Saturday 3 April
Manchester United 1:2 Chelsea
They can’t ever just be beaten by the better team. They always find something to moan about. This time you have to admit that our least favourite referee managed to get almost every decision wrong but he sinned against Chelsea far more than the hosts and yet the papers will be full of how offside Didier was for our second and not that Macheda openly pushed in their consolation.
We started brightly; with the same team that played Villa we had movement, improvisation and pace. United couldn’t get the ball and, with the great 3D experiment going on at the Crown and Cushion, the Pineapple was down to a handful a moaning Mancs complaining every time the ball was bunted into touch by the ‘champions’.
For all the possession we enjoyed United were organised at the back and penetration was a problem, until Florent Malouda decided to do something about it and drove into the United box with Valencia and Fletcher trailing. His cross was flicked in by Joe Cole with and audacious, no, bodacious backheel. 0-1.
There followed two penalty appeals when Ji Sung Park threw himself over Zhirkov’s leg. Okay the leg was there to dive over but the fall was contrived.
The clearer appeal followed almost immediately as Anelka ran on to Malouda’s pass Neville barged him off the ball. Penalty. As clear day and as under the referee’s nose as you can get and he looked the other way.
Berbatov did have the ball in our penalty box but just as he was getting over the surprise that a pass had reached him Lampard hacked the ball off his toe. It was a dangerous tackle, one he had to get right or it was a sure penalty but he executed it so quickly the lumbering Bulgarian hardly complained.
Manchester United’s hopes for the rest of the season rest on Dimitar Berbatov. On this evidence we have little to fear. He doesn’t move. He literally stood still in the middle watching attacks develop and you have to wonder what they work on in training.
Paulo Ferreira almost capped his best performance of the season with a goal early in the second-half when Joe Cole’s pass left him sprinting into the box. Sadly, he seemed caught between cross and shot and ended up, inevitably, doing neither.
United started to build some pressure but our defence worked superbly and, while the nerves can’t stand it, watching our defence up against the best attack (outside of Stamford Bridge) was a pleasure. We contained and marshalled the play in such a way that they were left half-chances and scraps.
An hour into the game Petr Cech hadn’t had a save to make. Not that the big Czech lunk looked entirely comfortable. His kicking was atrocious all afternoon and it appeared to be effecting his judgement, as one Evra cross sailed over his mad dash and was headed back in with Petr stranded.
The ref’s bumbling absurdities continued. This time Deco was adjudged to have tripped the substitute Nani, when the poor man’s Ronaldo spontaneously leapt into the air. From the free-kick they claimed handball from Malouda when replays showed it hit his chest.
By that time Drogba had replaced Anelka and he wrote his name over the game when Kalou played him in, the linesman decided he was onside (no we can’t see how either) and Didier smacked the ball into the back of the Old Trafford net for 0-2 and fuck you.
United rightly felt let down, the linesman should have flagged. What followed though was a clear handball from Macheda.
Evra charged past Ferreira too easily and while Cech saved his shot the ball bounced up and Federico Macheda pushed it into the net with his arm. Arguments afterwards suggested that Mancs have such a tint to their spectacles that they cannot tell the difference between an official making a mistake and one of their players cheating. 1-2.
Still the expected siege failed to appear and we controlled the rest of the game and the ref only added an extra minute to injury time but United hardly threatened and that was that.
Top of the league by two points and four goals: let’s face it we needed to beat United today. Even the win leaves us a narrow advantage; every game between now and the end of the season will be a cup final (can’t believe we actually typed something that clichéd), we played well today but we will need to play that well in each of the remaining games to pull this off.
Saturday 10 April
FA Cup, semi-final
Aston Villa 0:3 Chelsea
See you back here on 15 May. There was sympathy for beaten opponents and some controversy but in the end it was a stroll.
That Chelsea or our opponents ‘started brightly’ is a bit trite so we’ll work on something different for future reports. In this case it was Villa who did so we’ll leave it at that: Villa started brightly.
You have to congratulate the Wembley authorities and the FA for deciding to stage an FA Cup semi-final on ice. Nobody could keep their feet until a collective footwear change at half time most of the moves broke down because someone slipped.
Things were quite tight for the first ten minutes a corner each and a loosener from Joe Cole, when Villa started to gain some possession and James Milner flashed a shot inches wide. It was a warning we didn’t heed: Ancelotti for once was on the touchline barking that we should get tighter and give them less space.
Then came the penalty appeal: Gabriel Agbonlahor tried to turn onto a knockdown and fell as he did so. That he had firm hold of Obi John’s shirt and was backing into him when it happened, coupled with his legs slipping out from under him probably persuaded the ref not to give a penalty. It is not often we single a referee out for praise but Howard Webb got his decision spot on despite every commentator and expert scratching their heads.
