of the season only for a diving finger-tip save from Darren Randolph – John Arlott, looking down from sporting heaven would have muttered “good cricket all round”. Visit NetBet to cast an eye on the latest Premier League betting. From the start our hosts employed the surprising tactic of lumping the ball up for the big man, but each of our defenders in turn relished showing the East enders that we’d practiced defending high balls and Andy Carroll hardly had a sniff all night.
Conte was annoyed with the stoppage time concession but there were barely 12 West Ham fans left in the ground to enjoy it.
Southampton U23 0:0 Chelsea U23
A bit of struggle against a Saints side full of first-team experience, four of them with international caps.
The redevelopment of Stamford Bridge cleared the final hurdle as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, approved the new stadium. The £500m project will have to wait for a few details before it can start – not least the issue of where we play while the builders are in… fnar, fnar, yurkk.
Tuesday 7 March
Arsenal proved that miracles don’t happen and you cannot bounce back from a 5-1 humping in the first leg but they teased their fans into some belief by taking the lead before slumping to another 5-1 defeat to surrender the tie a magnificent 10-2 on aggregate.
Wednesday 8 March
Manchester City struggled to create a meaningful chance in drawing nil each with Stoke City at the Etihad. We shouldn’t grin too widely just yet as our next league assignment is away at Stoke.
Barcelona proved that you can come back from a first leg thumping and that fairytales and miracles can happen at the same time by beating PSG to progress. Leading 4-0 from the first leg PSG scored the vital away goal on the hour leaving Barca needing three to progress. The away goal is though only vital if you actually defend it and PSG looked at each other as much as the ball as the Catalans thrashed in the required tally to win 6-1 on the night.
Friday 10 March
West Ham United U18 0:4 Chelsea U18
Callum Hudson-Odoi bagged two in the first-half, Luke McCormick added a penalty before a second-half stab by Cole Dasilva finished things off. This was the first match in the elite merit round and on this evidence we will steamroller this section too.
On this our hundred and twelfth birthday the Supporter’s Trust launched a crowd funding appeal to erect a grave marker for Jack Whitley’s plot in Brompton Cemetery. Jack played in goal for us 138 times in the seven seasons from 07 to the World War. Between the wars he was our trainer and he asked to be buried in the cemetery next to the ground on his death a month after Chelsea’s first league title in 1955.
Saturday 11 March
The FA Cup threw up a few surprises as plucky Arsenal managed to overcome the Imps of Lincoln City and Manchester City upset Middlesbrough in a tight contest.
Sunday 12 March
Chelsea 1:0 Kristianstads
Erin Cuthbert scored the goal as the women wound up pre-season training with another win. Their season starts next Sunday with an FA Cup tie against Doncaster.
Tottenham Hotspur scraped into the FA Cup semi-final past Millwall with a narrow 6-0 win. Harry Kane had to go off with an injured ankle.
Monday 13 March
Chelsea 1:0 Manchester United
Jose Mourinho is always a courteous guest, tonight he simply smiled delightfully as one of his players was sent off, stood toe to toe with Antonio Conte to explain that his United team are allowed to trip and kick and push and hold their opponents. This, after all, is Manchester United.
Thankfully, after the graceless morons from Salford traipsed back to the north, a goal from N’Golo Kante was enough to put us into the hat.
The game pulsated from the whistle, with United, clearly drilled into a plan to disrupt, man marking Hazard and Willian and deploying a back six, tackling high up the pitch and flooding forward in support of the player with the ball. It worked well for about twelve minutes, at which point we assumed control of the game and never looked back.
In response to the efforts to man marking Hazard and Willian simply ran their marker over to the other side of the pitch – neither Phil Jones nor Matteo Darmian felt comfortable switching and both let their charges find space. The second counter move was to speed play up. Willian resorted to flicks and tricks and Hazard to running at pace both left United defenders trailing and led to the series of tackles on Hazard that resulted in Ander Herrera committing two yellow card offences.
The first a shoulder block and the next a trip seconds after Mr Oliver had warned United about their persistent fouling.
It was the turning point; N’Golo Kante’s strike was a rare enough sight but one that got past de Gea and it was enough.
