We were undone by a very good goal and three very preventable ones. You should leave a team that’s had the money Chelsea has had spent on it to create their own chances, not present them with gifts.
Dividing the match into rough thirds, we were the poorer side during the first; much the better in the second and the final 20 odd minutes was pretty even. In this last period we were unfortunately unable to make the most of any of the many half chances that came along and get back on even terms.
Shorn of Bale the familiar lack of creativity in the middle was starkly apparent right from the off due to the on field comparison with Mata, Oscar and Hazard who all began brightly. The deprivation of Dembélé was nearly as big a blow but Huddlestone did ok and provided some composure albeit at his own pace. We looked stodgy though, just as we have at the beginning of each of our league home games.
There had been few threats on goal at either end before Gallas’s poor header led to Chelsea’s opener. We looked in danger of becoming completely lost at that point, still in the game but without Bale and without a midfield prompter there was no real indication of how we were going to score. Lennon was direct and dangerous but didn’t see enough of the ball – his first run at Cole was in the 24th minute I think – whilst on other side Dempsey was taking too many touches and rarely seemed in tune with what was going on around him.
Our improvement coincided with Sigurdsson swapping with Dempsey and providing a bit more quality on the left. We ended the half better, the high pressing resulting in some good pressure as the Chelsea back four hoofed towards some bloke up front doing a very poor impression of Fernando Torres.
I think everyone expected Adebayor at half-time but AVB’s decision not to make a change was vindicated as Gallas’s quick goal imbued belief and Defoe’s hope. We were now on top and Freund’s Teutonic cheerleader impression on the touchline was replaced by AVB patting twins on the head as he attempted to get the team to slow the tempo. It didn’t work though as Vertonghen went walkabout, Gallas nodded Oscar’s cross into Mata’s path and the game’s most influential player did the rest.
Villas-Boas continued with a substitution he’d been planning at 2-1 and Livermore replaced Huddlestone. Sent on to help defend the lead, within minutes Jake found himself in fact having to help find an equaliser as Hazard’s lovely ball inside Walker was met by that man Mata who finished neatly.
Much as we huffed and puffed the game had now changed for good. There was an outbreak of basketball as we attacked, they broke, we attacked, they broke etc. Walker’s fizzer of a shot in the dying minutes that Cech went down to late and just spooned round the post was the closest we came before the same player got caught in possession by, sigh, Mata, and that was that.
It was a display we should take heart from. There were notable performances from Defoe, Lennon, Caulker, Vertonghen and Sandro. Overall we had more shots on and off target and won more corners. A manager’s job is to get the best from his players and attempt to make them produce something that adds up to more than the sum of their parts. There are signs that AVB is achieving this I’d say.
For all Cahill and Ivanovic’s moaning at the ref, Hazard’s diving, Torres’s sleepwalking and Cole’s impression of the angriest man in the pub at closing time, Abramovich appears to have spent his rubles wisely. But for some defensive lapses though we might have at least held them and in the absence of any points as a reward, we should be pleased with that at least.
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