Monday 1 March
Breaking hypocrisy news: (or should that be breathtaking hypocrisy news) Fabio Capello has explained that his captains must set an example to the young and that Terry will not captain the side again under him. He will be able to explain to the nation’s youth then why a man who drunkenly assaulted a DJ will lead out the team on Wednesday, in the absence of his first choice captain who served a nine-month drugs ban.
Sunday 7 March
Chelsea 2:0 Stoke City
This grinding game and ultimately comfortable win was just what the doctor ordered. Chelsea were clearly struggling last week, so surviving a Stoke City battering will have lifted confidence.
Stoke started with menace and the usual Rory Delap long-throw. Keen watchers of Chelsea’s reserve goalkeepers knew what to expect as Hilario flapped and panicked but somehow, well Obi John clearing off the line, they failed to turn the first twenty-minute spell into a goal.
At the other end things were more profitable: Anelka had one tame effort saved before dispossessing a defender on the edge of the box a driving a fierce shot across Sorenson’s goal.
For every block in the Stoke penalty area Alex was making one in ours, denying Mamady Sidibe and Tuncay.
The goal when it came was not born of beautiful football but a knockdown from a scrappy corner. Terry laid the ball back to Frank Lampard whose shot took a slight deflection on its way in. 1-0.
The relief around the ground was evident, it didn’t shut up the Stoke fans behind the Shed end goal. They seem intent on annoying JT but he would give them his answer toward the end.
The second period started with a long throw, this time Ivanovic’s effort eventually fell to Lampard but he volleyed over.
Anelka could have scored with a header which was again brilliantly blocked by the Stoke defence, perhaps we should employ Tony Pulis as a defensive coach, the subsequent corner was cleared but the next was bulleted in by Terry again taking a deflection. 2-0. JT rushed to the crowd, rolled his sleeve up and showed his captain’s armband. There is only one England captain.
Frank Lampard had a thrash from 30 odd yards and both Kalou and Anelka had chances on the break. In the end Hilario only had to muddy his gloves once late on and the team seemed determined to get this one.
If this match marks a turning point and we don’t chuck it all away again against West Ham, then John terry will need to put in a captain’s shift in each game to keep us on course for the treble. That is probably asking too much even from him but it holds out the prospect of glory.
Aston Villa await in the semi and we will have at least one wallet stretch to Wembley. If things go to plan though we’d better start saving in earnest for another.
Wednesday 10 March
Saturday 13 March
Chelsea 4:1 West Ham United
Florent Malouda tore West Ham to bits and sent their fans back East to think of some more original John Terry songs. The Frenchman crossed 16 times in the game, created two headed goals and scored with a shot of his own.
Malouda didn’t start looking like a left wing terrorist, his first involvement was to lash the ball hopelessly wide and West Ham could/should then have taken the lead. Mido, of all people, was allowed to muscle aside Ferreira, stand in left back, to pick out Ilan, who could only wallop the ball into the Harding upper
Malouda then tore forward to force a corner and when his kick came back to him via JT, he crossed for Alex to head home unopposed. 1-0.
Malouda crossed again for Matthew Upson to deflect the ball onto the bar, Green scrambled it clear with Didier breathing down his neck.
Given the number of chances at the start nobody expected what came next: old boy and persistent irritant, Scott Parker lashed one goalward on the turn and remarkably it went in. 1-1. Ross Turnbull looked extremely pissed off to lose his clean sheet to an impossible shot.
We kept pressing and Lampard had a shot turned round well by Green but things felt flat at half-time.
The restart felt a little flat too until John Terry got frustrated and burst forward found Drogba at the edge of the box who fed Malouda, who else, who crossed for Didier to head into an unguarded net. 2-1.
Robert Green then did his Gordon Banks impression, launching himself sideways to keep out another Alex header, just before Joe Cole came on to the usual warm and appreciative reception from the away fans.
Malouda tired of setting up team mates for the goals chose to score the next himself, taking Drogba’s knockdown 30 yards out he cut inside Danny Gabbidon and reversed the ball past Robert Green. 3-1.
It was all the fun of the fair after that: Joe Cole tried to make up for lost games in the half hour he was given; Lampard hit the post as he tried to steer in yet another Malouda cross; finally, Didier Drogba reacted fastest when Lampard’s shot was deflected by Green. 4-1.
Not the best performance of the season but Gianfranco Zola obviously took pity on us by leaving Carlton Cole on the bench and playing dumb and dumber up front. Turnbull didn’t have a shot to save until injury time and that was straight at him.
Tuesday 16 March
Chelsea 0-1 Internazionale
Mugged. Quite simply Inter came to foul us out of the game and Wolfgang Stark let them. Mourinho had learnt from watching Liverpool’s tactics against his side in two semi-finals and applied it to his own team: foul until the ref stops you and keep going if he does nothing. The oversights were just as blatant as last year, both Ivanovic and Drogba were rugby tackled from corners under the referee’s nose and he did nothing. Not once but in Drogba’s case repeatedly. From the first whistle Inter body checked and kicked, tripped and pushed their way through the Chelsea side and Chelsea could not cope.