John Terry then denied Carew a chance by deflecting Downing’s cross from the top of the Villa striker’s head.
We were making some progress but just like the first twenty minutes at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago Villa were smothering across the back and we couldn’t find Drobga.
One move, when Malouda broke into space and pulled back for Drogba, could have led to a goal but Villa bodies appeared to block the shot.
Joe Cole followed that up with a smart turn and shot but Friedel was well placed.
That was it for an even and entertaining half. It was probably like wading through treacle for the neutral but these games belong to the fans and, no matter how boring for an outsider, this one was starting to come together for Chelsea.
Villa started the second half with a header that flashed across the face from a corner but it was an isolated threat as we gathered strength to dominate possession and territory.
Deco had a shy from a corner and Joe Cole started a move only to miss out by inches as he slid in to Drogba’s cross. After a sweeping, length of the field move, Didier had another shot blocked bravely by Dunne for a corner. As that corner was headed out JT controlled on the edge of the box and passed the ball to Didier who flicked a spinning finish inside the far post with his instep. 0-1. Again sage voices in the commentary box said JT was going for goal but he is a better footballer than that; it was a pass.
The real controversy came next was John Terry slid in on Milner late and caught him high on the knee. John was booked and the tackle was ugly and late but it didn’t appear malicious. Martin O’Neill made a big deal of it afterwards.
The rest of the match was set up for us to counter attack and the second came as the substitute Michael Ballack crossed to the far post and Malouda smashed home. 0-2. The cross was world class.
A few breakaways broke down after that as Villa pressed forward and Malouda fired another chance over but Frenchman showed how devastating we can be when he bombed the length of the field in injury time laid the ball back for Anelka, our supplier in chief, who fed Lampard who finished neatly. 0-3.
After the match Martin O’Neill was furious with Webb for not giving a penalty or sending off John Terry. But it is all bluster; Agbonlahor was backing in and slipped, it wasn’t a penalty. A few years ago JT’s tackle might have been red but things have changed, Milner was not seriously hurt and doesn’t play for Arsenal so a yellow card is appropriate.
So, Chelsea-Tottenham cup final, can’t wait.
Tuesday 13 April
Chelsea 1:0 Bolton Wanderers
Blood, sweat and tears move us four points clear at the top but this was a closer game than nerves could stand.
Alex Ferguson got the reaction he wanted from the Wanderers players. He described this as an easy game for Chelsea and clearly the Bolton players were determined to prove him wrong.
We dominated the early possession but with an unbalanced attacking three with Anelka and Kalou coming in for Cole and Malouda, we found little penetration.
One Bolton free-kick, played early and chased by Davies appeared to draw a handball from Drogba who’d tracked the striker’s run. Appeared to because on closer inspection Davies bundles Didier’s arm toward the ball. The linesman and ref didn’t see it but Owen Coyle was livid afterwards.
We were getting closer but moves kept breaking down. In fact the blood came before we’d had a chance. Zhirkov headed away a dangerous cross only for a charging Davies to head him square on the back of the head. The nippy Russian stayed down for three or four minutes while his head was bandaged.
Shortly after Drogba fired in a free-kick and Kalou deflected the rebound harmlessly wide.
Blood continued to flow down Zhirkov’s face. After having it wiped away a couple of times he disappeared down the tunnel only to reappear without his mummified headgear and almost immediately set up a goal. His run inside allowed Drogba to swing wide and cross for Anelka to head in. 1-0. His first goal since Didier came back from Angola.
The strike came right on half-time and probably saved the players a bollocking in Italian. As it was we looked sluggish again after the break but Bolton failed to capitalise. Another cross appeared to hit and arm, this time Terry’s, but the linesman was adamant he had seen it hit his chest. Coyle was, once again, furious.
Cole and Malouda came on and we had better shape but still had to cope with two Bolton attacking substitutions in Elmander and Klasnic but both couldn’t use the half chances that came their way. Frank Lampard had a shot come back off the post as time dwindled to a walking pace as the clock seemed to stand still. We eventually saw out the game with Joe Cole looking lively but he managed to stand on the ball in front of an open net. Finally, Jaaskelainen fumbled behind for a last minute corner that probably saved our bacon. The final whistle brought further danger, this time to the plant as 42,000 people breathed out at the same time.
Let us hope that Bolton at home is early next year because the cause us so much anxiety year after year.
The match was Roman Abramovich’s 200th as owner.
Early news was that Chris Foy will referee the Cup Final. We don’t readily recall him actually doing us ill so we’ll just be thankful it is not Mike Dean.
