Sunday 3 January
FA Cup 3rd round
Chelsea 5:0 Watford
After a quiet week with little bitching, L’Equipe publish an interview with Florent Malouda in which he moans about not playing in the big matches and how Frank Lampard gets picked however well he is playing – Happy New Year Florent.
Ancelotti made plenty of changes for the Hornet’s visit: Hilario started in goal and Alex came in for Carvalho; Belletti, Zhirkov and Malouda came into the midfield. In Anelka’s absence he opted for a Christmas tree formation.
Watford started with five in midfield with the hope of smothering our movement but their plans went out of the window after five minutes when John Terry volleyed a knock-down from a corner and Daniel Sturridge steered the ball in. It was the hyper-confident former Man City man’s first for the club. 1-0.
The second, ten minutes later, was not the most elegant goal ever scored at Stamford Bridge: Malouda’s deep cross was volleyed back by Joe Cole whence it ricocheted off a couple of defenders and Frank Lampard’s arse before settling over the line. John Eustace was credited with the own-goal. 2-0.
Seven minutes further on and Watford were cursing another deflection when Yuri Zhirkov’s flashing volley cannoned off Malouda and, given his current mood, he was always going to claim the goal. 3-0.
Three up inside twenty two minutes gave everyone abundant confidence and one touch football flowed around Watford until their head spun. One in particular could have given Sturridge his second as Terry and Malouda fed him in inside left but he scooped the effort wide.
Watford started the second-half actually getting into our half and won a corner which Hilario gratefully clutched to his chest with his usual string of Ave Marias.
Ashley Cole had a couple of goes and Sturridge racing clear chipped but not high enough and the couldn’t force in from and angle.
The fourth when it came was a reminder of Frank Lampard’s previous best. One touch control and a sumptuous volley into the far top corner. 4-0.
Sturridge showed acute control to bring down Ashley Cole’s cross and tap beyond the ’keeper in one movement. 5-0.
A sixth would not come and it was time to hand some experience round as Nemanja Matić made an appearance for Belletti as did Fabio Borini and Gaël Kakuta.
As a third round encounter this was about as comprehensive as it gets and, while aware of our opponent’s weaknesses, returning to scoring form like this should be the boost the squad needs ahead of the January fixtures.
What makes it even better is confirmation of the rumours that Leeds United had in fact won away against Manchester United.
Our immediate reward is a fourth round trip to Deepdale to play Preston North End. Tie of the round is probably Spurs against Leeds but with Old Trafford hosting no more FA Cup games it frees up the schedule for some of the other clubs to get some screen time.
Tuesday 12 January
FA Youth Cup 4th round
Nottingham Forest youth 0:4 Chelsea youth
After what feels like an age Chelsea football gets going again, this time with a thumping youth cup victory. Danny Mills Pappoe got us off to a good start, heading in a corner, but the pick of the goals came in the second-half. Just as in the last round the boys enjoyed almost complete control of the whole match but had to wait until the 74th minute for Marco Mitrovic to score the second and, after that, they just kept coming. Connor Clifford shot from 35 yards (which is all over YouTube already) before Mitrovic added his second. Gokhan Tore should be mentioned in dispatches for excellent crosses and endless trickery from the wing. Portsmouth at home in the next round if you fancy a midweek treat.
Saturday 16 January
Chelsea 7:2 Sunderland
We started like a train with two presentable chances fluffed inside five minutes: first, Joe Cole stood on the ball; then Ashley headed back across goal but wide.
Nicolas Anelka showed them how it is done with seven minutes on the clock by running round behind a defender to stay onside before rounding their ’keeper and finishing in an empty net. 1-0. “Deft, delightful football” said the man on the commentary in the evening and you have to agree.
That Sunderland had a makeshift back four was evident but they appeared makeshift all over the pitch slow to close and obligingly tackle free. Afternoons will seldom be this comfortable.
We had to wait ten minutes before Malouda powered to the edge of the box, shimmied and lashed home from just inside. 2-0. Oddly then Florent held up seven fingers but it was not an eerie prediction but support for a Haitian earthquake charity
Goal of the season followed as Ashley Cole scored a sumptuous effort: Terry clipped an inch perfect ball in behind the defence; Cole tamed with one touch, switched feet to avoid the sliding block and curled it in with a chip from the outside of his left boot. 3-0 and if Ashley Aloysius Cole ever scores a better goal it had better be in the World Cup final.
The first three were rattled in within 22 minutes Frank added a fourth before half-time when he slid in to meet Ashley Cole’s cross. 4-0.
Both Anelka and Michael Ballack had chances to make the half-time scoreline respectable but both were narrowly wide.
Zhirkov replaced Ashley Cole at half-time as a precaution and Alex came on for John Terry. From the other bench appeared Boudewijn Zenden to muted disdain.
