Monday 2 November
Stoke City reserves 3:2 Chelsea reserves
Near miss for the stiffs as Stoke stole two late goals to win the game played at Nantwich Town’s ground.
Chelsea lost several regulars to the trip to Madrid but Nemanja Matic started and played brightly, heading an early chance just wide. Josh McEachran continued his good form playing way out of his age group had one good shot just wide. The most promising thing about this game was the positive response to going a goal down; being such a young team, they showed spirit in their commitment to passing football.
Fabio Borini had another good game, one chip hitting the bar in the first-half, only for his next effort to sail over with the goal at his mercy.
As it was, the equaliser came from another schoolboy – Danny Mills (obviously not that Danny Mills) – somehow the Stoke defence ignored him and he headed in unchallenged.
Stoke could call on the experience of Steve Simonsen in goal but even he couldn’t stop Connor Clifford’s lashed twenty-yard strike to give us the lead.
We even had time for one to be ruled offside before Stoke came back grabbed an equaliser and, eventually, a winner in stoppage time.
Tuesday 3 November
Atletico Madrid 2:2 Chelsea
Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards that: “There was no frustration but it is never good to take a goal in the last minute”. No frustration? He should have been watching from the stands or a south London pub where the entire evening was frustration. Clearly, Atletico were determined to have a fresh start in their faltering season at our expense and ran tirelessly at us all night. They were expecting the diamond and, with Ballack missing, they came close to over running us through the middle.
The Vicente Calderon was clearly up for it as well as Chelsea looked a little bemused to meet such fervour. Yet we soaked up the pressure well as Cech only had one save, from Reyes on 20 minutes, in the first-half.
We didn’t create too many ourselves; Drogba had an early shot across goal, Kalou did well to get a head to an Ashley Cole cross but it flew wide and Lampard drilled a shot across their ’keeper but high. The most notable contribution was from Joe Cole who was behind the build-up to every chance. In fact he was everywhere, far from playing at the tip of a diamond he was tackling back in the centre and covering Ashley Cole on the left. The boy was industry.
The Lampard chance was on the stroke of half-time and the team shape stayed the same at the start of the next period only to suffer the same problems as in the first. Madrid were quicker to the ball and made more determined runs.
Didier fell rather theatrically to earn a free-kick that was turned on to the post, just, by Sergio Asenjo.
It was just past the hour and with most of the entertainment coming from the faces of the Manchester United fans in the public bar who were clearly unaccustomed to being 3-1 down at home, when Sergio Aguero volleyed in unmarked from a left-wing cross. 1-0.
Chelsea’s reply came almost entirely from Didier Drogba first he thumped a header in from Malouda’s cross, 1-1, and then he broke through the middle of a square Atletico defence and side footed the rebound from his initial shot. 1-2.
That we conceded a free-kick and another goal to Aguero clearly rankled with Drogba afterwards: “Perhaps we could have done better with the defensive wall, and maybe avoided conceding the free-kick as well … It’s really frustrating to concede a goal like that after the effort we produced. But we can be pleased with what we have achieved.” Which translates as: “I did all the bloody work and they let me down”.
Ancelotti was more pragmatic recognising that it was a hard game but that qualification for the knockout rounds was the most important achievement.
We are now one point ahead of Porto at the top of the group as they struggled to beat Apoel in Nicosia by a solitary goal.
Thursday 5 November
[email protected] Our naming rights are being considered for sale or, according to the management speak of our new chief executive our “sponsorship architecture” is being reconsidered. £10m per annum will buy you the rights but don’t think just because you won the lottery you can turn up and call the place anything you like; you’ll have to commit for ten years.
The news comes from Ron Gourlay, taking part in his first foot-in-mouth exercise; a long interview with Chelsea television. It marks a refreshing change from Peter Kenyon, after all Ron has waited five days after succeeding Kenyon to make a string of arrogant and nonsensical pronouncements where Peter would have been straight in there on day one.
He actually said: “Hopefully, if there was brashness there then maybe you won’t see as much brashness going forward”, which, at least, means he can talk the talk. Only he then spoilt it by brashly saying we wanted to win two European Cups in five years.
The naming rights will have to include the name Stamford Bridge to show respect for our ‘heritage’. We are in danger of showing a lack of class as well as a lack of history, in the eyes of our detractors.
“Retaining the heritage of the stadium is paramount” presumably by rolling it up and keeping at the back of the groundsman ’s shed while we prostitute the name of the Bridge to all comers.