There were so many of facets to the match, it was a miracle that Antonio Valencia stayed on the pitch after a two-footed lunge on Kante; section of the east stand chanted ‘Judas’ at Mourinho; Marcos Rojo will be banned for stamping on Hazard; Conte and Mourinho clashed ‘like rutting stags’ on the touchline and in between it all Hazard broke through United’s close attentions rounded four opponents and brought the save of the night from David de Gea.
They did have one chance when Rashford raced clear but Courtois stood tall and the night was ours.
The draw for the semi-finals paired us with Tottenham Hotspur as Manchester City will get the easy tie against Arsenal.
Liverpool U23 2:0 Chelsea U23
A very young development squad went down to a goal in each half but showed plenty of invention and skill. Conor Gallagher caught the eye on debut. We have an FA Youth Cup semi-final tomorrow night so
it was men against boys as four U18s stepped up for their debut tonight while eight of the Liverpool side had first-team experience.
Tuesday 14 March
FA Youth Cup semi-final 1st Leg
Tottenham Hotspur U18 1:2 Chelsea U18
Our dominance on the night deserved a bigger margin, we missed a penalty, drew a man-of-the-match performance from their goalkeeper and conceded a late consolation goal.
Reece James and Ike Ugbo provided headers for the goals but we had so many more chances, most of those from the left foot delivery of Tariq Uwakwe.
The second leg at the Bridge is this weekend.
Thursday 16 March
Pre-season reared it ugly head already with another challenge to the fan who has to attend every game – Singapore: two games in their national stadium against Bayern Munchen and Internazionale, after our trip to Beijing and Arsenal in the Bird’s Nest stadium.
The matches are all in the last weeks of July.
Saturday 18 March
Stoke City 1:2 Chelsea
If referees are the metaphorical underpants of the game (protecting the integrity of the crown jewels) then Antony Taylor is the skid mark in those pants. He did his best to look the other way when Stoke players assaulted Chelsea players and waited until Diego Costa had been persistently fouled by a host of Stoke defenders before, you guessed it, booking the Chelsea forward.
His blindness couldn’t stop us taking the lead as Willian whipped a free-kick in at the near post with the goalkeeper flapping.
On 37-minutes Taylor besmirched the good name of referees again by awarding a penalty for a supposed push on Jonathan Walters. That contact was minimal and the ball already in our ’keeper’s mits meant nothing to him.
Referee’s myopia hit Taylor again when Phil Bardsley smashed his studs into Diego’s knee and only received a yellow card for the attack.
One each was unjust considering the number of chances we had created without the talismanic Hazard on the pitch, Alonso had one acrobatic smash saved well in the first period and hit the bar with a second-half free-kick.
The winner came after sub Rubens Loftus-Cheek forced a corner and captain Gary Cahill was on hand to lash in the rebound from David Luiz’s header forward.
The ref did send off a Stoke player after a second studs to the knee challenge by Bardsley, this time on Fabregas. Honestly Stoke could have finished with eight men on the pitch.
The players and fans celebrated the win with relief as much a pride as we’d faced the most physically intimidating game in the calendar with three points and a thirteen-point lead in the table – at least until tomorrow afternoon.
FA Youth Cup semi-final, 2nd leg
Chelsea U18 7:1 Tottenham Hotspur U18
(Chelsea win 9-2 on aggregate)
Three nil up at half time and cruising with a penalty save in the pag as well the U18 demonstrated their total dominance of this tie with four more in the second-period.
Ike Ugbo with two and Trevor Chalobah provided the 3,300 gate with a little extra warmth in the Bovril. Before Dujon Sterling, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ugbo’s hat-trick goal secured the tie. They did pull one back to besmirch the clean sheet but Juan Castillo rounded off the night with our seventh.
Manchester City are 6-0 ahead after their first leg with Stoke so it looks like another Chelsea v City final. Our sixth in a row.
Sunday 19 March
Chelsea 7:0 Doncaster Belles
The women have been warming up for a while now and stormed back into action thrashing poor Doncaster and showing real determination to get back to the FA Cup final.
Ramona Bachmann and Crystal Dunn both scored on their professional debut Ji So-Yun got two and Katie Chapman and Drew Spence supplied the second-half hits with the spare a first-half own goal. We could have doubled the score we were that dominant.
Tottenham Hotspurt managed to drag themselves back up to ten-point behind after beating a pale Southampton but City and Liverpool contrived to draw leaving themselves twelve and thirteen points back respectively.