The minute’s silence before kick-off was to be just about the only calm moment in what turned out to be yet another ill-tempered encounter with Manchester United.
Carlo Ancelotti made a couple of changes, with Ricardo Carvalho back to partner John Terry in defence and Nicolas Anelka and Michael Ballack both back after their rest against Atletico Madrid midweek. Unfortunately, he also saw fit to put Deco in ahead of Joe Cole which wasn’t his smartest move seeing as our Portuguese midfielder didn’t actually show up.
For United, Dimitar Berbatov was missing and Nemanja Vidic was on the bench, so we’d have been forgiven for thinking this might not be so difficult after all – we’d have been wrong though because from the off, we knew we were in a game.
We had a frustrating first-half, with United having far more possession than it was comfortable to watch and if we’re honest, they had a fair shout for a penalty just fifteen minutes in with the Chelsea captain grabbing a sly handful of Valencia’s shirt in the box. Aside from that though, they weren’t exactly testing Petr Cech, in fact it was Nicolas Anelka stinging the fingers of van der Sar with a curling shot, but we just weren’t settling into the game as well as they were. To the relief of my fingernails, we managed to go in all square at the break though.
Second half didn’t look to be heading anywhere better for us really, with Rooney making a right nuisance of himself, with United turning the screw ever tighter. Then around 70 minutes in, Drogba takes Evans’ studs full on in the chest to a rendition of ‘same old Drogba, always cheating’ from the away support. Free-kick? Booking maybe? Naturally, but in this case the foul went against Drogba – yellow card for putting his chest in the way of Evans boot. Made perfect sense really.
Or at least the ref’s decision made perfect sense considering the decision he was about to make anyway because predictably, these games HAVE to have the odd bit of controversy. So when Fletcher tangled with Ashley Cole, leaving our left-back on his arse, no-one should’ve been surprised to see us awarded the free-kick this time. Not that we were going to complain, particularly when Lampard’s free-kick found John Terry’s head and was dispatched into the back of the net.
Fortuitous? Abso-bloody-lutely, especially after Drogba looked to have fouled Wes Brown and got himself in a questionable position complete with outstretched leg. Still, shit happens as they say – and it was our turn to come up smelling of roses. The customary handbags inevitably followed with Carvalho running away from a foul, ignoring the whistle, only to be fouled by Evans – yellow card apiece and the game was getting decidedly bitchy.
Painful time-keeping from the officials saw 5 minutes added – and to say those 5 minutes felt like an age is putting it mildly. Somehow we did it though, 1-0 the score, 5 points the difference.
Overall then, John Terry was lucky not to give away a penalty, which would’ve seen a different game and even luckier to get the winner, not just because the free-kick was questionable but also because the ball actually came off Anelka’s head before it went in. And whilst I think it’s fair to say United were battering us, you’d have to say they were pretty lucky to finish with ten men on the field despite Evans best efforts to play karate kid. And whilst it might not have been our best performance of the season (in fact it’s pretty clear it wasn’t), I can’t see any of us apologising for the ref’s decisions – we had the chance, we took it and god knows we’ve had our fair share of decisions go against us in the past.
CHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, A Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Deco (J Cole 63), Drogba (Kalou), Anelka (Alex, 93).
Unused Subs: Mikel, Malouda, Ferreira, Kalou, Alex, Hilario.
MAN UNITED: Van der Sar, Evra, Brown, O’Shea, Evans, Anderson (Owen, 84), Giggs (Obertan, 84), Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney.
Unused subs: Owen, Vidic, Scholes, Fabio, Obertan, Gibson, Kuszczak.
John Terry (76 mins)
Filed under: Match report