Tuesday 26 November
Basel 1:0 Chelsea
Lost to Basel again then. What is it with Jose Mourinho’s new Chelsea? We stood toe to toe with the lightning fast breaking and pressing of the Swiss just as we had at the Bridge and we couldn’t match them.
In the old days, one suspects, Mourinho’s side would have played out, cautiously from the back with men behind the ball to prevent quick breaks and snatched a 0-1. Here we rumbled as they thundered and while it was great entertainment through midfield it wasn’t intelligent football. For all the blistering, open, attacking football in the second-half we managed not a single shot on their goal.
Petr Cech had to be on his game in the first-half as he tipped round efforts from all angles while we managed one cross into their box. All the control and power of the weekend at Upton Park had vanished. Samuel Eto’o limped out of the action after seeming to extend his knee.
Fabien Frei, Valentin Stocker and Kay Voser all played through the middle with a speed that made you wonder how this lot failed to beat Steaua home or away. But Mohamed Salah was the assassin as we switched off after De Bruyne was introduced and a simple long punt over the top had Ivanovic and Terry wading in treacle as the Egyptian buried us again.
Jose summed the performance up when he used a pillow hand gesture – we had sleepwalked into a predictable defeat.
The only good news from the schlep to the most expensive corner of Europe was that a draw in the other game between Shalke and Steaua means we have qualified for the next round come what may. Failed with ten points last year but through with only nine and a match to play this.
Basel U19 1:2 Chelsea U19
This was another end-to-end encounter this time with the right result. A few younger players got a shot at this competition with Ola Aina and Dion Conroy making their debuts at U19 level.
Goals came from Lewis Baker, well the deflection took in but he will claim it. John Swift nipped in for our second shortly afterwards and a late free-kick was the first goal we have conceded.
Wednesday 28 November
Two workers died in Brazil as a crane collapsed onto one of the World Cup stadiums. Brazil has been struggling to get the infrastructure finished. The stadium in Sao Paulo will be home to Corinthians after the World Cup was due to host the opening game.
Victor Moses and Obi John have both won awards in Nigeria. Victor is footballer of the year and Obi John scooped sports man of the year. Both were part of the Nigeria team that finally won the Africa Cup of Nations for Nigeria, their first pot since 1994.
Friday 29 November
Romelu Lukaku should come out and say why he suddenly transferred to Everton back in August according to Jose Mourinho. The official line has always been that he wanted playing time ahead of the World Cup and we had just signed Samuel Eto’o.
Meanwhile the women’s team have flown to Japan for the unofficial world club cup. We enter at the semi-final stage and will play either Japanese or Australian opposition. With Yuki Ogimi in the side we might generate a few headlines – Yuki won the women’s World Cup and Olympic silver with Japan in recent years and signed for us in July.
Saturday 30 November
Leicester City U18 2:1 Chelsea U18
A bright start and an opening goal from Mukhtar Ali couldn’t withstand Leicester City and the under 18 team hit only their third defeat of the season.
Sunday 1 December
Chelsea 3:1 Southampton
A total workout in every sense as Southampton arrived with an advanced pressing game and we gifted them the lead. Stubborn determination and a bit of luck turned things around in the second-half.
The Saints reputation this term has been won on fast attacking and pressing a high line. It has led to teams like Man City and United and Arsenal finding it near impossible to get through them.
Facing a defensive side gifting them an early goal is a seriously bad idea: Michael Essien had a bit of a rush of blood after only 13 seconds he played the ball straight to Jay Rodriguez who netted without hesitation. 0-1.
Michael has not started a game yet this season and his rustiness was painfully obvious as he was booked for diving – a pretty weak attempt as well. We were getting forward more – with Mata back in the starting line-up we looked to have more penetration. Torres and Oscar managed headed efforts but Artur Boruc saved both well.
Oscar wonked his ankle at some point and was replaced by Frank Lampard just before the break.
Just after the break Demba Ba appeared in Essien’s place and we played 4-4-2. It was like a blast back to pre-Hoddle days and while you could quibble that it was far more a 4-3-3 with Torres and Hazard wide of Ba we’ll stick to the nostalgia.
It worked as well. After Lampard’s free-kick was palmed out for a corner a complicated series of touches involving Ivanovic’s head and Ba’s shin left Gary Cahill to stoop the ball over the line. 1-1. Boruc broke a finger against the post in the melee and had to be substituted. Paulo Gazzaniga – who is not the offspring of Paul Gascoigne and Nigella Lawson – replaced him.
The first thing Gazzaniga had to do was pick the ball out of the net as Lampard found Mata from his initial corner and the Spanish maestro’s curling cross was looped in at the far stick by John Terry, on his 400th birthday as well. 2-1
The visitors spluttered toward our goal occasionally but we were asserting our domination and having missed a flash across the box Demba Ba stretched to tap in Ramires’ cross. 3-1
Ramires deserves a special nod as he worked tirelessly tackled brilliantly and never gave in.
Liverpool lost while Spurs and Man United drew which leaves us clear in second place.