Having only arrived back from Club Tropicana (the island of Stromboli) in the early hours of this morning, with some form of rabies inherited on a BA Airbus 330, I had about as much inclination to go to Newcastle as the United squad has to spend another night in a hotel with Chequebook Pulis whilst he has access to things like room service cutlery and plug sockets in the bathroom.
In the News: When you are a World Cup winning footballer, how have you not got enough hangers on and sycophants in your wake that you can ring one of them up when you’ve had a skinful and get them to drive you home? I told you all that Lloris looked like a wino. Pip Squeakiola was complaining that his poor little lambs are tired. After three games. Do p*ss off you tedious tart. And Ozil said that he didn’t want to play this weekend because he had a cold. Jesus wept. We have an apparently happy camp at Cobham – relaxed rules on food and now later starts, visits from the likes of Di Matteo this week. Quite the opposite at Wait Hart Lane, where now water pipes are bursting and flooding live electrics. Ha. Chequebook’s demise continues as he snaps at journalists, if he talks to them at all. Four minutes and thirteen seconds his press conference lasted, and he started it early, as in before the journalists got there. Hilariously, Bailly has accused Gary Neville of ruining the morale of United players with his negative comments. Nothing to do with the batsh*t crazy manager then. Wenger had a bodyguard apparently, for the last two years he was at Arsenal. The idea that he needed physical protection from the likes of the illiterate fools at ATV makes me chuckle, because my feline overlord Bertie could take him in a fight with one ginger paw. Karius has moved to Turkey, where I anticipate with those luscious blond locks they don’t want him to be a goalkeeper at all, they want to swap him for a princely camel settlement. Mignolet is moaning because Brigitte Neilsen was allowed to go on loan and not him. I’d be unhappy if they made me stay in the land of Scouse too. Useless stat of week? Milner has never lost a Premier League match in which he’s scored in IN SIXTEEN YEARS. This might be impressive, but how many times has he scored in sixteen years? Twice? On the subject of games being played abroad, La Liga divas are threatening to go on strike. Messi is in on it, and Ramos is “enraged.” I don’t think anyone wants to deal with angry bull Ramos. So anticipate this not happening. Bobby Madley has moved to Norway. Not because they have lapsed rules on how to show affection for your puppy, but because this was in fact a really boring story all along. But if you thought he had it bad, spare a moment to consider the UFC fighter who tore his scrotum in half this week
The Others: City got screwed, which sadly does not earn them extra points or stop everyone from being a little bit in love with Wolves this weekend. Fulham have arrived, it seems, and Arsenal spoiled everyone’s fun by winning, but at least in doing so they consigned West Ham to the bottom of the pile. We’d all enjoy another Chequebook meltdown tomorrow night, but hopefully Lloris will be so p*ssed that he’ll let in a hat full, because nobody wants to see them win. I know it’s like choosing between herpes and gonorrhoea, but I’d rather the Mancs take the points.
Them: They were without Kenedy, who is about as memorable as Andrew Ridgeley in the world of Chelsea, but matters to those of the barcode persuasion. Not that that made a difference last season when we were flailing about like morons and getting stuffed whilst Antonio stood there with his arms crossed in total silence.
Us: Kovacic and Hazard come into the side – so practically the team that finished the Arsenal game. Willian dropped out, but to be fair Pesto (bugger of autospell, I’m too ill) has earned his place. Not even room for the likes of Moses, Cahill etc. on the bench, but as Sarri has pointed out, when we come back from this thoroughly pointless international break that is about as welcome of a policeman about to do a spot check on a public toilet in the world of George Michael, we will be playing a ridiculous amount of games and there will be games for all.
It took less than forty seconds for one of them to rake Hazard’s ankle. Classy. Sadly, this was to be a recurring theme throughout the afternoon. The first ten minutes was pretty even. The first shot came from the home side, as they made the most of George Michael (he can have the nickname back, on account of the exquisite mullet he’s cultivating) not tracking back. Murphy was particularly instrumental in trying to sp*r them on, but after a quarter of an hour we had begin to build a bit of pressure. However, there was a bit of a scramble on the box revolving around Rudi, we had not actually fashioned a meaningful attempt.
Eden was down again on 19 minutes when someone stamped on his leg, which was a fair reflection on just how much trouble he was causing the barcodes. His long range shot shortly afterwards, whilst he was still limping, was our first effort though it was always going wide. Morata and Dave had contrived to get into the box by the time our talisman was cynically fouled again, by which time Captain Dave was having a pointed word with the referee. Any of these three incidents could have been a booking, if the official was not a bellend. Having this pointed out to him did little good. A minute later Eden was on the deck again after some rather unnecessary follow through that went unnoticed. Or ignored. Hazard had his angry face on now.
Newcastle had accomplished 68 passes in the first half hour, compared to our 320. We’d had 75% possession. Do you know what this proves? That statistics are wank. Because though the home side had faded completely out of the game, and put ten of their eleven men in their own box, we hadn’t had a shot on target. They got the odd break. Rondon headed wide on 33, shortly before some outstanding play from Hazard to play Pesto in across the box. He placed it perfectly towards the far corner but the Keeper pounced on it like half the planet on every new, tired, boringly formatted Dan Brown book that pollutes the market.
