Sunday 19 April
Everton in the final, after extra time and penalties. Manchester United showed a degree of contempt for Everton and the competition by playing their youth team strikers, so no more blather about quintuplets.Monday 20 April
Chelsea reserves 2:2 West Bromwich Albion reserves
Belletti and Carvalho started in a strangely unbalanced Chelsea side. Michael Mancienne, for instance, played left back. Belletti opened the scoring and Patrick van Aanholt added our second but we’d developed a habit of letting them back in with questionable defending.
Mancienne’s performance was closely watched by Hiddink and left many speculating that he might play there against Barcelona.
Next Monday against Spurs at Griffin Park is your last chance to watch the stiffs this term.
We forgot to mention last week that Charlton Athletic will be playing third division football next season. Bad luck for them and Hereford who slip down to the forth. Yes, we know that should be first and second respectively but we find it hard to keep up, at our age, with all these new fangled divisions. And, who in their right mind, calls the third tier of foot ball the first division. Apart from marketing men.
Happy birthday Mum.
Tuesday 21 April
Rumours that Wolves want Michael Mancienne for £4m. While he is not the finished product and £4m would be a good price, it would be a crime to let a young lad go before he has had a sustained run in our first-team, after which, of course, he be worth £14m.
Charmless automaton Howard Webb has been appointed for the cup final. He has done us few ills in recent seasons so perhaps we should learn to be a little more gracious and simply call him Roboref.
Liverpool and Arsenal put on an entertaining show, drawing 4-4 at Anfield. Liverpool are back on top of the heap but United have two games in hand.
Wednesday 22 April
Chelsea 0:0 Everton
Well, that is that then. On a night Manchester United extended their lead at the top we couldn’t breakdown a well organised and surprisingly ambitious Everton. Luck, good and bad, played a large part but ultimately we were undone in just this kind of home draw where the ball just didn’t want to go in, during that run we’ve dropped 12 points from six draws and two defeats.
Tonight was a nice night to be out and about, London looks and feels like summer has come early but there was still a nip in the air come kick-off. Drogba almost lit the place up with an acrobatic swing of the boot but gravity robbed him of the ball. Everton had the better chances of a scrappy first-half. For the visitors, Jo was clean through twice but fluffed each chance and Cech had to be at his best to turn away a Cahill pile driver.
The urgency of the situation started to dawn on the players in the second-half but generally the tactic was to batter the ball through the middle, it was only with the introduction of Kalou that we started to try to get the ball down the wing and crosses in from more dangerous angles. In truth we created very few chances the one for Drogba when he could turn and shoot, only crashed back off the bar.
Still, Everton created better chances, and it was from one break late in the game that Cech had to prove himself. Jo rushed toward the box and Cech came out to meet him the big Czech ‘keeper got to the ball first but was clattered in the contact. It was his first serious clash since the Reading game three-years ago. Hiddink said afterwards; “Given the injury he suffered in the past, he was very brave putting his head into a very dangerous situation … that was a personal victory for him.”
Sadly it was the only victory tonight. We hope and pray that the Cup final is better than that.
Friday 24 April
Only 25,024 Blue souls will be at the cup final. Arsenal will be allocated the same. 40,000 or so prawn sandwiches will have to be made to feed the others in attendance. We did point out to Ken Bates and the FA at the time that allocations for finals would be woefully inadequate but the just rubbed their fingers against thumb and laughed.
Guus has been hinting that the team will be experimental on Saturday. Obviously left-back will be watched closely, Mancienne was hoping for a run out after Monday but the logical choice would be Ivanovic at left-back and Essien at right. Now, it seems Jose Bosingwa will probably be fit after all but on the left or right only the master tactician can tell.
For the first time in four years we are not fighting for position and can relax for the last month in the league and, dare we say it, concentrate on the European Cup.
Frank Lampard phoned James O’Brien’s radio show to call him and idiot, and it is hard to disagree with Frank’s case. The LBC presenter chose the first anniversary of Pat Lampard’s death to launch his attack on Frank as “weak and scum” for letting his children live in inferior conditions. Frank actually sounded quite calm as he dismantled O’Brien’s ill thought out position. It appears the radio presenter knows nothing about Frank’s life and it is none of his business.