Wednesday 14 April
Chelsea’s accounts for last term have emerged at Companies House. Headlines will be about the value of the squad dropping nearly £40m from £287.1m to £247.5m. The figure is not much to worry about, it is essentially an accountant’s guesstimate of what the players are worth on the transfer market.
Wages come out at an eye watering £142.6m, which sets a record for Manchester City to aim for next year. The actually total is higher still but a big slice of that went in paying off Scolari. In all we’ve spent £35.7m paying off managers and coaches in the past two financial years – almost half a Ronaldo.
Thursday 15 April
The new kit has been unveiled and while it is a good cut the idiots have added a red neck to an otherwise ok shirt. They are unaware of the years of drift under Bates with a flash of red in the kit. Bates’s, rather idiotic, reason for introducing red in the first place was to turn us from the blues to the red, white and blues; presumably to align us more closely with the BNP.
New kit and new ticket prices: for the first time in five years the non-hospitality tickets are going up and the rises are quite steep – east lower seats go up to £40 for members (£45 for the unwashed), east upper to £55 (£60 non-members). FA Cup games will be £25, £12 for kids and League cup games remain the best value at £20 and £10 respectively.
Didier Drogba has been nominated for PFA player of the year alongside messrs Rooney, Tevez and Fabregas. Rooney will probably win unless the voting is online as anyone who has tried to vote for our player or goal of the season will testify, repeat after me: “there is something wrong with you email address or password, please try again.”
Finally, we won the coin toss with Portsmouth and will play the cup final in our new home shirts.
Saturday 17 April
Tottenham Hotspur 2:1 Chelsea
When a referee wants to punish you they will. This game was transfigured by a ref who saw the ball hit John Terry’s chest and gave a penalty for handball. He had clearly been watching highlights from Tuesday’s game and had decided to penalise us for being let off the hook in that game. With it he skewed the title race and the race for fourth place.
Let’s be straight: to give a penalty a referee has to be sure that a player has handled and that it was deliberately done. Phil Dowd saw a fierce ball hit John Terry on the chest and concluded that he had deliberately handballed. The ref could also have been influenced by their screams for two earlier penalty shouts which were both absurd. Firstly they thought Terry had fouled Defoe but the were both wrestling and it was clearly in the D not the box. Then Obi John appeared at the last moment to clear behind for a corner. He did collide with the Tottenham man but after he’d played the ball. If the ref allowed either of these incidents to influence his decision to hand the initiative to the home team, then he is weak as well as incompetent.
Their second was at least well taken by Gareth Bale but resulted from us committing too many in attack in an angry attempt to make up for the penalty. 1-0.
The referee was not content with the penalty decided to give every free-kick to Spurs. Well, he favoured them by two to one. One second-half incident saw him not even bothering to look impartial when Drogba and Huddleston went shoulder to shoulder for a 50/50 ball both fell, and of course Dowd awarded the free-kick to Spurs.
In the first half an eagle-eyed linesman spotted that Malouda was offside when he struck what appeared to be a legitimate equaliser, replays reveal that Joe Cole was blocking his line of sight and he should have given the benefit of the doubt. The same linesman allowed Tottenham to break clear time after time with the player leading the break clearly offside on almost every occasion.
With all the injustice we failed to keep our shape or composure and that failing has to be down to the manager. We didn’t look like we’d drilled on how to play with 10-men so when Dowd used his excuse to send of John Terry for two weak yellow cards, for both of which Terry got the ball, we floundered.
Just like midweek against Bolton we lacked shape and determination. The covering in midfield was completely absent, as Modric and Huddleston easily controlled the battle supposedly against three opponents.
Obi John limped out in the first-half and hopefully we’ll use it as an excuse to play someone in there better suited to the role.
Frank Lampard stole in to score his 23rd of the season for what should have been the equaliser late into injury time but by then they had turned up several chances to make it a cricket score. 1-1.
We should take stock, we still lead the table by one point but the performances have been so woeful it is difficult to see where the next one is going to come from.
Spurs play at Old Trafford next weekend but they will just lie down and hand United the points, they always do.
We have been quick to criticise Ancelotti but here again he turned down the opportunity to speak up for his players refusing to comment on the penalty or the sending off. Alex Ferguson protects his players by exaggerating the injustice done to them. Tackles that would be yellow anywhere else are straight reds against Arsenal because Wenger spends his time planting the idea in everyone’s mind that his team are unfairly targeted. Ancelotti remains silent.
