Monday 17 December
Nicolas Anelka is not having fun in China and thinks Loftus Road would suit him better. It is a close call: one is a place of little political freedom and hinterlands of illiteracy, poverty and disease; the other an extremely wealthy and flourishing former communist country.
Wednesday 19 December
Leeds United 1:5 Chelsea
A huge surprise to many as the jetlagged and weary managed to shake their leggy legs in the second-half. We’d ask for a day off tomorrow.
Wasn’t it strange to see Leeds, struggling in the Championship, under the old pirate. Ken Bates still loved by some and hated by others – his astonishing rudeness admired by all who truly swear – sat with his contacts in watching his new team beaten by his old.
It all started so well for the charming denizens of West Yorkshire: after an open opening phase where Moses should have had a penalty they got a lucky break and the one time Luiz drifted forwards and lost possession they broke and Becchio scored against the run of play. 1-0.
Frank Lampard did his best to bring us level before the break with a couple of long dinks and Torres fed Moses who stroked home the equali… but the official who didn’t see the penalty has his flag in the air.
The second-half, however, started with a goal and it was Mata scuffing his chance from the edge of the area but into the only spot the goalkeeper couldn’t reach. Or was that a previous sponsor… 1-1.
Leeds didn’t wilt immediately but when Hazard’s cross was bundled away for a corner Ivanovic bulleted a header in, 1-2 and almost immediately Mata fed Moses and he thwomped it into the top corner, game over. 1-3.
Leeds had been brave but had threatened little before Hazard drew the defender to finish easily, 1-4, and Torres finally got some reward for hard work with a tap in from Mata’s pass. 1-5.
Swansea City await in the next round with Bradford City and Aston Villa in the other semi it could be a dream come true for Bradford.
Fulham U18 2:1 Chelsea U18
The unbeaten streak of the U18 finally came to a halt at Motspur Park as two goals either side of half-time was matched by only one back from Connor Hunte. Defeat doesn’t really matter as we finish top of the pile and enter the elite phase of the competition after the mince pies.
Thursday 20 December
Or 20.12.2012 if you must. Twelve minutes past eight in the evening actually made some nerds explode.
There is something very humiliating about the Uefa Cup these days. As the Champions League is drawn in the morning, so our transitional side must transit in the afternoon; picking Sparta Prague in the next round and then, as a result of a complex procedure, either Ajax or Steaua Bucharest in the quarter-final.
As you all rush to the attic to dust down the gazetteer (or Lonely Planet guide, to those born after 1870) Prague is still the hippest place in Europe (despite the absurd Americans who have made it their home) so best behaviour everyone.
Friday 21 December
John Terry could miss the whole Christmas fixture list because his knee is not responding well.
The world didn’t end, again.
Saturday 22 December
Match of the Day are getting more and more absurd – this evening Hansen and the idiot glove puppet Robbie Savage. They nodded sagely and declared the referee’s had been right to allow a Manchester City goal which was a foul on the defender, denied Reading an obvious penalty and proclaimed that Arsenal’s penalty was justified despite Walcott’s dive. What is the point of hiring pundits?
Romelu Lukaku meanwhile has a proper job and was back to it this afternoon leading West Brom to an impressive win over the form team Norwich City.
Sunday 23 December
Chelsea 8 (eight) :0 Aston Villa
A little while back a 7-1 over Villa at home perked us all up and led to the double – nah, couldn’t happen.
Today was a joy from Torres’ thumped header, through a missed penalty to Ramires’ unerring finish. If we play with this kind of penetration every week we’ll prosper, if opponents grant us this much space every week we’ll be delirious. Villa stood and watched for most of the match and we had eight presentable chances to reach double figures.
Back to the beginning: Many Christmasy blue fans were still taking their seats as Fernando Torres leapt to meet Azpilicueta’s cross and power it into the top corner square off his forehead. 1-0. He has been with us nearly two seasons and that is what we thought we were getting.
It got better when David Luiz lined up the kind of free-kick he wellies into the stand most weeks, only it is Christmas so this time he guided it over the wall and in. 2-0. It could have been that he was enjoying his new role in midfield along side the tireless Frank Lampard.
David was having so much fun he turned a corner back into the box and the Villa block found Ivanovic following up with his head. 3-0.
To be true it was all over from that point. We arsed about in font of goal at the beginning of the second-half until Frank strolled onto one and blasted in from the edge of the area. 4-0. It almost looked as though we’d settle for four as Benitez took Torres off for Oscar. But he also let Lucas Piazon have a run and the young Brazilian flashed a superb ball through the Villa defence for Ramires to finish under the beleaguered Brad Guzan. 5-0.
Oscar then won and converted a penalty. 6-0. There is a point when a route becomes a massacre and this was it: Hazard was clearly fed up with everyone else scoring so he burst into the box, wrong footed the defence and thrashed the ball into the top corner for the plumb goal of the day. 7-0.