The Wembley pitch is to relayed ahead of the FA trophy final, so we’ll have a new playing surface but no guarantee it will be any better. We loss the toss for colours with Everton so we’ll line up in yellow.
Obi John has been banned from driving for 15-months.
Saturday 25 April
West Ham United 0:1 Chelsea
This afternoon we enjoyed a little of what was missing on Wednesday; namely, a dash of luck. Where the ball refused to break for us during the week here we created chances but Salomon Kalou happened to be standing in the way when one of them dropped.
The weather and the play made this feel for all the world a pre-season friendly. And the team had an unfamiliar feel, Mancienne, Bosingwa and Belletti all started but Guus will have learnt little of Bosingwa’s ability at left-back from this gentle jog. Ashley Cole replaced the Portuguese and spent the rest of the match busting a gut to create or score, as if Hiddink might be thinking of a permanent switch.
With Florent Malouda lashing one toward goal with the first touch it appeared we had been instructed not to hang around until the last twenty-minute scramble. Cech collected a dangerous looking through ball and started us back up field for a chance that Malouda again lashed across goal.
Kieran Dyer appeared to be playing for West Ham, so the Bermuda triangle theory is right out, and he showed some good touches but when fed through the middle he shot tamely at Petr Cech. Petr wasn’t having the game all his own way, he needed Obi John on the line to stop a looping header from an ‘ammer’s corner.
We had a few punts, Lampard had a long shot dipping into Green’s arms and Anelka bobbled one wide. Generally we played like a team coming to terms with pressure-free football, we strung the passes together but didn’t have the urgency to make anything count. But to be fair you could say the same of West Ham, without a relegation struggle, they played like the summer was round the corner: Sous les terrain, la plage – beneath the pitch, the beach.
I fact there was a danger of nothing happening, again, until Malouda fed Lampard who got deep and crossed for Kalou to control on his chest and dink in. Why can’t we always keep it so simple?
Green then saved from Anelka, before an Ashley Cole shot hit the bar. Then again, after we’d looked comfortable, out of nothing Kalou drags back an ‘ammer in the box and it is Cech to the rescue from the penalty. After that the game stuttered to a close, Frank made Green work with a free-kick but the game was won and winding down.
After the whistle John Terry revealed that some in the West Ham crowd don’t love him and Frank but still attempted to make cash donatiojns while the two celebrated Kalou’s goal.
Later still, Tottenham looked to break the habit if a life time and actually win at Old Trafford. Thankfully the referee sensed the impending danger and offered the home side the first penalty he could. Normality restored, United won 5-2.
Chelsea youth 0:3 Leicester City youth
A bit a pasting for an under-strength Chelsea youth team. Many were being held back for Monday’s final reserve fixture. Milan Lalkovic was again the pick of the flops with a string of fine deliveries from the right.
Sunday 26 April
The diary has another cold so couldn’t make it out to see Birmingham fluff their lines and leave it until the last day, next Sunday, for possible automatic promotion. Sheffield United could yet benefit.
Arsenal also won and Blackburn Rovers made sure of their place, pretty much ahead of the last few fixtures.
Monday 27 April
Chelsea reserves 3:0 Tottenham Hotspur reserves
Fabio Borini scored twice, Tottenham scored once into their own net and the reserves got deserved revenge for their defeat away at Spurs. We dominated the game from the start, refusing to allow Spurs to find any rhythm and punishing them after they were reduced to ten-men late in the game.
Gordon Tayor, PFA chief, has waded in to support JT and Frank for reacting to the abuse they received on Saurday. “There’s nothing wrong with banter, you can have a go at a player like a pantomime villain or the same way you’d have a go at the referee … but when that element gets into personal vindictiveness and into players’ personal lives, it’s an element of the game that isn’t too far removed from the bad old days of the 1980s”.
Tuesday 28 April
FC Barcelona 0:0 Chelsea
Hiddink said before hand that we couldn’t just sit back and wait to be beaten. But hat is exactly what we did, the mystery if that the beating never came. The side Guus selected was designed for muscle rather than guile. Essien started on the right of midfield and stayed at home the entire match, seemingly unable to cross halfway. Kalou’s pace and attacking intent would have given us wings, instead we were awful. Mikel took the second holding role with Ballack but Malouda and Essien were pressed back so often that we ended up with four in the holding role. Defenders rarely turned and fed midfield, instead passing back to Cech to thump one the length of the pitch to their keeper. The tactics where so defensive that we could take Frank Lampard off and actually improve. Malouda was the only player to get regular chances going forward but he was roughly marked out of real progress by Alves. We had three chances throughout the hour and a half, as Barça played us off the park.
