Monday 30 November
Chelsea spent £9.6m on agent’s fees in the year to September this year. No further breakdown is offered but as we only paid a fee for one player in that time the bulk must be made up from hiring Ancelotti and renewing contracts. When replacing one of the players who’ve signed extended deals would cost more than £9m, it has to be a good price for the lot. Manchester United, surprisingly, only paid £1.5m. But then since his son stopped representing players, Alex has them all negotiating for themselves to save a few bob.
Director of communications, Simon Greenberg, has left the club to help run England’s bid for 2018, he will be replaced by two internal candidates: Steve Atkins and Emma Wilkinson. Steve will be in charge of external press, while Emma has the dream job of producing the programme and the rest of the club’s publications.
The Youth Cup game at Charlton tonight has been cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch. If you struggled all the way to the Valley on a damp Monday night and are only just now, a week later, discovering why there was no game we can only suggest that this diary is a round up and should not be used as a primary source of news.
A camera was hurled at Frank Lampard during the game yesterday. An odd choice of missile considering the authorities merely need to publish the pictures of the owner gurning outside the Emirates to nab the perpetrator.
Tuesday 1 December
The luckless Daniel Sturridge will be missing from tomorrow’s Carling cup squad with a hip injury, also missing will be Alex but Ashley Cole will train today before a decision is made.
Franco di Santo will not be permitted to face his parent club for whom Sam Allardyce will be absent recovering from heart surgery.
Tom Taiwo on loan at Carlisle United scored his first league goal tonight as they came from behind to beat Hartlepool. Nana Ofori-Twumasi also scored for his loan side after equalising for Dagenham & Redbridge but they contrived to lose 2-5 to Aldershot.
Wednesday 2 December
Blackburn Rovers 3:3 Chelsea
(aet, 2:2 90 minutes. Blackburn win 4-3 on penalties)
Another shoot-out failure and an unnecessary and taxing evening. Gaël Kakuta was the luckless player taking the fifth penalty and Paul Robinson’s save means we are spared the extra two games of a semi-final during the African Cup of Nations.
Topsy-turvy old night this with eight changes to the side from Sunday: Hilario in goal; Belletti, Ferreira, Ivanovic and Zhirkov at the back with Ballack retuning to midfield with Malouda and Deco and Kalou starting up front.
No wonder they played like a team of strangers in the first-half. Blackburn were near full-strength and attacked with unexpected gusto from the first whistle, scoring with only eight minutes on the clock. Belletti was a bit rusty and let their left-back cross for Nikola Kalinic to tap home. 1-0
The first period was open and attacking from both sides but Blackburn had a near monopoly on decent chances.
Our response came eventually but as Ballack hit the side netting with a glorious volley and Joe Cole’s efforts all went wide, we had to wait until Didier Drogba came on at half-time to head home a Malouda cross for the equaliser. 1-1. The goal takes him past Gatling gun Hilsdon in the all time list.
Ancelotti also brought on Kakuta for Deco, Jeffery Bruma for Belletti at half-time in a highly unusual, not to say risky, triple substitution.
Minutes after Drogba did his thing a first-time pass half the length of the pitch blew Blackburn open and Kalou was cool enough to finish, 1-2.
The Blackburn equaliser was a shambles. A deep cross seeming missed by everyone and Hilario watched as it bounced past him and in, Brett Emerton is credited with the goal.
Didier had a smash from and unpromising angle but in the build-up Kalou suffered a kick and had to leave the field. With all three subs on ten men had to finish the game.
Extra-time could have started better. Zhirkov stuck out a leg and a grateful Blackburn player went down. Benny McCarthy scored. 3-2.
With only ten-men it was a struggle to get movement going forward however hard everyone worked.
Jeffery Bruma played exceptionally well for one so young but made the simple mistake of giving the ball to a Blackburn striker only for the ball to fly wide.
At 3-2 and just as we thought we could start the long journey home and after news came through that we’d play Villa in the semi-final, Florent Malouda tossed a hopeful free-kick into the box and Paulo Ferreira controlled Robinson’s attempted punch and smashed in from a tight angle: 3-3 and penalty kicks.
McCarthy scored their first and some ventured their mortgage as Ballack strode up to take our first but he hit the post. Didier cheekily chipped his down the middle, Malouda scored Hilario saved one and Zhirkov drew us level. Kakuta stepped up, you have to admire his bottle it is only his second performance, but Robinson was not in the mood to have two go down the middle on the evening and the French youngster’s effort was comfortably saved.
Ancelotti accepted blame for making three substitutions at the same time but while pride may have been dented nobody is pretending the competition is a priority.
A bit of good news from South Africa as England are confirmed as top seeds for Friday’s World Cup draw.
Thursday 3 December
Salomon Kalou will be out for a few weeks probably back after the Portsmouth game on December 12.
Friday 4 December
Fabio Capello leads a charmed life. England’s draw for the group stage of the next World Cup looks ridiculously easy, we are in group C with USA, Algeria and Slovenia. While it is difficult to take American seriously when playing football or treat them with anything but contempt, Algeria beat Egypt (who are back to back champions of the continent) and Slovenia qualified ahead of Guus Hiddink’s Russia.
If you want an easy group try Italy’s, the face the might of, ahem, New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia – expect the champions to struggle. Meanwhile North Korea (Italy’s nemesis in ’66) will do well to qualify from their group it contains Brazil, Portugal and Cote D’Ivoire (and yes it is a bit affected, and yes we’ll go back to calling them the Ivory Coast after the tournament but it is what they call themselves).
Saturday 5 December
Manchester City 2:1 Chelsea
Howard Webb was a disgrace to refereeing today. His performance was so skewed you have to assume that he thought Chelsea were too far ahead in the Premiership and he had decided, or had been told, to even things up; it was larceny, he cheated.
He penalised every Chelsea tackle (booking 6 for mostly imaginary crimes) while allowing City to hack their way through Chelsea players often from behind, frequently getting the ball by kicking the player out of the way.
His decisions for their goals defy belief. Everyone on the Match of the Day sofa later said “he was trying to get his hands out of the way”, what? Have the laws been changed? Micah Richards handled with his hands up near his chest the ball came from at least ten meters so if he was trying to get his hands out of the way he had plenty of time, and his side scored as a result. Webb cravenly decided that any goal against Chelsea is legitimate.
The free-kick he gifted them for their second was equally absurd. Carvalho cleared a high ball with his foot raised and Tevez jumped into him, anywhere else on the pitch in a game between any other teams Webb would have awarded Chelsea a foul for the Argentinian jumping deliberately into their player. Webb saw the opportunity to give City another chance and Tevez duly scored from the free-kick. Cech took a step the wrong way and was beaten quite easily. He was probably distracted by the absurdity of the award.
There is an element of psychology to Webb’s performance. If he was officiating at Old Trafford he wouldn’t have dared give either of the decisions because Ferguson would have made an almighty fuss about each and the media would have picked it up and Webb would be demoted to the Championship for incompetence. In contrast Ancelotti meekly said: “’I am surprised because I consider Howard Webb a fantastic ref with experience, but I don’t want to speak more than this because it happened and I want to look forward.” Carlo is being more honourable than Alex would but United get far more decisions as a result.
We did have chances most notably Lampard’s penalty and Drogba’s late stab wide but when a referee is being this absurd it is hard to really compete.