Monday 24 January
Bolton Wanderers 0:4 Chelsea
Nat Lofthouse, you have to tip your hat; great man, great goal scorer, one club man. Impeccable minutes silence.
Chelsea are back, not quite to our best but certainly to resounding scores.
Frank Lampard wasn’t risked so Obi John, Essien and Ramires made up the midfield and they started like strangers. Everyone looked nervous at the start as Bolton pressed and harried. They snuck a few half chances but as Gretar Steinsson dithered Florent Malouda stole the ball and fed Didier Drogba about 33 yards from goal. Didier has been below par with illness and lack of confidence over the last few weeks so it surprised everyone when he decided to thwack a shot into the back of the net from where he stood. Jussi Jaaskelainen was well placed, not far off his line but could do nothing to stop the howitzer that swerved and dipped. 0-1.
There followed a bit of pucha nd pull until Drogba slapped a shot from the left into Jaaskelainen’s midriff before Obi John slipped Anelka in but the French striker wanted too long and Zat Knight nipped the ball off his toe.
Matt Taylor met Petrov’s early cross only to see Cech spring to his left and fingertip the ball round. It was the first real threat Bolton posed and as our defence gained confidence it was nearly the last.
The second will have infuriated Owen Coyle as Bolton gave away a needless corner which wasn’t cleared, the ball fell back to Malouda who shimmied to the byline, saw his attempted pull-back blocked and lashed in the rebound. 0-2.
Elmander had time before the interval to flick a ball goalward but Cech was well placed to concede just a corner.
The second period started in a scrap and Drogba ended up yanking up his shirt to prove he’d been kicked in the chest as defenders accused him of diving.
A swift break settled the points as Essien’s cross fell to Anelka to shoot low past the ’keeper. 0-3. Ancelotti will be particularly pleased that all three of his forward line scored.
The rest of the match settled into a pattern of Bolton struggling forward and we nicked the ball and broke.
Michael Essien had a number of very strong runs but couldn’t find the right pass until he was released on the left supplied a shooting opportunity, the Frenchman’s effort was blocked but Ramires passed in the rebound. 0-4. The Brazilian was swamped by teammates in celebration, he looked almost sheepish at the response but the goal clearly meant a lot to the squad.
The game stuttered to a close with Josh McEachran’s each touch wacthed and applauded by the away fans. Anelka had another couple of shies and could have had a penalty but 0-4 up with a few minutes to go nobody moaned as the ref waved on play.
Chelsea are back. Indeed.
Tuesday 25 January
Arsenal reserves 1:0 Chelsea reserves
A very young reserve side couldn’t live with Arsenal’s speed and experience. Carlos Vela scored their goal against Ross Turnbull but the only other Chelsea player who’d appeared in the first-team since Ancelotti started was Jeffrey Bruma. A couple of players were held back ahead of loan moves and more were with the first-team last night.
Wednesday 26 January
Gaël Kakuta joins Fulham for the rest of the season on loan. The young Frenchman who has hogged more of the limelight than he would have wanted has appeared inhibited in his few appearances this season and the club will be hoping that regular Premiership football can put the finishing touches on his development.
Patrick Van Aanholt has joined Leicester City for the rest of the season. Patrick played in the Championship most of last term with Coventry and Newcastle United and might consider himself unlucky not to get a Premiership berth.
“A negotiation process is currently ongoing and the market will be informed when it is completed,” is Benfica’s take on the David Luiz saga. Although there are reports that the Portuguese club want the fee in cash, up-front where we are offering installments..
Thursday 27 January
Liverpool batted back a bid for Fernando Torres of around £35m. This is staggering stuff, considering the party line about breaking even in the next two years and the seasons of under investment that has annoyed a string of managers. Only when Shevchenko became available have we seen this kind of spending; it seems another bout of richman’s plaything. We wonder if Carlo Ancelotti was informed before the approach was made.
Meanwhile, one player who is not tempramental, moody and injury prone is David Luiz, who has negotiated personal terms and received a work permit but the clubs still haggle.
Jacob Mellis signed a new contract until 2013 and is expected to go out on loan to Barnsley in the next few days. The young midfielder made 15 appearances for Southampton last season and a two minute debut for the first-team against Zilina.