Anelka started the half with a fierce shot that Martin Fulop tipped onto both bar and then post before it bounced clear.
Belletti broke up a rare Sunderland move, fed Joe Cole who landed the ball perfectly on Michael Ballack’s head. 5-0. Sunderland wanted to go home.
But to be fair they put up more fight than many others would in their situation with Zenden making himself more popular by pulling one back. 5-1.
Six came from Fulop’s flap at Yuri Zhirkov’s fine cross from the left giving Anelka an open goal. 6-1 with 25 minutes still to play. Ancelotti will have been annoyed that Sunderland drew the remaining period 1-1 although it was no for want of trying.
Anelka had a point blank hat-trick chance turned round before an Alex pile driver was blocked and Joe Cole headed against the post from the melee.
Lampard finally got the seventh right on 90-minutes after a good run by Ivanovic and driven cross from Anelka the England midfielder only had to direct the ball on target to take himself to 11 for the term and we had been moaning that he is out of sorts so far this season.
Ancelotti said afterwards: “I said at half-time to play the whole 90 minutes and not to sit back. Why would we do that? The people pay the money for their tickets to see the game for 90 minutes, not just for 45.” Mourinho would have disagreed with that sentiment but few at the Bridge would have on Saturday. This was imperiously football from a side that had looked tired and demoralised just four weeks ago. The linking and movement of the entire ensemble has, for the last two games, been irresistible and while we know that sterner tests than Watford and Sunderland await, you can’t help but lick your lips at the promise.
We cannot remember the last time we scored seven. Last time in the top flight was 50-years ago against West Brom when Jimmy Greaves scored five but that was before almost everyone’s time; Tromsø anyone?
Oh, yeah Sunderland had just enough time for a corner and Darren Bent’s stab home. 7-2. Some people actually complained that we were still weak at the back.
Aloysius is not really Ashley Cole’s middle name.
Saturday 23 January
FA Cup 4th round
Preston North End 0:2 Chelsea
Routine does not get any more regulation than this. For twelve years now, with the odd blip, we have been carving apart the lower division teams in the cups, especially the FA Cup, teams it had been our habit to trip over for the two decades before. The conventional way to achieve the feat is for your strikers to score either side of half-time and that is exactly how things panned out on this cold and foggy Saturday morning.
We had a few chances before Nicolas Anelka (who, after this and recent displays, deserves a “he’s here, he’s there” song all of his own) fired us into the lead. We did have the ball in the net earlier when Zhirkov picked up Lampard’s pass and Malouda bundled in the cross but the referee had already blown for a foul on Lampard.
Play was too congested, Chelsea had complete domination of both ball and field but they were too well organised to break down. What we needed was a Preston attack to leave space in behind the defence.
That is just what we got after a rare Preston move foundered at the edge of our area; Zhirkov fed Deco, on to Ballack who found Anelka who finished between both defender and goalkeeper’s legs. 0-1.
They had their best chance shortly after when the ball wouldn’t come down for Darren Carter who contrived to thump his effort over from a foot out.
Daniel Sturridge sealed the tie immediately after the half-time oranges. John Terry got a meaty head to a corner and while that effort was blocked Daniel was on hand to smash in the rebound. Could the youngster go on to score in every round?
Thereafter the game dwindled to a close. North End had more possession but Chelsea were clearly looking to conserve energy with five games coming up back to back. The only shade on the whole affair was an apparent injury to Juliano Belletti, who lasted only 20 minutes
6,000 hardy blue souls made the trip.
Wednesday 27 January
Chelsea 3:0 Birmingham City
On a night when all eyes were on Old Trafford awaiting the fireworks Chelsea romped back to the top of the league with a game in hand on our nearest challengers. We made a bit of a mockery of the absence of our four African players as well. Obi John might be preparing for his country’s semi-final and Essien hops the Eurostar tomorrow for a spot of knee surgery in Paris but with Drogba and Kalou already back we have dashed Sir Alex’s hopes that we might struggle in their absence.
Somehow Birmingham City’s decision to dress up in an Ajax kit didn’t bode well for them.
One of the most notable traits of Ancelotti’s sides has been their ability to start matches with goals and it took four minutes for Joe Cole to skip a couple of challenges and deliver a chipped cross for Malouda to head past the stranded Joe Hart. 0-1.
After the 0-0 in Brum at Christmas many feared another heroic performance from the young England goalkeeper but the header was so emphatic that the exposed Hart had no chance.
The much-maligned Deco was the creator in chief tonight but he was occasionally clumsy, letting in Brum players for the odd half chance.
We continued to slice them open with Joe Cole responding to calls for a bigger contribution with devilish runs and crosses.
This was, if anything, a better performance than that at the weekend but chances were not going in as easily. Terry’s header thumped the post from a Malouda corner before Joe Cole lashed one wide.