Piazon then won and converted not a penalty. Guzan spoiled the young lad’s party.
But it fell to Ramires, literally, to round things off as the ball broke kindly to him and the thumped it into the top corner. 8-0. We piled forward but couldn’t quite equal the Premier League record.
Petr Cech will be happy with a clean sheet: in all that Villa had a break and shot that the big Czech had to push onto the bar.
Will we like Benitez better if we play like this every week? Nah. We have a good squad of players who can follow instructions to get it forward faster. The whole point of this season was a transition to a slightly more cerebral kind of football.
Meanwhile in Wales. Alex Ferguson lost the plot. In trying to deflect attention away from the fact that Robin Van Persie should have been sent off for retaliation when the ball was accidentally kicked against his head the charmlessly gruff United manager suggested his player could have been killed. Eh? Let’s see, how many footballers have been killed by being struck by the ball, er, none: struck by lightning, yes; heart attack, yes; ball booted at you, no.
Good Yule to you all.
Wednesday 26 December
Norwich City 0:1 Chelsea
After the feast the famine, but we have to thankful for the clean sheet and Mata’s goal means we have sidled up behind Manchester City in second.
Benitez dropped Frank Lampard to the bench and suddenly the incisive passing of the Villa game was hard to reproduce. If we are lucky, Benitez is trying to underline how important Frank is to the club in the hope of getting him a new deal.
Nothing happened for the first twenty minutes of this game, nothing at all until David Luiz started making runs from midfield and the once solid defence looked ropey. Obi John even had a dig but it was Mata who changed the game. Oscar wriggled forward and found the Spaniard on the edge of the box, his shot from twenty yards brushed the diving ’keeper’s glove before thumping in off the post. 0-1.
For the rest of the match we couldn’t quite convert a second: Victor Moses had two excellent changes early in the second period, from a corner and a cross from Azpilicueta but Norwich who have beaten Manchester United and Arsenal here this season didn’t get more than a late sniff at our goal.
Nathan Ake made a late appearance from the substitute’s bench to replace Juan Mata for the last few moments making this the best Christmas he has ever had. Nathan is the young defender Feyenoord moaned so much about losing two years ago.
Saturday 29 December
Everyone who complains that things are not what they used to be can delight in today’s scorelines. Christmas traditionally threw up massive scores so Arsenal and Newcastle and Norwich and Man City can all pat themselves on the back for 7-3 and 3-4 respectively.
Sunday 30 December
Everton 1:2 Chelsea
A result from the god old days and one that looked impossible in the first half an hour, draws us back into third.
Goodison has been a tricky venue in recent years and this Everton side have started the season like a train. Admittedly they draw too many matches to challenge but they have not dropped points against any of the sides higher in the table.
We started on the back foot as well. The opening exchanges consisted of a few passes a shot off the post and an Everton goal. Jagielka, of all people, burst down our left hung a ball over for Anichebe to hit the post and Steven Pienaar slapped in the rebound. 1-0.
Everton were closing down all across the pitch leaving a punt up to Torres the only option and we looked second best like we’d not woken up.
Ramires had one decent run from which Mata had a half chance but everything came back down field whippet fast; until Mata made some room for himself using Torres as a foil and whipped a cross that eluded both Hazard and Cole.
We’d just got our fingernails into the contest and despite repeated breaks from the home side Torres found a way. The ball was going out before he rescued it, he found Ramires and the Brazilian’s first-time cross was headed in by a grateful Frank Lampard. 1-1. A little more than we deserved on the play but them is, as they say, the breaks.
To the delight of everyone in the away end Ross Turnbull appeared for the second-half; Cech had mysteriously done and ankle – but with all the scrabbling around he’d done we can forgive him.
The team collectively decided the best way to protect the substitute goalkeeper was to attack and a few stunning moves just failed to produce the goods. One where Torres just strayed offside was a beauty involving Mata Ramires and Hazard. Torres found a slight angle to shoot at Howard but the Everton goalie has always been too good to let in shots at him. In fact on today’s performance the whole Everton side deserve all the praise we can give them.
Mata sent a ball over for Hazard to head down for Lampard the chance seemed to have gone but as the ball was wellied back in Frank was on hand to tip it into the net. 1-2. Sign him up.
Everton pressed but couldn’t break down the newly resilient Chelsea until right at the death after Torres dawdled over a chance and invited a blocking tackle, Everton broke back down the other end and Jelavic swiped and missed a chance right in front of goal.
Perhaps that thing about lucky generals is starting to come true.
This was probably the best game of football we have been involved in this season. But, thn that is easy to say if you win.
Demba Ba is apparently in town having talks over a switch down from Newcastle but everyone is being too cagey to say much.