Monday 14 December
Charlton Athletic youth 1:2 Chelsea youth
Ultimately a comfortable victory for an curious Chelsea youth team Jeffrey Bruma dropped down to play in his third season of youth cup games alongside him in defence was a schoolboy, Daniel Mills Pappoe. Josh McEachran, Conor Clifford (captain for the night), Gokhan Tore, Jacopo Sala and Milan Lalkovic all stepped down from regular reserve football.
Jeff opened the scoring on 27 minutes when Milan Lalkovic floated a free-kick into the box and Bruma, towering over everyone else, headed in. Aziz Deen-Conteh playing left-back in Billy Knott’s absence then ran the length of the pitch, beating five or six along the way. It was a move that deserved a goal.
It wasn’t all going Chelsea’s way; Sam Walker returned in goal after a lengthy injury and looked, ahem, nervous to start with but his performance improved after the break.
Marko Mitrovic stabbed home from a Bruma knock down to render Charlton’s injury time reply meaningless. The best that you can say for Charlton is that they competed and have a player with the strangest name, step forward Tamer Tuna. He missed a sitter right at the start.
Dermot Drummy was upbeat about the game describing it as “a real cup tie” meaning he was unhappy about the number of chances we gave them.
Tuesday 15 December
Wolves went to Old Trafford tonight with ten changes from the side that beat Spurs at the weekend and surrendered to Manchester United. The rule that a club must play its strongest team has fallen into disuse as squads have increased and Wolves will not face any sanction but they have shown contempt for his own supporters as well as Chelsea and Arsenal. “I’m not bothered about angry reactions anywhere else, my priority is my own team and any decisions I make this season will be based on whether or not we can stay in the Premier League”, Mick McCarthy said after the match. You can debate whether any club should be protecting its first team before Christmas and McCarthy has a point but abjectly surrendering the points at Old Trafford distorts the title race. My best friend at junior school was a Wolves fan and I’ve plenty of friends who work in Wolverhampton (it is a long story) I’ve visited Molineaux many times but after last night you have to hope Wolves are relegated.
Earlier in the day Ancelotti announced that Didier Drogba injured his back in training and is a doubt for tomorrow night when Avram Grant returns with Portsmouth.
Wednesday 16 December
Chelsea 2:1 Portsmouth
Avram Grant received a generous reception on his return but every time we see him we shudder at what might have been. Afterwards he said: “it was touching. I think it was a great year we had here and it is heart-warming to see people respect it. The supporters and people at Chelsea, most of them are very nice, very kind.”
Tonight could have been worse, it might have been colder, or wetter, we could have dropped more points because Portsmouth were very well organised, hard working and adventurous. Both Drogba and Carvalho were missing with Kalou and Alex stepping in.
Michael Ballack almost got us off to a flier with a rasping shot just wide. It seems neither of our senior midfielders is destined to be among the goals this season. Kalou then managed to head the ball over from a foot out. How?
Anelka had an effort turned round the post before, in Carvalho’s absence, Alex decided that a smart run to the byeline was in order and powered into the box to set up Anelka’s sharp shot. 1-0.
The most worry aspect of the whole game was at the back Terry and Alex seemed to want to play either on the same blade of grass or miles from each other. We’ll put it down to rustiness.
Frederick Piquionne then drew a save form Cech but Chelsea looked more like scoring with an Alex free-kick followed by well blocked or narrowly wide efforts by Lampard and Ashley Cole.
So leading at the break and dominating made the metaphorical half-time Bovril taste sweeter but life at the Bridge isn’t simple anymore and we contrived to concede from another free-kick, this time deflected twice, into Piquionne’s path by a luckless wall. 1-1.
Joe Cole replaced Deco shortly afterwards followed by Malouda for Obi John and, bravely, Borini for Kalou as we looked for a winner.
Thankfully Ivanovic was upended in the box by Marc Wilson and Frank remembered how to score, thrashing it down the middle. 2-1.
There was still time for Borini to put his name up in lights but the touch round Begovic took his too wide and his shot across goal just missed.
An ugly win that should have been easier but we stretch back out to a three-point lead and will have to be happy with that. Talking of happy, it is West Ham away next and thankfully no ticket means a warm pub. Cheers.
“I am happy because it was becoming a difficult game … the 15 minutes in the second half after they levelled was not good, we lost our composure, we lost our ideas to play, but then we did a very good reaction, we changed something on the pitch, we put some fresh players on and had a good reaction to the end of the game. We deserved to win and that was the most important thing after four games without victory. That was the first aim.” Amen.
Sadly Brendan Rodgers lost his job at Reading. He had only been in the post since the summer when he joined the Royals from Watford. We don’t think Brendan will be out of work long. Chelsea would have offered him his old job back but there is something of a recruitment squeeze out at Cobham.
Thursday 17 December
Frank Lampard has been musing on the run of form since Arsenal, he said: “But that’s football, it’s just a patch.” No it is not, Frank, it is a kick in the grass.