The second goal came out of nothing. Ballack played a square ball to Lampard who teed himself up and blasted into the bottom corner from twenty-five yards out. 2-0.
Ballack had a golden opportunity to head us three in front and Malouda and Cole both had scuffed efforts as Birmingham looked to press forward. On one sloppy moment Carvalho was lax and they contrived a chance on target but Cech was alert and furious with his colleagues.
Lampard put the thing to bed with his second consummate strike of the night as he ran onto Malouda’s ball took a touch and buried the ball. 3-0.
They were Frank’s twelfth and thirteenth goals of a season.
Meanwhile, the FA Cup tie with Cardiff is going to be streamed by the FA website from 12 noon on Saturday 13 February. So, no going down the pub with your mates if you haven’t got a ticket, they’ll all be sitting round your kitchen moaning that the screen isn’t big enough.
Thursday 28 January
FA Youth Cup 5th round
Chelsea youth 1:0 Portsmouth youth
A rainy old evening at the Bridge but a good crowd and a couple of outstanding performances from Conor Clifford and Josh McEachran made it all worthwhile.
Oddly Portsmouth brought only their home kit so Chelsea played in their white away shirts.
Clifford scored the goal early in the first-half after interplaying passes with McEachran, Sala and Marko Mitrovic while running half the length of the pitch and falling over while shooting a class goal in off the underside of the bar. Chances were at a premium but both sides played entertaining football. Ultimately it was comfortable for Chelsea as the second-half wore on we dominated possession and hit the post with a couple of efforts.
Saturday 30 January
Burnley 1:2 Chelsea
Only just and only just that John Terry show his mettle by ignoring the massed booing to head us into the lead with eight minutes to go. Burnley, having beaten Manchester United here and drawn with Arsenal had the scent of blood in their nostrils in the second-half after Steve Fletcher turned a rusty looking Alex to rifle their leveller.
Biting northern humour came from the Burnley fans: “Chelsea, wherever you may be, don’t leave your wife with John Terry”.
It had all started so well; after fencing at each other for ten-minutes we started to come forward with purpose. Retaining the midfield shape with Cole and Malouda providing the width gave Ancelotti’s side penetration but openings were few and far between until we had a chance to counter – Joe Cole picked up Cech’s throw chipped a perfect ball over the defender’s head and Malouda squared for Anelka. 0-1.
You’d be furious at the defending if you were a Burnley fan; Anelka’s run went completely unnoticed and unmolested. It is the Frenchman’s sixth goal in six games and his twelfth for the season.
That was on 26 minutes and the rest of the half passed with little incident; we dominated possession but appeared content with a single goal lead.
Steve Fletcher made a mockery of the complacency four minutes into the second-half. Latching onto a punt he turned Alex and fired home from the edge of the box. Yes, it looked like he handled it at least twice while fighting off Alex but if there was contact it was invisible to the referee. 1-1.
Joe Cole had the ball in the net five minutes later but the linesman spotted that the very back of Joe’s shorts were in an offside position when the ball was played.
We pressed with more urgency and controlled the ball and our build up with some spirit. Alex, Ashley Cole and Lampard all had efforts thwarted before the headline writer’s dream as Sturridge won a corner and John Terry headed a powerful winner. 1-2. Terry scores away from home.
The post match press melee was more about John Terry than the game. Ancelotti was clearly a little bemused and annoyed: “John is a fantastic professional player. Anyone can have a problem and it’s important to stay focused on his job … he is the captain of this team and I am honoured and very proud to manage John Terry. Not only the players, the management and everyone at the club support him and his family
What is all the fuss about? Football Focus sat in judgement of John Terry this morning and agreed that there would need to be a new England captain. Mark Lawrenson (49 caps for the Republic of Ireland, 59 brain cells) said that the England captain has to be “squeaky clean”, Martin Keown added depth to this earnest ethical discussion by saying: “you have to feel for Wayne Bridge in this situation.”
Chicken Little (23 caps for Nursery Albion, 0 goals) added a note of mature perspective when she said: “the sky is falling, the sky is falling”.
Someone needs to bash some heads together at the BBC and in the media as a whole. England captains do not need to be squeaky clean. They need to be good footballers and better leaders and John Terry is both. Who he sleeps with should have no effect on his position, he is not a Tory cabinet minister spouting about the central importance of the family while banging his secretary; there is no hypocrisy involved.
Martin; the person you need to feel sorry for is Toni, seeing her husband’s behaviour paraded in the papers and commented on by idiots.
The basic principle is that who and what you do in the bedroom is the business of nobody but you. Any betrayal of that privacy is regrettable but should not have an impact on your job. Thankfully Fabio Capello is a grown-up who will keep his mouth shut until the tabloid moral typhoon has blown itself out and quietly announce that John has done nothing to affect his confidence in his captain.