Unsurprisingly, with the persistent fouling from Inter, it was Chelsea players who picked up bookings, until finally Didier Drogba was sent off. Why he was sent off will remain a mystery, secret only to the referee and his employers because TV replays revealed no observable offence. There is a suggestion that he stamped on Thiago Motta but replay showed slight and accidental contact. Drogba later said that he trod on him. There is a difference between an accidental contact and a stamp but not one that interested Stark who swallowed Motta’s playacting and dismissed the Ivorian. That Motta fouled Drogba in the same incident, in the box again and no penalty was given, again, will have had no bearing on Stark’s decision.
Ancelotti made mistakes; taking off Ballack instead of Obi Mikel unbalanced the midfield and allowed Inter more time and space that ultimately led to their goal.
We had our chances towards the end of the first-half and at the beginning of the second but frantic blocking as well as wrestling and tripping prevented any score.
John Terry was the latest Chelsea player filmed swearing about the outcome of a match – he mouthed “fucking shit” at the fourth official on his way down the tunnel. John should watch out, he is not Steven Gerrard and so cannot expect automatic exoneration.
Ultimately, as the Inter fans sang “bye-bye, Carletto”, Ancelotti will have to find a way of lifting the side before the trip to Blackburn. He didn’t seem to have the fight for it tonight. As Mourinho shouted at and cajoled his players, Carlo was silent and sullen.
Speaking afterwards Jose Mourinho recognised our pain: “This is a team that lost a semi-final with a goal that was not a goal, lost a semi-final on penalties, lost a final on penalties, lost a semi-final in a game that they should have won 3-0 with three penalties that were not given. This is the story of this club and the story of these players. This is their history – one of frustration”.
Wednesday 18 March
FA Youth Cup semi-final, first leg
Blackburn Rovers youth 0:1 Chelsea youth
A spirited performance from the young blues to cope with the travel and determined opponents showed maturity. The only score came from a first-half own-goal as Tom Hitchcock (son of Kevin) deflected in a corner.
Sadly a bout of youthful pushing and shoving resulted in Kaby being sent off along with one of theirs. Boy will be boys and Kaby will be missing the return fixture on Monday.
Sunday 21 March
Blackburn Rovers 1:1 Chelsea
Out of touch and unable to influence events around him: last year it was Scolari struggling for motivation for a flagging team this year it is Ancelotti. Both seem to sit in the dugout looking forlorn and wonder openly after the game why things are not going right. If they don’t know, they are in the wrong job.
It started before kick-off as Ancelotti decided against trusting Joe Cole, with Ballack injured he selected Salomon Kalou.
This was another stark example of how Ancelotti’s team plays and why they are so vulnerable. Attractive and dominant in the first-half, scored a well-crafted goal when Anelka squared for Drogba to side-foot home. 0-1. But too easily intimidated in the second-half as Blackburn became more physical and poor defending and goalkeeping led to a simple headed equaliser. 1-1.
The truth is that under Mourinho we would have drilled all week in holding a slender lead and seeing off the threat. Under Hiddink we would have had the organisation to start with and the tactical nous to make changes from the bench. Ancelotti had neither. His substitutions, when they came, were confusing: Deco came on for Kalou just after they scored. Hands up anyone who remembers when the aging Portuguese playmaker last had a game? He looked rusty and, as he punted a forward pass hopelessly long for a goal-kick when we needed to exert pressure, you started to wonder if Ancelotti is the man for the job.
He didn’t feel the need for another substitution until Sturridge replaced Anelka on 90-minutes.
We have been shipping points away from home to nothing more than physical and determined opponents all season and Carlo Ancelotti and Ray Wilkins have been powerless to prevent it. Avram Grant collected more away wins in his few months in charge than Ancelotti can now amass in his first season. Manchester United are going to win this league because we handed it to them without understanding what was happening. The style going forward is fine; we are scoring goals and entertaining. But winning the Premiership is as much about defence and you cannot argue that Wilkins/Ancelotti have made us more difficult to beat. Carlo’s only seeming concession to defence is to persist with Obi Mikel as a defensive shield even as the young Nigerian looks more and more marginalised.
Chelsea are third in the table this morning four points behind Manchester United. We have a game in-hand but there is no guarantee of points even from a trip to Portsmouth. We are third on merit and have by far the hardest run in of the teams involved in the title.
Monday 22 March
FA Youth Cup semi-final, second leg
Chelsea youth 4:0 Blackburn Rovers youth
How the first team could have done with a result like this. A rampant youth team stormed into the FA Youth Cup final by obliterating Blackburn 5-0 on aggregate.
Sent off in the first leg but oddly not suspended until Wednesday Kaby Djalo was able to start. His presence meant an unchanged line-up.