Defensively, however this was a near miraculous performance, one that means we deserve a second chance a week tomorrow. But first we should apologise to anyone who likes to watch a game of football.
The very first minute they got a free kick, and head it back along the goal line but a flag is up before anyone crashes it in. Then, moments later, Lampard tried to curl and effort that sails wide. It will be one of only three attempts to score.
Lionel Messi won his second tussle with Bosingwa and a free-kick, the Portuguese actually played the ball but the ref was in a mood to ignore what actually happened and go on appearances. Giving the home side almost every decision.
Alex was booked for a first offence on the little Argentinean, but the free-kicks and resulting corners were all comfortably cleared.
Thierry Henry, had a couple of shots, Cech well down to the second one, as the half drifted to a close, suddenly a weak Rafael Márquez back pass and Drogba is in, only to shoot straight at their ‘keeper, who did well to claw away the rebound as Didier tried to go round him.
The second-half started with a Ballack header over and then deteriorated into a backs-to-the-wall struggle. We did manage to keep them at arm’s length for the majority, with only a could of meaningful chances arriving in stoppage time. One a header over, the second a Hleb shot which Cech saved well after the injured, and prone, Ballack played him on.
A nil-nil is quite an achievement considering no other team have stopped Barça from scoring at Camp Nou this term. Hiddink was pragmatic at the end, “We had to be very tactically disciplined defensively although we didn’t keep possession well in the first half … we kicked too many balls away which was helping the opponent to make too many attacks. Second half we did better because we started playing football on more occasions. It is a complement to the team to play in difficult circumstances but we have to do more.” Chelsea’s achievement here tonight will be judged after next Wednesday night, but Hiddink will point to the confident Bayern München side that left Camp Nou with the tie effectively over.
Petr Cech will derive the most pleasure after his faultless performance, he has been under the cosh a bit after mistakes led to roughly half the goals we conceded this month. Tonight he was in the mood to stop everything and after his penalty save at the weekend he seems to have turned a personal corner.
Next week Barça will be without influential defenders Carles Puyol suspended and Rafael Márquez who blew a kneecap. They will fancy themselves to score at the Bridge, we will simply have to score one more than them.
Wednesday 29 April
Oh, well, please yourself. The Catalans didn’t like it and complained so hard you might actually think them rattled.
The Barça players condemned our performance as aggressive and negative. Their manager Pep Guardiola seems so upset that we played defensively he feels they should have been let off by the ref for playing the better football: “It can’t be allowed to happen that the team that tries to play ends up with the same number of cards as the one that just fouls … The way the team is playing should be taken into account … if one team is attacking then that should count in their favour.” It is the view, often expressed by Alex Ferguson, that talented player should get special treatment. And is nonsense, the laws of the game are equal to all, even teams who park a bus.
Speaking of the German referee, Wolfgang Stark, Yaya Touré will be in trouble for saying: “it was worse than deplorable – it looked as if he had come to help Chelsea.”
Strangely the Chelsea camp saw it differently, Malouda seemed as convinced as the Chelsea faithful, that Barcelona players were all too happy to fall over at the first hint of a challenge. It seems Herr Stark cannot win one way or the other.
For Chelsea’s part there is nagging doubt. Hiddink is an honest man, so when he said before the game that: “we should not wait until the storm is coming. We must take what is in our team and do some harm as well”, you have to conclude that the exercise was a failure. John Terry was effusive about Guus’ instructions and tactics but that was only at one end of the pitch.
Manchester United and Arsenal produced little real thrill either, a narrow 1-0 lead for United and you have to look with envy at how much easier their task is than ours.
Meanwhile, Franck Ribéry, said that he’ll leave Munich if they don’t qualify for the Champions’ League; there’ll be a queue.
Thursday 30 April
Frank Arnesen, quietly working away in the background, while managers come and go around him, has been given a new contract and a seat on the board. Frank’s new contract is a 12-month rolling affair and he is joined on the board by Mike Forde, who is er, a performance director and no, we hadn’t either. You might vaguely remember Mike joining from Bolton a while back.