Sunday 25 April
Chelsea 7:0 Stoke City
Where do you start? The third time we’ve scored seven this season, the first hat-trick for Salomon Kalou, the first time Frank Lampard has scored twenty league goals, we could go on. Stoke had not lost away from home since before Christmas and had only conceded 16 goals in all their matches away from the Britannia. Ashley Cole strolled back into the team and played like he’d never been away, well, actually, he slipped up defensively a number of times but his attacking was sharp and so we’ll put the blunders down to rustiness. Branislav Ivanovic came in for the suspended John Terry and Michael Ballack took over from Obi John, the midfield purred far more effectively with his forward vision.
With all the bleating about pressure after the United win yesterday the players’ answer was emphatic, curiously it was Didier Drogba’s afternoon even though he failed to score.
The action really started with Frank Lampard’s long-range shot and Cole’s follow up that both brought smart saves from Thomas Sørensen. Drogba then had a monstrous header pawed behind one-handed by the big Danish keeper.
The trick that finally beat the Stoke keeper owed everything to Drogba’s skill and craft. Firstly he flicked Malouda’s deep ball and crossed superbly for Kalou to nod home. 1-0 You could be mistaken for believing that Drogba is our best winger.
Kalou was then quickest to react as Sørensen palmed the ball sideways after Drogba, again, expertly flicked inside for Lampard to have his shot parried. Kalou’s studs up challenge would have cost him a card anywhere else on the pitch but he appeared to have cleanly won the ball before Sørensen needed five minutes treatment and was stretchered out of the ground and off to hospital. When it seemed the only contact with Kalou was the tip of his middle finger.
Kalou’s next action was to be hauled down by Robert Huth for Frank Lampard to stroke the penalty beyond the substitute Begovic. 3-0. Their first, and only, chance came six minutes into first-half injury time but the header was tame and wide.
The second-half started with a bout of ill discipline from Stoke as first Kitson appeared to salute the bench before storming down the tunnel on being substituted and then Whelan and Whitehead were both booked the latter for diving.
While all that was going on, Kalou was busting a gut to score his hat-trick goal. His chances came and went until he got a run into the box only to fire straight at Begovic, luckily the rebound fell kindly for him and he smashed in from close. 4-0.
Joe Cole came on for the hat-trick hero and in his first action he wriggled to the by-line squared for Anelka who helped it on to Malouda who must score. Inches from an empty net Florent took the Christmas DVD route to fame and fortune and side footed wide.
We had a bit of a wait for the next one, time for Sam Hutchinson to come on at right-back. It feels so natural to have a Hutch lobbing bombs into the box again that the youngster’s cross was flicked into the net by Lampard with the outside of his right boot. Spellbinding stuff. 5-0.
Didier, who had been quiet for a while, suddenly found the grace and touch of a Zidane to feed Daniel Sturridge who rounded the keeper to, for once, score rather than fire wide. 6-0.
Just as the afternoon was drawing to a close Joe Cole volleyed in a cross and Malouda, stumbling forward tried to deflect the ball over but succeeded only in bashing it into the roof of the net for seven. 7-0.
The first time since decimalisation we’ve scored seven without reply.
The size of the win was pleasing for fans but doesn’t change the title picture, we still need to win the two remaining games and we are champions.
Thursday 29 April
FA Youth Cup, final tie
Aston Villa youth 1:1 Chelsea youth
The youth team secured a comfortable result from a close and hard fought first leg of the Youth Cup. It was a filthy night in Birmingham with constant rain and those Villans who decided to stay warm and watch the streamed coverage on the FA website will have been delighted to hear the Chelsea TV commentary team.
This really was like watching, er, Arsenal, as Chelsea looked ropey as Villa broke and found a pass every time a shot was needed going forward. Villa’s goal didn’t come from any of their breaks, instead a loose back pass led to a corner that was punched clear but as it was played back in the world’s most comedic looping header somehow dropped over the retreating Sam Walker. 1-0. We strived and worked hard but most moves broke down through over elaboration, with Tore stepping over the ball at least three times before being closed down instead of getting in a cross. It wasn’t all bad; we hit the woodwork twice in the first-half and Jeffrey Bruma stepped up to crack in a free-kick for 1-1 on the hour to leave a finely balanced tie.
Whatever happens in the return on Tuesday, you can be sure that Josh McEachran is going to be a big influence on Chelsea’s future.
Fulham have landed, with a whiff of 50s Brylcreem the boys from the cottage wafted into the first Europa League final. Roy Hodgson’s side beat final hosts Hamburg 2-1 to the delight of St Pauli fans across the globe.
Sadly, Liverpool will not be there and more distressingly still they had to play 30-minutes extra time before being dumped on their arses by Diego Forlan and Atletico Madrid. Again.