We all hate UEFA – crooked b*stards. But we’d be lying if we said we didn’t forget that like the European football loving whores we all are when we hear that damned theme music as the teams walk onto the pitch. At least until we get knocked out, then we can resume hating them again.
In the news: I reserved top spot here for the Zlatan: “Lukaku is better than me? You make me laugh, my nose is bigger than his career.” If you haven’t googled this man’s top 10 quotes, you haven’t lived. The Daily Fail are that bored that they’ve begun running daily articles about players’ ratings on FIFA 18. Yes. Computer football. Can only assume it is some dastardly ploy to try and con a whole new generation of schmucks into reading their newspaper. Their so-called three wise men have been at it again this week. Despite the sight of stitches all over his victim’s face, Chris Suttoninsists that Mane should not have been sent off for dangerous play, and that anyone who says that they believe he should have been is a “liar.” I was marginally more disturbed by the close up that reveals that Ederson has a f*cking emoji tattooed on his neck. Another of these exalted pundits, namely Redknapp, has suddenly declared that taking part in one 5-0 drubbing against just ten of Klippity Klopp’s band of muppets after months of being pretty average makes De Bruyne the best player in the league. I suppose at some point people thought the world was flat, but that is still no excuse for this level of f*ckwittery. Klopp meanwhile says that his midfielders are to blame for the loss. If his dubious adhesion to personal hygiene didn’t convince you he wasn’t right in the head, this should. And remember how four weeks ago they thought that Antonio would win the race to be the first outgoing manager? De Boer is gone. Too soon in my opinion. Palace weren’t that bad against Burnley. They sacked Pardew for that big sow Allardyce too. Every time they make a move that threatens to lift them to a new level they panic and revert to sh*t on a stick football. Why else would you hire Uncle Woy?
The Others: Happily, in our group, Atlético and Roma both dropped points in a 0-0 draw, which means that we lead the pack with a hefty goal difference. We couldn’t have asked for a better start. In United’s suspiciously easy (as always) group they ran out 3-0 winners against Basel and CSKA beat Benfica at theirs. Celtic got a beating from PSG and Bayern subdued Anderlecht, so no surprises there. Somewhat bafflingly, Barcelona managed to put three past Juve’s stingy defence, leaving them on the back foot and Sporting beat Olympiakos. The Italians will still be confident of getting out of that group.
Them: I’m going to take this seriously. Mowgli even bought me a programme for this section. FK Carrier Bag (ok, not that seriously) play in Baku, in a 68,000 seater stadium, so they aren’t minnows in their neck of the woods. They are Azerbaijan’s league champions and played in the group stages of the Europa League last season. Just like Arsenal will this week. They had already played seven matches to get to this opening game of the group stages, including beating Copenhagen over two legs, so they have earned their spot. They are a multinational side, with representatives from the Ukraine, Poland, Bosnia, Spain, South Africa and Haiti as well as a pile of home grown players. Their captain is an Azerbaijani footballing legend. Now I have said all this respectfully, I can say that if you offered me a billion pounds I could not pick one out of a line up and name him. I really do wish I was doing the away game, because I’ve never been remotely near Baku, but it clashes with my walking across the desert in aid of veterans. (Link below, with info, all donations much appreciated)
Us: Some squad rotation tonight before a game against some mid-table has-beens on Sunday. Cahill and Christensen came in for Rudiger and Luiz, Batshuayi for Morata, and in midfield Hazard still sitting out, Willian starts then, as does Fabregas. Zappacosta made his full debut in place of Victor Moses.
And so there we were on a rainy September evening. You know it’s not the normal crowd in when the Shed Upper gets an early round of “Ziggy Zagga.” And we were treated to a hospitality box next to the Shed taken up by rampant Azerbaijanis in full voice. Bless ’em. They stayed till the end and screamed themselves hoarse. The opening five minutes was a quick rush up the far end and then a flurry of chances for the likes of George Michael and Michy. We were ahead almost straight after those thanks to a perfectly hit long range strike from Pesto. (Pah, autospell) He was winding up to hit that thirty seconds before the ball arrived at his foot, he had that much time and space. They settled down a little by the tenth minute, and were knocking the ball about quite quickly amongst themselves, but every time we were running on goal they looked like they were sh*tting their pants. Quite a lot of ball hogging going on in blue – with everyone sensing a chance to get one. Michy did hit a ball back for Willian, who had clearly shaken of his jet lag, but when the save came back his own way he could only hit the side netting. On 21 mins Zappacosta almost had his first goal too, but he was offside. As Boycie (sitcom alias) pointed out, probably no need for the ridiculous Hollywood save by the goalkeeper. But then that never stops De Gea does it?
