Monday 1 April
Chelsea 1:0 Manchester United
The good game/bad game pendulum swings again. It seems Benitez can only organise a side for one match at a time. Which is probably why his Liverpool sides started the league badly and then faded.
This match was a little off the boil – everyone in the commentary studio expecting Brazil against Italy in 1970 had not factored in the number of games already played and the early start.
There was little of note in the first-half; Demba Ba managed one colossal thump that was turned round by De Gea’s foot, the closest the visitors came to scoring came when Cech appeared to dive the wrong way from a long range shot and scissor-kicked away with his feet.
We did not have long to wait for the opening. Just after the interval, Juan Mata was alone in space and chose the right option; he chipped the ball over the defence for Demba Ba to hook it into the top corner of the net. 1-0. That description does not really do the movement justice, poised as it was between muscular effort and balletic grace: the ball just perfect, seeming over hit but dipping just enough, Ba so nearly offside but just on. It was a goal from nothing, at the limit of human ability.
That we didn’t punish them further was a surprise. United were poor and it is a mystery how they have dominated what must be a weak league. Given the price of a pint we have seen far less of them in games against other sides but they had no drive, Danny Welbeck aside (we slagged him off last week but he was good this), and lacked creativity or determination.
The other moment that will live long in the memory came from their best chance when Hernandez somehow got his head to a vicious cross only for Petr Cech to stretch a mitt to paw the ball over the bar from a tight angle. It was another magical piece of football.
Chelsea U19 0:2 Aston Villa U19
A huge disappointment as Villa somehow clumsyed their way to the NextGen title. We were effortlessly better than them but stout rearguard action and a referee who saw penalties everywhere were enough. It is a shame that Villa beat Sporting Lisbon in the semi because that would have been a good contest but this, limited, Villa side had only brawn.
The first penalty came when the Chelsea player fairly contested a ball in the box and also caught the attacker. It was never a penalty. The second came late on when the referee had sent off a Chelsea player for two yellows (given the physicality coming the other way two cards for a Chelsea player was astonishing in itself) and their player threw himself over in the box.
So Villa are European Champions. The only consolation the Chelsea team have is that they deserved the win.
Wednesday 3 April
Harry Johnson died in Jamaica today aged just 67. Harry produced the Liquidator, he was the Harry J in Harry J and the Allstars and his work will live forever in a corner of west London.
Thursday 4 April
Chelsea 3:1 Rubin Kazan
Fernando Torres has had a miserable few months but tonight showed the first sparks of a recovery of form. He does from time to time but there was decent movement and character about his performance that suggested he really is on the way back.
The big Spaniard’s first was a tap-in after working space well to meet David Luiz’s wicked through ball. 1-0.
The next came from Victor Moses who slammed his shot in from distance as Kazan struggled with the movement and pace of Chelsea’s attacks. 2-0.
Rubin Kazan put Atlético Madrid out in the last round so we’d been expecting a hard fought action. Only, we weren’t expecting the referee to provide the ammunition. A handball against John Terry in the box was absurd as he barely had time to move the ball was so close to him when it was hit. Penalty converted. 2-1.
The second-half was a closer affair but Mata was again in shining form and his cross found Torres leaping highest for his second and a bit a breathing space for Moscow. 3-1.
Ah, the Luzhniki stadium, what could possibly go wrong?
Chelsea U21 1:2 Aston Villa U21
Yes, them again. Snowy old day at Cobham and an equaliser from Connor Hunte wasn’t enough. Our schoolboys are getting plenty of practice at this level though. Milan Lalkovic dipping his late penalty over the bar didn’t help.
Saturday 6 April
Manchester United U18 1:0 Chelsea U18
We dominated for such long periods there appeared only one winner of this one until they scored and we couldn’t quite find a way back in. We’ll spare the players blushes but United playing their full strength youth team didn’t actually manage to score against us either. There were three schoolboys in our side including a debut for Kasey Palmer, newly signed from Charlton.
Sunday 7 April
Chelsea 2:1 Sunderland
There hasn’t been so much noise about a visiting manager for ages. Still it is Sunderland’s own fault. Selecting a new manager with a handful of games to go has always proved a disaster in the past and we see no reason to suggest it’ll work of them this time.
Sure they attacked with more invention than we expected and it was clear that a tired Chelsea squad just struggled through the first-half hoping to get to the break level. Nobody told Caesar Azpilicueta but he was very unlucky to slice the ball in his own net from a corner right on half-time. 0-1.
The frustration building over the Bovril did not have time to simmer as Fernando Torres, a half-time substitute for the injured Demba Ba, skinned the entire Sunderland side to find Oscar in the box who somehow managed to deflect the ball off their goalkeeper and defender and have it roll over the line for the equaliser. 1-1.
The tide had decisively shifted and Sunderland collapsed back to defend deep and never really threatened again.
Branislav Ivanovic claimed later that he had deliberately deflected David Luiz’s shot but it looked for all the world an accident. Whatever the truth the ball slotted into the corner with Mignolet looking on. 2-1.
They mounted a late rally of sorts, and given their manager’s politics you’d expect him to be good at organising a rally, but little came from it and in the end we’d closed out the week with minimal fuss.
Spurs did us the huge favour of only drawing at home with Everton meaning we leapt back to third in a single bound.
It emerged later that Demba Ba will need a scan on his ankle ahead of our up coming matches. Ba was scythed out of the game by Craig Gardener in a tackle that looks worse every time you see it.