Ron says the move is necessary to keep up with the big spenders and if we ever hope to breakeven, which he admits will not be soon. He also seemed determined that we couldn’t expand the capacity beyond 42,800 but he was forgetting that you could pull down the hotel and start again.
Stamford the lion should sponsors us; he used to boast about his playboy life style, now he can put some of that wealth to good use. Stanford’s map shop in Covent Garden, thankfully Reebok is already taken.
Friday 6 November
The Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted the transfer ban until they have deliberated on the rights and wrongs of the Kakuta business. Given that many expect the transfer ban to be reduced to one window Chelsea have not asked for their case to be fast-tracked but did ask for this window to be open instead of getting the punishment over now and having the summer free to do business. Ancelotti has said that he doesn’t need to sign anyone unless he has an injury crisis, which is unpredictable.
Overall it smacks of management at the club that cannot think tactically going forward.
Under the suspension of the punishment Gaël is free to play and will probably feature for the reserves on Monday against Fulham.
Saturday 7 November
Didier has been talking about how his son told him off for swearing at the ref last May and how that has changed his attitude to discipline: “Isaac came to me and said, ‘It’s not right what you did, Dad, you should have had more penalties, but it’s not right to do that to referees”. With all due respect to Isaac Drogba, already on the books for the under 9s, he is completely wrong, what his father said that night was a concise summary of what had just happened.
Sunday 8 November
Chelsea 1:0 Manchester United
“It’ll be a long road back to Surrey tonight”, said a voice in the pub and Alex Ferguson isn’t going to go quietly: “The referee’s position to make the decision [for the goal] was absolutely ridiculous. He can’t see anything. It was a bad decision. You lose faith in refereeing, that’s the way the players see it.” Or rather the way myopic Scotsmen with a drink problem see it.
One of John Terry’s increasingly rare headers sent us clear at the top into the international break and nearly blew Ferguson’s gaskets.
That Manchester United came to Stamford Bridge with the main aim of nullifying our formation was the biggest compliment Alex Ferguson could have paid Carlo Ancelotti. United played with three in the middle and had Giggs drifting in from his supposed wing, while Valencia spent his afternoon trying to pen back Ashley Cole. They applied these spoiling tactics so well that there was very little flow to the game, Chelsea couldn’t get going and were not helped by a ref who ignored half the offences and saw fouls where none existed.
The first chance fell to Ivanovic, who might be making the right-back spot his own, but instead of squaring to a better placed colleague, he shot at Van der Sar.
Things were getting hairy at the other end; Wayne Rooney nearly broke through but the linesman stopped him, even though he appeared to be on; then Valencia was, er, tugged down inside the, erm, box by JT but no penalty was given. You have to hand it to John it was the subtlest pull on a jersey you’ll ever see or not see, if you are Martin Atkinson.
Giggs lofted one well over while clear and Anelka bent a deceptive shot for Van der Sar to palm away, and that was your lot for the first-half. Didier did lash one into the stands but United put so much effort into stifling our midfield threat and we countered their attacking so completely that the game was deadlocked.
In the second period Wayne Rooney took us on single-handed, creating and trying to convert almost every chance they made. But while they had plenty of the ball you rarely felt they might actually score, the waves of attacks were contained by the midfield shield and defence.
Didier Drogba was having a mixed afternoon, unable to terrorise the makeshift United defence he was booked, ludicrously, after Jonny Evans stamped his studs straight into his chest during a high tackle. In a way you have to agree with Ferguson, the ref wasn’t having a good game.
Then came the moment that sent us five points clear. Ashley Cole was upended by a tackle by Darren Fletcher, United argued that he’d won the ball, but they can’t be so naïve to think that emerging with the ball and leaving the player splattered all over the pitch isn’t going to go against you. Lampard’s cross was headed powerfully by John Terry, only the ball skimmed Anelka’s head as well. The Frenchman wisely declined to claim the goal as he picked up his man-of-the-match champagne.
They pressed, securing a string of late corners, but we dealt with everything that came our way and ultimately looked quite comfortable. It is an odd sensation for Chelsea to win a game where their opponents played so well and we scuff one in controversial circumstances.
The club marked remembrance Sunday with some dignity before kick-off with a minute silence and a symbolic parade of servicemen and Chelsea pensioners. Perhaps Ron was right, we will see less brashness – going forward.