The goals came from Jacopo Sala (with two), Marko Mitrovic and Gokhan Tore. Tore’s goal was probably the pick of the lot, featuring a neat a decisive passing build-up. Another thing the first team should have tried.
Let’s hope this result marks an upturn in the mood around the place.
Wednesday 24 March
Portsmouth 0:5 Chelsea
Just the boost that our goal difference needed to take us one point behind the leaders but a game that was marred by a couple of ugly elbows.
First things first Cech was back in goal and Carvalho returned in place of Alex. Daniel Sturridge played instead of Anelka. The opening half-hour was relatively quiet. We had a few punts but were not testing David James.
That was until half an hour gone when Zhirkov appeared to get away with a foul on O’Hara and the ball was punted forward. Drogba chased but David James was set to clear when he inexplicably lashed at the ball and it broke for Didier to drive into an empty net. 0-1.
Alex replaced Carvalho who limped off looking unhappy. There followed a clash between Malouda and Ricardo Rocha that left the Portsmouth player with a suspected broken cheekbone. Florent seemed to lead with his elbow as he jumped but his eyes were on the ball not the player. He was booked.
Daniel Sturridge appeared to elbow Tommy Smith but this time the referee didn’t react. Smith was substituted early in the second-half. Both incidents took the shine off what followed.
The second-half started with a peach of a goal to take us two ahead: Malouda ran into the box from Lampard’s pass and beat James from a tight angle. 0-2.
Joe Cole came into the action for Sturridge and Patrick van Annholt came on for Zhirkov to cap a memorable rise for the young Dutch left-back. We didn’t have to wait long for another as Lampard’s fierce shot came back from David James’ save and Malouda netted the rebound. 0-3.
Didier then made it four, expertly controlling Mikel’s surprisingly good pass from half-way to smash in at the near post. 0-4. A season total over 30 goals for the big Ivorian for the second time in his Chelsea career.
Five arrived in injury time when Drogba headed back Joe Cole’s cross and Lampard headed home. 0-5.
Didier limped off the field almost immediately but he is expected to be fit for Saturday.
Portsmouth could be bitter that Malouda wasn’t sent-off or Sturridge for that matter and it does seem that if our luck was going to change then it had to be tonight.
The haul also means we have passed the highest number of goals scored in a Premiership season with 75 so far and two months still to go. 89 in 1964/65 is the top flight best but those came in a 42 game season.
Saturday 27 March
Chelsea 7:1 Aston Villa
Hands up who took the 150-1 on this result, added kudos if you also picked Frank Lampard as first goal scorer but then, if you did, you are probably on a plane to the Bahamas as you read this.
Thumping doesn’t adequately describe the score. The true oddity of the game was that we started so hesitantly and without Didier Drogba. The 30-goal Ivorian limped out of Wednesday’s win at Portsmouth and was rested. Deco and Joe Cole came in with Malouda to support Anelka.
Villa started brightly until 14 minutes in when Malouda’s cross/shot was tipped in at the far post by a sliding Frank Lampard. 1-0.
Hesitancy let them back into things ten minutes later when Zhirkov watched the ball across goal and John Carew thumped in. 1-1.
There was an all too familiar feeling that all was going wrong as Zhirkov and Deco picked up bookings.
Zhirkov’s forward play however was catching the eye. When his burst into the box was ended by a Villa boot Frank Lampard grabbed his second from the penalty. 2-1.
The second-half started as the first had, Villa were competitive and we looked wary. Yet ten minutes in Zhirkov again broke down the left and his cross was thrashed in by Florent Malouda. 3-1.
It all became a bit cluttered after that. Zhirkov broke into the box again and was up-ended, again, and Frank scored the penalty, again. 4-1. The hat-trick goal took him to four for the week, 20 for the season and 150 for the club. Level with Peter Osgood and Roy Bentley in the record books.
Malouda then made it two for the day four for his week when he converted Lampard’s cross. 5-1.
You’d think Nicolas Anelka would be desperate to join the glut but as the ball broke to him he fed the substitute Salomon Kalou to score across Friedel. 6-1.
To add gloss to an already shining afternoon Frank Lampard scored his fourth (the second time he has achieved the feat) taking him clear above Osgood and Bentley and sealing Villa’s humiliation. The goal could not have been simpler, the ball bobbled to him and Friedel could only watch. 7-1.
The result is too much of an aberration to act as a guide to the rest of the season but the boys will travel to Old Trafford next week with confidence.
Drogba’s absence once again coincided with brilliant football and a thumping score. Our form without Drogba despite his 30 goals, is the true enigma of this season and gives Ancelotti a selection dilemma for next Saturday.
United won their evening kick-off 4-0 with Bolton to trim our goal difference back to two. Arsenal threw away a late lead to draw at Birmingham.
Oh and, before we forget, John Terry over took Ron Harris as Chelsea’s longest serving captain with 325 games. He is still only 29. We will not live long enough to see that record broken.