Tuesday 23 October
Shakhtar Donetsk 2:1 Chelsea
Given the steady progress in the league we probably needed a kick up the pants. This was a shoddy complacent performance from the start against opposition we had clearly underestimated.
The first few minutes were enough for old heads to start saying ‘here we go’: sloppy passing; closed down too easily and the team failing to up the tempo or precision all night.
Alex Teixeira’s goal should have shocked them out of any complacency but as each member of the defence watched the ball across their zone without reaction it was an easy finish for the little Brazilian. 1-0.
All of Chelsea’s response was easily held at arms length by a defence that sat deep and looked to break – Willian really did want to prove what we had been missing as all of our, more highly rated, number 10s paled in comparison. We did create openings but they all fell to Fernando Torres who was all of a dither from the first minute. He was indecisive and slow. We did not trouble their goalkeeper in the first-half.
That we were caught with our pants down for the second was a symptom of how complacent we had become Fernandinho robbed Hazard and accepted the ball back from Adriano on the break to score with ease. 2-0.
Oscar cemented his growing reputation late on after an Ivanovic surge through their ranks fell for the young Brazilian but it was too little. 2-1.
Juventus drew in Copenhagen to offer us the only respite of a night that asked difficult questions. If we are to challenge for this title this year we have to do it the hard way.
This result puts more pressure on Sunday’s performance – Manchester United did not have an easy night themselves at home to Braga – but they will have noticed the moral sapping result and the exhausting flight.
Sunday 28 October
Chelsea 2:3 Mark Clattenburg
Farce followed farce this afternoon and refereeing gave up any pretence of impartiality as Mark Clattenburg allowed Manchester United to do whatever they liked and when they looked like they might not win he started sending off Chelsea players and allowing goals from any position on the pitch.
Clattenburg is regarded as the golden boy by the referee’s association at only 37 they think he the sun shines out of his Colina. The only drawback is that the man has been a clown from the start as Everton and Manchester City fans will tell you – when he has decided to send someone off or change the outcome of a game he simply waits for his chance.
In this match he wanted Ivanovic after failing to deal with an early tackle he waited for the excuse. His chance came with an engaging game tied at 2-2 Ashley Young broke and Ivanovic followed him toward the box. The Manchester United player fell over and a red card was immediately issued. Inconveniently for Clattenburg and United a quick replay showed little or no contact between Young and Ivanovic. Instead Young, aware that his scoring chance was poor, elected to fall to get his opponent sent off.
Clattenburg could have been simply inept or unlucky if he hadn’t immediately followed one mistake by deliberately reducing Chelsea to nine men. Fernando Torres was breaking at the United defence when his leg was clipped and he fell. As everyone in the ground assumed there would be a card for the United player, Clattenburg sought to ruin the evening further by issuing a second yellow card to Torres for diving.
It is clear that the authorities didn’t think a seven-point gap between Chelsea and United was a good thing for the game as a whole because before the cards Clattenburg refused to acknowledge a string of fouls from United players or to issue a second yellow to Rooney for an assault on Ashley Cole.
The icing on the cake was the decision to award Manchester United a winning goal scored by a player not only offside but with the entire Chelsea team ahead of him.
Bent doesn’t adequately describe the officiating of this game.
Apart from a the opening ten minutes when we didn’t appear to be at the races Chelsea were clearly the better side and without the cards should have won the game.
After the match it appears that Clattenburg abused two Chelsea players and there is an accusation that inappropriate language of a racial nature was used toward Obi John Mikel. A report has been lodged and given our recent experience in these matters you would assume that there is cast iron evidence.
Quite how quickly the FA’s independent panel independently find Clattenburg innocent of all charges is not yet clear but the cover up starts on Monday lunchtime after the referee’s reports are submitted.