Did I say I’ll catch you after the win? What a sweet feeling! I have a great feeling about this season already. Chelsea and Ancelotti start the season on a winning note. And we have just beaten our most important title rival. Plus, we have won a penalty shootout! Chelsea were thoroughly deserved winners of the FA Community Shield 2009/10. Truth be told, Man Utd were kept quiet for most part of the match while Chelsea were completely dominating them all over the park. You’d agree if you are not a biased Man Utd fan. Chelsea had 57% possession, had 12 shots on target to Utd’s 9 and had 5 shots off target to Utd’s 2. If you watched the match, you’ll know that apart from the first 20-25 minutes, it was Chelsea all the way.
Man Utd were missing some players but that’s second nature to us. Couple of years back when we played and lost to Man Utd in the community shield, we had to play without strikers (that’s when Malouda scored on his debut). I have no sympathy for injuries in football anymore. Even Man Utd’s revival in the premier league was helped by our injury situation. A club like Man Utd must have a squad that must be good enough to play and win matches like these.
It was a very well contested match. Both teams took this match seriously and they did want to win this trophy. Having lost the match, Man Utd fans might belittle the trophy but looking at their players I don’t think they took it lightly. They absolutely wanted to win the trophy but they were defeated by a better team. Even if they undermine the trophy, I’d still be happy with the fact that we outplayed them and beat them in the first official match of the season.
I didn’t expect four goals in this match. Typically, Chelsea weren’t awake for the first 20 minutes. Nani made use of an indecisive and lacklustre Chelsea and slammed a powerful shot. That was a very good goal. I wanted us to equalise in the first half but we didn’t, though our game improved a lot. Chelsea then equalised with an intelligent play in the box with Lampard and Malouda combining to create a chance for Drogba which fell in Carvalho’s path. Then, a swift counterattack saw Drogba dribble through to the Man Utd box and sweetly laying it off for Frank Lampard inside the box. That goal #1 of another 20+ goal season for Lampard. While we were just going through the motions waiting for the final whistle, Rooney scored with a superb finish, but that was clearly offside. He was caught caught by the offside trap but the linesman missed it and Rooney took full advantage of it.
Let’s remember that this is the first official match where Chelsea were experimenting the narrow 4-4-2. Lampard himself was not at ease being at the tip of the narrow midfield. I felt Essien too did not feel at home in the right side of the narrow midfield. To have Malouda play on the left midfield so close to the centre does not get the best out of him. So we had to spend some time on the pitch getting used to the system. That was the time when Man Utd pounded us with attacks. Once Chelsea settled in, you saw them bossing the pitch with their midfield maestros.
When it got to penalties, I thought, ‘enough’s enough, we’re winning the shootout today’. We took our penalties superbly well while Man Utd screwed it up. Petr Cech made two saves including the catch of Evra’s pass while Foster did not even get the sides right. Sadly for Man Utd, Rooney and Owen had not even taken their penalties when Kalou sealed it for Chelsea.
For Chelsea, I thought John Terry was immense. He was my man of the match. Drogba was at his deadly best but he was trying to create goals for others instead of scoring by himself. Anelka was very quiet and must have been subbed off earlier. The goal that Lampard scored must have been that of Anelka. I wonder why Anelka did not position himself better for the pass and scream for the ball. Malouda was good as well. Cech was at fault for the first goal and Bosingwa was beaten for the second. Ivanovic was a walking disaster and was rightly subbed at half time. Lampard was a bit off-colour early in the first half and then started asserting his authority. Typical 8/10 game for him. Deco’s performance was impressive. First up, he looked interested and he looked like he wants to fight for his place. Very healthy signs.
There was a lot of noise from the Manure gang about the build up of the Lampard goal. Certain facts there: (i) Ballack did not foul Evra, it was just an overreaction for a body check (ii) After Evra fell down, the ball went to Man Utd player – Rooney (iii) Rooney did not put the ball out of play, he went on to build the attack (iv) After Rooney’s touch, the ball went to another Man Utd player – Carrick (v) Even Carrick did not put the ball out of play, he went on to build the attack (vi) Then the ball was won by Chelsea who also went on to build their attack (vii) All this time, the referee did not think it was necessary to stop the play (viii) The referee knew that Ballack made contact with Evra’s chest and Evra fell down holding his face (ix) Chelsea scored a legitimate goal.
When Chelsea lost to Ovrebo in the champions league semi final, all these self-righteous manure fans were preaching us on how to respect the referee and how we should learn to finish our chances. Now, eat this. I can’t even tell them to learn to finish their chances. After the first 20-25 minutes, there were not in the game. Did you see how their team surrounded the referee and hounded him? Did you see what kind of role models Rooney and Ferdinand were? If you do this for a 72nd minute lead for a community shield match where you were outplayed, how would you expect Chelsea to react when they were undone by poor refereeing and a last minute heartbreaker? Staying on the topic of legitimacy of goals, let’s also touch upon the goal by Rooney. I’ve seen it many times now. I’ve paused it, rewinded it, played it and I’ve done them over and over again. That goal was offside, by premier league standards. Manure must be happy that they were allowed go to the shootout to get shot. When I predicted a 2-1 win for Chelsea I didn’t count offside goals, so my prediction stays correct.
Finally, a word on Ancelotti. True to his word, he stuck with his 4-4-2 narrow diamond. Once Chelsea started finding their feet, it was classic Chelsea at display. Domainating the midfield, winning the ball with consummate ease, creating chances and making those cracking tackles and full blooded blocks. The 4-4-2 narrow diamond was good as in, we were able to create chances but I have a feeling that we could become a bit predictable and negotiable. We will have to wait and see. The one area of concern I saw was that we were truly exposed in the flanks. In this narrow midfield, if the opponents are playing with two wide men, our full backs are going to be tormented. This very formation against some top quality wingers and wing backs would be dangerous. For instance, against a Real Madrid or a Barcelona, this would just be suicide. I don’t know how this would develop as the season goes on. Again, we will have to wait and see.
Ancelotti was impressive in his first official match. He was smart to sub Ivanovic as early as half time. And his decision to bring on Ballack for Malouda was just right for that situation. I was also happy that he took off Anelka for Kalou. I would have loved to see Sturridge but dear young Kalou came in and did the job with a superb penalty. It’s good that Ancelotti gets off to a great start. Scolari also got off to a flier and his Chelsea was found out by November. So, I don’t want to shower praises or give any premature accolades. We’ve got a long season to go. One thing is clear. Chelsea are clear favourites this season. No team is as strong as Chelsea in England. All Ancelotti needs to do is to fully capitalise on it.
Meanwhile, I see that more than 50 of you have signed up for the BlueChampions fantasy premier league. It’s gonna be a cracking season there too! If you haven’t joined in yet, join right now. Premier league proper begins next weekend. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the win, shall we?