Monday 18 January
Chelsea reserves 2:0 Wolverhampton Wanderers reserves
The reserves home game was switched from Griffin Park to Cobham because the Bees have a home FA Cup replay on Tuesday.
Possibly the strongest reserve line-up in a while with first team fringers Nemanja Matic, Fabio Borini, Gael Kakuta and Daniel Sturridge joined by loan returnees Rhys Taylor, Patrick van Aanholt and Jack Cork. Billy Clifford made his first start for the reserves at right-back.
Goals came from Sturridge’s first-half volley and Kakuta’s 25-yard shot that curled into the top corner.
Meanwhile, the FA youth cup against Portsmouth has been confirmed as Thursday 28 January at the Bridge, no entrance fee.
Last night Frank Lampard picked up the Football Writers Association tribute award in recognition of his achievements throughout his career. A bit like being given a gold watch five years before you retire but Frank was graceful nevertheless.
Tuesday 19 January
Dastardly Arsenal sneaked above us by beating Bolton Wanderers at home but they required a sinful tackle from William Gallas to create the chance to equalise from 0-2 down and really should have been trailing 1-2 with ten-men.
Wednesday 20 January
Nigeria 3:0 Mozambique
John Obi Mikel rather un-super eagles struggled into the quarter-finals in a dreadful game for the neutral, Nigeria were never threatened and only needed a draw. The Chelsea player is likely to be second back, Michael Essien is due tomorrow, and the first knocked out although by whom is still up in the air.
Friday 22 January
Michael Essien will be out for up to six weeks with his knee injury. Carlo Ancelotti confirmed Michael’s injury: “he had a tear in the meniscus, and he has to stay out for four to six weeks, I hope four.” Carlo said that contract negotiations are always tricky but he wants Cole to stay: “I’m 100% clear. The club want to keep him and he has told me he wants to stay. He’s a very important player. It’s normal … the club wants to save and the player wants to earn more money. That’s normal.”
He went on to say that he would play a strong side against Preston and took the unusual decision to name the team. So if you don’t want to know the line-up before Saturday, look away now: Hilario, Paulo Ferreira, Alex, John Terry, Yury Zhirkov, Juliano Belletti, Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard, Deco, Nicolas Anelka, Daniel Sturridge. Ashley Cole is nursing a hamstring while Joe Cole and Malouda are rested.
Preston will enjoy all the benefits of their manager’s dad’s experience. North End are of course now managed by Alex Ferguson’s son Darren (the odd looking but talented one, not palm grease player peddler).
Saturday 23 January
Preston North End 0:2 Chelsea
Routine does not get any more regulation than this. For twelve years now, with the odd blip, we have been carving apart the lower division teams in the cups, especially the FA Cup, teams it had been our habit to trip over for the two decades before. The conventional way to achieve the feat is for your strikers to score either side of half-time and that is exactly how things panned out on this cold and foggy Saturday morning.
We had a few chances before Nicolas Anelka (who, after this and recent displays, deserves a “he’s here, he’s there” song all of his own) fired us into the lead. We did have the ball in the net earlier when Zhirkov picked up Lampard’s pass and Malouda bundled in the cross but the referee had already blown for a foul on Lampard.
Play was too congested, Chelsea had complete domination of both ball and field but they were too well organised to break down. What we needed was a Preston attack to leave space in behind the defence.
That is just what we got after a rare Preston move foundered at the edge of our area, Zhirkov fed Deco, on to Ballack who found Anelka who finished between both defender and goalkeeper’s legs. 0-1.
They had their best chance shortly after when the ball wouldn’t come down for Darren Carter who contrived to thump his effort over from a foot out.
Daniel Sturridge sealed the tie immediately after the half-time oranges. John Terry got a meaty head to a corner and while that effort was blocked Daniel was on hand to smash in the rebound. Could the youngster go on to score in every round?
Thereafter the game dwindled to a close. North End had more possession but Chelsea were clearly looking to conserve energy with five games coming up back to back. The only shade on the whole affair was an apparent injury to Juliano Belletti, who lasted only 20 minutes. 6,000 hardy blue souls made the trip.
Chelsea youth 4:3 West Ham United youth
West Ham turned up late for this one and Marko Mitrovic punished their tardiness by smashing a first-half hat-trick, they did briefly equalise at 1-1 but a minute after the break Milan Lalkovic made it 4-1 and all seemed in order. Only for the cussed Hammers to chip away at the total and nearly equalise at the death. Chelsea held on but will be hoping for fewer scares when they entertain Portsmouth at the Bridge on Wednesday.
Sunday 24 January
Cotê d’Ivoire 2:3 Algeria
England fans who rubbed their hands together in glee when the World Cup draw was made at the start of December might want to reassess how comfortable they feel. Algeria sprang a surprise by equalising with seconds to go after a thunderous shot from 30 yards that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar had given Cotê d’Ivoire the lead with only a minute or so left. That effort eclipsed the first Algerian goal, that one merely came from the edge of the area and equalised Salomon Kalou’s forth-minute opener. Kalou actually played very well throughout but was substituted in extra time.
Ultimately it was poor defending that cost the Ivorians but the officials did their best to get them eliminated: first Drogba was hacked down in the box but no penalty and then they equalised at the end of extra-time only to be erroneously given offside.
In the other semi, Essienless Ghana decided to be successful rather than popular and knocked out the hosts Angola.
Nigeria play tomorrow.
Chelsea drew Cardiff City at home in the FA Cup fifth round, the tastiest tie is Scummers at home to Skates: a time-honoured reminder of the violence of the 1970s. Arsenal were not in the hat having surrendered to Stoke City.