Friday 28 January
Torres first asked Liverool first to consider the offer and then he handed in a transfer request – Liverpool rejected it out of hand. You have to wonder if they can keep a player if he is determined.
Meanwhile in Portugal the deal for Luiz is apparently off. They probably felt insulted that we haggled over small change in the Luiz deal only to announce a whopping pot of cash was available for Torres.
Saturday 29 January
Everton 1:1 Chelsea
Up with the larks again, the fans not the palyers both sides walked through a tame first-half and Chelsea nearly stumbled out of the competition.
The tie started as a scrap as Ramires clumsy tackle was answered by Neville’s lunge through the back of Malouda and the game spring’s to life with the first card… only it doesn’t, Howard Webb keeps his cards in his pocket. This is clearly going to be another day of harsh tackles as referees decide we don’t deserve protection.
The sleepiness of the opening period nearly cost us a goal as Bilyaletdinov stole onto the end of a long throw but Cech saved comfortably.
The passages of paly all ended in free=kicks or corners until from and Everton corner Anelka and Malouda sprang up the pitch only for Drogba to waft at the ball instead of shoot.
Almost immediately Fellani catches Essien dawdling and sets up a shot for Rodwell but the youngster has to wait for the underhit ball to reach him and Cech smothers.
Ramires, who is growing into the role whatever the detractors say, played a sublime through ball for Anelka to run onto a touch takes him away form Distin but Howard blocks the low shot. Perhaps Nic is anxious about the impending arrival of a fresh striker.
We started to find our stride and Lampard’s probing passing started to work to set Malouda going for two chances one fo which, a pile driver from 25 yards, would have rivalled Didier’s strike on Monday.
The second period started with us under the cosh. Everton had clearly been told to get into us and run with the ball. The tactic brought a string of free-kicks and corners with Cech making a couple of straight forward saves before Malouda looked to have cleared for a throw only the linesman forgot to give the benefit of the doubt and awarded a corner. Saha and Terry rushed to meet the ball but the French striker checked his run and scored with a free header. 1-0.
Given that Chelsea had not created a presentable chance in the second period to that point it looked as if we were meekly surrendering our crown. Ancelotti had other thoughts and replaced the ineffective Malouda with Salomon Kalou. Many fans scratched their heads at the change but the Ivorian’s strong running almost instantly had us heading in the right direction.
Everton though still looked the side more likely: cech saved smartly from Coleman’s header after he had mullered Ashley Cole, and no, of course there wasn’t a free-kick. The same player followed up as Cech spilled the ball but Essien and Terry were on hand to block.
From the corner Anelka broke supported by Ramires and Kalou the pass was behind the Brazilian but found Kalou who shimmied intot he box and planted a right-foot shot. 1-1.
Almost at once Anelka had a chance of his own: fed by Ramires his shot was saved low by Howard but the signs were bright.
Ramires was starting to enjoy the afternoon as he cracked a blinder from 30 yards but the ball smacked the base of the post.
Jermain Beckford appeared late on and had the chance of the match but vollied straight at Cech.
The replay was a fair result and might snap some out of their lethargy. The betting man’s tip is for extra time and penalties as Everton have drawn the last six at Stamford Bridge.
Torres latest is confusing. The £50m buy-out clause in his contract doesn’t come into force until the summer but the papers are convinced we will be upping our bid and have named a hatful of players Liverpool might go for with the Torres cash.
Chelsea youth 1:0 Charlton Athletic youth
A tough result on the away side who could, with better finishing, have run off with the game in the first-half. As it was Walter Figueira’s neat control and shot won it at the death after a much improved second-half display.
A quick word for the boys on loan at Vitesse Arnham: Nemanja Matic scored his first for the club as Albert Ferrer’s side finally put a performance together and beat Roda JC 5-2. Very few of our other loanees were in action as injury, cup-tiedness or lack of fixtures.
Jack Cork though has settled into Burnley’s midfield under new manager Eddie Howe.
Sunday 30 January
The FA Cup draw pits us against Reading at home if we overcome Everton in the replay which has been pencilled in for Saturday 19 February, which is supposed to be fifth round day.
Spurs today proved that years ending in one don’t always bring a trophy by slumping out at Fulham 4-0.
Fernando Torres trained at Melwood today – on his own.