Friday 18 December
Jose Mourinho got his dearest wish and will return to Stamford Bridge as manager of Internazionale Milano. The other side of Milan, AC, will play Manchester United, Arsenal play Porto and Liverpool, oh no hang on they don’t feature in this draw but the next one…
Obviously we are not sure when the games will be played because Uefa decided to spread the games over the best part of a month. Sorry, as soon as you type that they announce the dates: Wednesday 24 February (San Siro) and Tuesday 16 March (Stamford Bridge).
Ancelotti looked pissed off, he stressed that it was Chelsea against Inter not Ancelotti against Mourinho but who is he kidding.
Ah, sod it, the tie is a great Christmas present for the club.
Joe Cole, Didier Drogba and Ricardo Carvalho all return on Sunday against West Ham United.
Saturday 19 December
Today was a great day to watch Match of the Day without knowing the results but what with freezing Christmas shopping and looking in on relatives we found ourselves at 10.40 (some dancing programme overran) listening to the familiar music unaware of any of the results apart from overhearing some one say “Liverpool did well”.
Man City against Sunderland, a thrilling 4-3 with some great attacking play from both sides meant that Manchester United had a routine win over Fulham because any other result and they would have been on first; wouldn’t they.
So, once we’d digested the sad news that Sparky has been sacked despite the win over Sunderland, it is off to Craven Cottage and as Fulham spurn an early chance you think “if only”. Only for “if only” to come true, Fulham are 1-0, suddenly they are showing the kick-off for the second-half and fifteen seconds later it is 2-0, then 3-0 and you realise that there is not going to be a United fight back and they’ve actually been tonked and you open another bottle of Christmas cheer.
Sunday 20 December
West Ham United 1:1 Chelsea
Another glorious opportunity missed. Chelsea failed to destroy a weak West Ham side and we now appear to be stumbling in just the way we did last year. After the start of the season the tactical novelty of our new manager has been found out and teams know how to defend against us and how to exploit the space our attacking creates. We are now in need of plan B.
That said another referee looked to punish every Chelsea misdeed and ignore those who sinned against us. The penalty was the choicest example: Frank Lampard, in an already hostile atmosphere was made to take the kick three times because of players encroaching. Now encroachment is usually ignored by refs, as is the keeper taking a big step and a dive before the ball is kicked so, it is heartening to see a referee apply the actual rules to the penalty kick. The only problem is that the majority encroaching were wearing claret and blue. The ref, perhaps he felt he’d wronged West Ham in the award of a harsh penalty, was try to get the Chelsea vice-captain to fail. He didn’t book any of those who encroached even after he was forced by their actions to make Frank take the kick a third time.
We had created the better chances in the first-half with Frank Lampard thumping effort saved by Green. That chance was quickly followed by our first penalty appeal as Danny Gabbidon scooped the ball clear of Kalou using is forearm.
Scott Parker was man of the match but was lucky to still be on after he hacked Drogba down in the first period before being booked in the second. He smuggled the ball off the goal line from Ivanovic’s header.
Chances were coming but Chelsea were narrow and refusing to use the space they did find to get behind the defence, while West Ham were threatening on the break.
On such break, by Collison drew a clumsy challenge from Ashley Cole and the ref awarded the first penalty of the afternoon. On second and third viewing it is difficult to actually see contact between defender and attacker but it looked nailed on form the ref’s angle. 1-0.
There was still time for Parker’s booking which should have seen them down to ten and for Robert Green to flatten Kalou in the area with no penalty awarded. Many in the warmth of the Pineapple’s public bar decided that the ball had gone but, as always, the rules on penalties do not mention where the ball is just the an offence has taken place.
At the start of the second-half Didier latched onto a monstrous clearance from Cech and volleyed across Green a al Van Basten but the effort was wide. It was a below par Drogba’s only real contribution.
Daniel Sturridge, a half-time substitute and one of our most influential players was then fouled in the view of the linesman but the tackle was actually fair. We’ve already described the penalty farce so it is enough to say: 1-1.
West Ham thought they should have had a penalty for a shove by Carvalho, by that yard stick John Terry would have a penalty or two in every game for being wrestled to the ground.
Yuri Zhirkov came on and look a threat down the wing one cross prompting a scrambled clearance. He should stay in the team for Saturday.
Another frustrating night and another chance to pull clear missed. We’ll have to hope that United keep slipping up at this rate.
Secret cash payments scandal, or not, John Terry played today in the knowledge that the thinking man’s Sunday paper, News of the World, fitted him up with fake businessmen asking for a our of the training ground. Terry though took no money and even if he had were is the harm? He is not selling state secrets to the Russians, just making a few quid for charity.
Leaving Man City along with Mark Hughes are Eddie Niedzwiecki and Kevin Hitchcock. Not a good time of year to be out of work but all three will find a new berth fairly quickly.