Monday 29 March
Chelsea reserves 1:0 Portsmouth reserves
The way things are going this might be Portsmouth’s first team next season. Chelsea missed several of the youth team who are in Dallas playing a tournament.
The victory should have been a bigger one as Kakuta scored but we dominated most of the match in driving rain and howling wind.
Tuesday 30 March
Uefa’s pencil wallahs have decided to add their usual insult to our injury by banning Didier Drogba for the next two Champions’ League matches. They couldn’t impose the two matches suspended from the Barcelona incident because those relate to his behaviour not on-field discipline. They have though extended the period the two suspended bans will hang over Didier by two years to July 2013.
Drogba and the club have a few days to appeal but Uefa have shown such contempt for Chelsea that there probably isn’t any point.
In better news Branislav Ivanovic is already back in training only nine days after we were told he’d done his knee. He is unlikely to be back in the side before Manchester United but will strengthen the side for the run in.
Even better news flash: not only did United lose in Germany but Wayne Rooney limped out and will probably miss the game on Saturday.
Thursday 1 April
The nation breaks into sustained spontaneous celebration on the news that Wayne Rooney has not broken anything and will be fit for the World Cup. When did we become a one-man team? After all we have Heskey and Crouch and what a devastating forward line that would be.
Didier Drogba has been passed fit for Saturday. Carlo Ancelotti revealed that the Ivorian has been struggling with a hernia problem that might require quick surgery after the season finishes. Given the way we have been performing without him, some of you might actually be disappointed by that news.
The bad news is that Mike Dean is in charge for Saturday and he rarely misses the opportunity to help United at home. Expect Man U to win with three ill deserved penalties and Chelsea to finish with nine men with one sent off for shaking hands incorrectly prior to kick off and the other for ironically applauding the award of the only free kick to the visitors. We don’t stand a chance.
Saturday 3 April
Manchester United 1:2 Chelsea
They can’t ever just be beaten by the better team; they always find something to moan about. This time you have to admit that our least favourite referee managed to get almost every decision wrong but he sinned against Chelsea far more than the hosts and yet the papers will be full of how offside Didier was for our second and not that Macheda openly pushed in their consolation.
We started brightly; with the same team that played Villa we had movement, improvisation and pace. United couldn’t get the ball and, with the great 3D experiment going on at the Crown and Cushion, the Pineapple was down to a handful a moaning Mancs complaining every time the ball was bunted into touch by the ‘champions’.
For all the possession we enjoyed United were organised at the back and penetration was a problem, until Florent Malouda decided to do something about it and drove into the United box with Valencia and Fletcher trailing. His cross was flicked in by Joe Cole with and audacious, no, bodacious backheel. 0-1.
There followed two penalty appeals when Ji Sung Park threw himself over Zhirkov’s leg. Okay the leg was there to dive over but the fall was contrived.
The clearer appeal followed almost immediately as Anelka ran on to Malouda’s pass Neville barged him off the ball. Penalty. As clear day and as under the referee’s nose as you can get and he looked the other way.
Berbatov did have the ball in our penalty box but just as he was getting over the surprise that a pass had reached him Lampard hacked the ball off his toe. It was a dangerous tackle, one he had to get right or it was a sure penalty but he executed it so quickly the lumbering Bulgarian hardly complained.
Manchester United’s hopes for the rest of the season rest on Dimitar Berbatov. On this evidence we have little to fear. He doesn’t move. He literally stood still in the middle watching attacks develop and you have to wonder what they work on in training.
Paulo Ferreira almost capped his best performance of the season with a goal early in the second-half when Joe Cole’s pass left him sprinting into the box. Sadly, he seemed caught between cross and shot and ended up, inevitably, doing neither.
United started to build some pressure but our defence worked superbly and, while the nerves can’t stand it, watching our defence up against the best attack (outside of Stamford Bridge) was a pleasure. We contained and marshalled the play in such a way that they were left half-chances and scraps.
An hour into the game Petr Cech hadn’t had a save to make. Not that the big Czech lunk looked entirely comfortable. His kicking was atrocious all afternoon and it appeared to be effecting his judgement, as one Evra cross sailed over his mad dash and was headed back in with Petr stranded.
The ref’s bumbling absurdities continued. This time Deco was adjudged to have tripped the substitute Nani, when the poor man’s Ronaldo spontaneously leapt into the air. From the free-kick they claimed handball from Malouda when replays showed it hit his chest.
By that time Drogba had replaced Anelka and he wrote his name over the game when Kalou played him in, the linesman decided he was onside (no we can’t see how either) and Didier smacked the ball into the back of the Old Trafford net for 0-2 and fuck you.
United rightly felt let down, the linesman should have flagged. What followed though was a clear handball from Macheda.
Evra charged past Ferreira too easily and while Cech saved his shot the ball bounced up and Federico Macheda pushed it into the net with his arm. Arguments afterwards suggested that Mancs have such a tint to their spectacles that they cannot tell the difference between an official making a mistake and one of their players cheating. 1-2.
Still the expected siege failed to appear and we controlled the rest of the game and the ref only added an extra minute to injury time but United hardly threatened and that was that.
Top of the league by two points and four goals: let’s face it we needed to beat United today. Even the win leaves us a narrow advantage; every game between now and the end of the season will be a cup final (can’t believe we actually typed something that clichéd), we played well today but we will need to play that well in each of the remaining games to pull this off.
Sunday 4 April
Arsenal ladies 4:0 Chelsea women
Sorry but ladies is just so patronising. Arsenal get their usual afternoon on the telly as Chelsea women’s team were beaten by the better side in the FA Cup semi. We are getting closer year by year but Arsenal’s grip on the women’s game hasn’t been shaken yet. It will be their twelve millionth cup final in a row.