Tuesday 18 August
Sunderland 1:3 Chelsea
So this season starts as the last one ended with three goals and a commanding performance on Wearside.
This game however was very different from Guus Hiddink’s last in charge, tow new managers plenty of new players and systems but a very similar result.
The match started with Deco recalled as part of a front three or the point of the diamond if you like, with Lampard, Essien and Ballack competing in a more conventional midfield. Kalou started the match ahead of Nicolas Anelka and with rumours that the Frenchman’s contract talks have been put back until the end of the season we have to hope his demotion was not the start of a sulk.
The opening period as pretty even with both sides sparring for position only for Darren Bent to swoop on a lose ball and put the hosts 1-0 up. Anyone who remembers last season’s two dropped points at home to Spurs knows the script, ball cannons through the defence, Bent reacts quickest. A mackem in our local was proud of the 50-1 he got on Bent for top scorer and good luck to him.
It was from then on that we got ourselves together and started to dominate possession and territory. Ballack, Deco and Terry all had chances to equalise either smothered or saved.
The second-half started with Drogba and Kalou headers before Ballack picked up Ivanovic’s flick from a corner and steered through a crowd of bodies for 1-1.
Drogba seemed to be on a mission and his mazy dribble intot eh box drew a foul and Lampard put us 1-2 up and drew level with Jimmy Greaves on 132 in the all time scorer’s list.
Deco tricked his way into the box to score for 1-3 and towards the end we had almost complete control. Sunderland had a brave plan to close us down throughout but as they tired and our passing improved they didn’t have a chance.
The Stadium of Light crowd rose as one to applaud Deco as he was substituted for Andriy Shevchenko (yes, Shevchenko, we’d almost forgotten how to type his name). The cheers were well earned, it was Deco who kept us ticking and scored a superb goal, perhaps the Sunderland fans should take on the mantle of most knowledgeable and generous in the league.
The slow starts and the habit of falling a goal down must still be worrying the new boss but while the system beds in games like this against compliant opposition are just what we need. This was the first time under Ancelotti that we didn’t score two goals.
Steve Bruce had few doubts after the game about our quality: “Sometimes you just have to admit that we have been beaten by a very good team, there is no disgracing that … It was arguably one of the best Chelsea performances I have seen in a long time and sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say well played”.
In the other game tonight Michael Mancienne’s Wolves beat Wigan Athletic. Scott Sinclair came on with half an hour to go for Wigan and immediately had a good shot narrowly wide. He nearly crowned his performance with and equaliser but his late header flew wide.Earlier Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic’s transfer from the Slovakian club MFK Kosice was confirmed. The Slovaks seemed delighted with their £1.5m upfront payment. In fact they were so enthusiastic they splashed the story hours before Chelsea were ready to offer confirmation. The 21-year old is a left footed midfielder who hobbled out of the European U21 tournament in the summer with a broken metatarsal and it is thought he will stay in Slovakia while he recovers.
Claudio Pizarro has signed for Werder Bremen permanently, after his season long loan there last term. The 30-year old scored an impressive 28 goals for the northern German side on the way to the Uefa Cup final. Alex McLeish will be relieved at the news; Claudio only managed two goals in 31 appearances for Chelsea, both of them against Birmingham City.
There will be added spice for Sunday’s local matter at the Cottage; Fulham have completed the signing of Damien Duff. It will be good to see the lad again.
Wednesday 19 August
A training ground match against the Qatari side Al-Ahli ended in a bit punch up and had to be abandoned after half an hour. Apparently it was just like Rugby Union with karate kicks, knee-high tackles, hair pulling and eye gouging. Video of the scrap is being studied at the FA but reports suggest we were the victims of most of the action. Jack Cork apparently received several punches while in a headlock.
Tottenham climb above us at the top after beating Hull City 5-1 at their place but the result of the night belongs to Burnley who defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Turf Moor. Alex Ferguson choked out his congratulation afterwards in a parody of himself.
Thursday 20 August
Roy Hodgson and Fulham won their Europa League match against Amkar Prem but lost a striker. Andrew Johnson was deliberately body-checked and will miss the game on Sunday. Hodgson was so angry he added a term to lexicon of football: “Andy Johnson was literally banjoed out of the game by a player who made no attempt to win the ball”, we thought banjoed meant kicked in the nuts but you know what he means.
Elsewhere, Everton beat the Moravians Sigma Olomouc 4-0 and Villa continued their poor start to the season losing 1-0 to Rapid Vienna.
Friday 21 August
Jack Cork, recovering from his beating, has joined Coventry City until January and will be looking to make an impact. Jack recently signed a new three-year contract with Chelsea but has yet to make a first-team appearance. He joins Patrick van Aanholt in Chris Coleman’s side.
It seems Salomon Kalou’s birthday wasn’t as lavish as first reported, the Evening Substandard have admitted that he didn’t spend £120,000 on booze and that friends of his paid the tab on an evening when the club in question made less than £20,000 altogether.
Saturday 22 August
Franco Di Santo started for Blackburn Rovers in their 2-1 defeat to Sunderland but came off injured after 13 minutes. Scott Sinclair made an impression in his half hour against Man U in a 0-5 reverse, he had a few good shots and his crossing was good. Michael Mancienne looked at sea in Wolves’ 0-1 at Eastlands but then the whole defense was too.
Sunday 23 August
Fulham 0:2 Chelsea
A sweltering afternoon’s football down by the Thames brings a continuation of the new away formation and a comfortable three points.
We started with Obi John and Ballack in holding positions with Malouda, Lampard and Anelka roaming behind Drogba.
Fulham pushed Dempsey forward and he almost opened the scoring after just more than a minute but got underneath his effort. Most of the first-half was probing and counter punching but Fulham held so little threat that an opener seemed inevitable. Schwartzer hadn’t had a save to make despite efforts from almost the whole team from outside the area when Didier Drogba delivered; he latched onto Anelka’s through ball and slotted under their ‘keeper with half the ground appealing for offside.
The second-half was drifting toward a close when Drogba returned Anelka’s favour by playing him in for the second and confirmation of the points. Half the pub, to be fair, were packed in the other bar watching England beat Australia to win the Ashes and nobody was much interested in events at Craven Cottage which finished ten-minutes after Graham Swann took the final wicket. The general pandemonium in pubs across the country overshadowed Chelsea joining Tottenham Hotspurs at the top of the table, second on goal difference. Spurts won at Upton Park earlier in the afternoon but trouble with the ESPN card meant we didn’t see much of that match.
There was still time for Sam Hutchinson to make an appearance and look as nervous as hell, he came through it well.
Carlo was keeping his feet on the ground after the match, stressing the importance of the defensive display: “It is the first time we kept a clean sheet and it was good because the defensive line played very well – no problem, very good concentration, very good movement … Carvalho, Terry, Cole, Bosingwa had a fantastic match.”
Blackburn Rovers youth 1:0 Chelsea youth
A poorly defended free-kick six minutes from the end undid a young youth team in their first game of the season. Marko Mitrovic looked lively and created a few chances while the team as a whole played well, dominated for periods against much older players and will count themselves unlucky.