There was a bit of hope for the away side when a free kick was heading straight towards goal on 28 minutes, but it got no further than the wall. Then we went straight up the other end and Zappacostastunned the crowd with a worldy half an hour into his Stamford Bridge career. That’s what a goal looks like when you mean it, Harry F*cking Kane. Because he did. He looked up, couldn’t see a cross and for me, he decided to have a go. If he contradicts this, I am right and he is wrong, by nature of me being a woman. Because we are always right. Victor Moses has to share his tune with the Italian new boy now – that goal was worthy of the immediate “Doo doo doo do, Zappacosta.” We also had a round of “Zappacosta – he scores when he wants.” Not a Y word in sight. The Red Swarm will be disappointed. We could have had a third on 32 for George Michael or Kante, but for the ball getting tangled under a prostrate defender’s feet in between them. Zappacosta had another one go wide on 34. There was now a universal shout of shoooooooot every time he touched the ball. (no doubt tomorrow the Red Swarm will be saying that we booed him) For their part, they had a low drive from distance go straight into Thibaut‘s hands just after half an hour, but although they had been spirited they never really looked like scoring. They made a decent run a couple of minutes later, but it was swept up with some acrobatics on the part of Cahill and Azpilicueta.
Part-timer Granville was already p*ssed off about the lack of beer on European nights. Then they ran out of hotdogs at the other end of the Shed at half time. “Wouldn’t have happened on Kenyon’s watch!” He moaned. I expect they did have them, but when he asked for gravy on it they looked at him in disgust and denied it. It’s bad enough the pig has to die, without disrespecting it with all that northern nonsense.
This was turning out to be even more chilled out than Everton. The last two home games have made this football lark look rather easy. There was a bit of a lull after half time; another shot on target from them, but not enough on it and easily taken by Courtois. Boycie and I had to put up with the two losers next to us talking about women that weren’t attractive enough for their liking. Neither of them was an oil painting. They paid a combined amount of £60 to sit and bitch about girlfriends. You could do that for a lot less in your local Spoons. And I wouldn’t have to hear it. Happily Dave briefly shut them on 55 minutes when Fabregas put the ball into him. Absolutely unmarked in the box.
I says to Boycie: We should hammer this, we might need the goal difference in a tight group.
He says: Yeah.
Right on cue, because Antonio always listens to us, there was Eden‘s bum jumping up and down waiting to come on for Pesto. I should point out that in the p*ssing rain, with his coat undone like the ‘ard b*stard that he is, Conte was still raving like a lunatic at 3-0 up. He made a second change just after the hour mark, resting Kante ahead of a Sunday and giving Bakayoko a run out. I expected the opposition to be hanging out of their a*ses by now, looking like Wayne Rooney falling out of a Volkswagen Beetle with a kebab hanging out of his mouth in the wee small hours. To their credit, though, they were much fitter than I expected and still running, but they still didn’t look like achieving much at the end of it. We were back to Ziggy Zagga again. There are literally two words to this song. How can you get them wrong?
Then the floodgates opened. Willy hit the bar before Bakayoko saw his shot deflected into the back of the net on 70 minutes.The indomitable Dave was given a bit of a rest and replaced with Rudiger, but the back three still didn’t look remotely troubled. Michy finally got his goal on 75 at the near post. He hadn’t played badly at all, but he had squandered a couple of half chances, enough to set off a bout of sphincter action among the nappysh*tters. It would, though, have been pretty cataclysmic had he not been amongst a pile of goal-scorers tonight. Happily he got another on 81 when Batshuayi (and the defender) bundled it over on the line. As the game wound down they they could have had one, but some bloke put it high. Two minutes later their number 9 hit it even further over the bar and looked like he wanted to dig a hole on the pitch and climb in it. I didn’t think they were embarrassing tonight. They were outclassed by a mile and it may turned out to be that I’m high on cow after the amount of birthday burger I ate before kick off, but I don’t recall any Mignolet/Moreno style clownery that you would have laughed at. Refwatch: typical Euro ref, classes football as a non contact sport. Blew the whistle far too many times but I’ll take that over the Premier League when they can’t stay consistent for five minutes. Gladiator style, thumbs up, I will let him live. This time.
So: Hard to judge in such an uneven contest. Zappacosta was an absolute menace on the the right hand side. Hazard looks like he’s getting right back into the swing of things – though not ready for ninety minutes yet by any means. Again Bakayoko showed flashes of absolute beastery when he came on, and I maintain that in his tackling and his general aura of scariness Rudiger reminds me of Ivanovic c.2009. Willian fully awake again after his long flight back from international duty and solid performances fromCahill and Christensen coming in having not played at length for a while. Any criticism? Against better opposition Michy won’t be able to miss four or five chances to have a go at the goal before he puts one away. But we won 6-0 and he got a brace, so if I got on his back now I’d sound like an Arsenal fan. Speaking of, that was a nice run out before we face the Goons at the weekend, by which time I will have consumed that much gin to dull the pain of ageing another year that I can’t promise my match report will make any sense. Till then …