It will not shock you to learn that Kovacic was booked for a tame foul after half their team had tried to remove Hazard’s legs from his body. Half time was approaching and we had nothing to show for our dominance. A good free kick from Hazard on 42 minutes was put out for a corner that Rudiger sent flying towards Kovacic, but he couldn’t get there. There was more scuffling in the box on 44, but still no cigar. Eden had been the stand out performer, and appears to just have the “freeeeeedoooom” to go where he likes under the new boss. He was all over the ball again in the closing moments of the half, but we did everything but put it in the net. Sigh.
As you were up here then. The home side clinging on, only really making an effort when it came to defending in large numbers, but doing it well. All we could do was pray that act two wasn’t the norm, i.e. the part when they nick one, we fall apart, and end up getting stamped on like the misguided fool that tries to nick a chip off of Allardyce’s plate when they think he isn’t looking.
Even Rondon was fifteen yards the wrong side of the halfway line after half time. Uncle Albert (Sitcom alias) quipped that they should just print Condom on the back of his shirt, as the opposition is so safe when he is around. We managed a great move forward on 49. Dave endeavoured to place it so carefully that there wasn’t any real ferocity on it as it flew towards the keepers near side and he claimed it easily. Nobody was playing badly, we were just being frustrated by a determined effort at defence from the barcodes. Morata had a good day today. Clever play, industrious play, the only thing missing from him was a goal as he drew a foul out by the sideline approaching the hour mark. He had his chance shortly afterwards, but the ball was loose and never quite sat up for him and all he could do was try and poke it. You know that if he hadn’t stood up today, I would say so, but the two times when I was about to fume “MAN UP YOU BELLEND!” I didn’t actually need to, because he did.
Kepa had had nothing to do since he safely claimed that one shot on target about an hour ago, and the 27% possession they had supposedly had was in the first ten minutes. We were constantly pressing, giving them no chance to catch their breath, so they manufactured a breather on 61 when they didn’t so much as get booked for a red card challenge on Dave. Who needs to worry about finding the ball when you just throw your entire body at your opponent’s ankles. Not even a yellow. In fact not a single one of them had been booked, even taking into account their Hazard vendetta. Morata and Dave almost pulled their double act off, but by now Willian and The Beard were warming up. Pesto was hooked for Little Willy and Morata for The Beard. I don’t think any of the substitutions had any negative reflection on those that got hooked today. The barcodes were proving difficult to break down and it was time to try something different. Is this not what substitutes are for? Fresh legs, new ideas.
Speaking of, on 64 minutes one of them finally got a yellow card. Schar. Huzzah. We now had about half an hour to make this utter supremacy count, but like a slumbering and not very agile grizzly bear who had been in hibernation since 16:10 this afternoon, they were starting to think that might be able to eek something out of this game now and started actually playing football. Well, and continuing to foul people, because on 69 minutes Jorginho was body slammed. Instantly afterwards Ritchie escaped with a yellow card for ignoring the ball completely and ploughing into Hazard like Sam Allardyce if he saw our burger-loving little Belgian taunting him with a Whopper.
It was looking like we might have to exchange humiliation for frustration, which is a step up on most of our forays to this place. Which is cold, wet, they all talk funny and they lie, because there is no castle. Rudi had had enough and cracked the cross bar from about 30 yards out. He’s not even the same ethnicity as George Michael, but I swear his shot was so good I thought it had to be the Spaniard.
And speaking of him, whenever we are backed into a corner he seems to pop up, this object of so much ridicule when we signed him for peanuts and he was only familiar to English people because he’d played for Bolton. In all his years, (more than 50 at Stamford Bridge) Uncle Albert reckons that only Ivanovic comes close in terms of another defender with such tunnel vision when he gets in the box and it comes to sticking it in the net. The idea of Ritchie screaming about injustice when we were awarded a penalty. Hilarous. Bellend was lucky to be on the pitch. George was yanked, pulled and finally fell over, at which point the defender finally touched the ball. In the words of a nearby Newcastle fan, this is all acceptable, because when it’s Chelsea, and you’re Newcastle, the only thing you can do is bring them down and you shouldn’t be penalised for it.
“No f*cking about that one,” said Uncle Albert as Eden smashed it home. No shimmies, no comedy, just decisively buried, which is what you want from your star man. What you don’t then want, however, is a ludicrous scenario in which your whole defence stops because one of the opposition has tried to kill your mate and a barcode equalises. You play to the whistle. Yes. But when one of your chums gets flattened you have a right to be expecting some kind of intervention from the officials. If not for the beard getting in the way, The Beard would certainly have been decapitated. There would have been a French head rolling across the pitch up there in a manner that the world has forgotten since the Bastille was on fire and there was a guillotine on every corner in Paris.
Which brings me to Refwatch. Paul Tierney. We’d never had him before but 80% of the games he’d done for them, in the bleak wastes of the Championship, they had lost. Send him back there. Not good enough at this level. Let a lot of stuff go, but not consistently, so managed the Anthony-Tayloresque feat of having both sets of fans want to kill him. Woefully out of his depth.
Now they were trying to win it. Obviously Rafa’s masterplan had been for all of their attackers to conserve energy until 5:30 and then try and overrun us. But they didn’t bank on George Michael again, for there he was to punt the ball towards goal, skimming some hapless twat who probably should have been sent off an hour ago. 1-2. Five minutes. The only time in your life you have ever seen an adequate amount of stoppage time given. Perez might have nicked something back on 92 but his long range shot was high and we were over the line.
So: They got what they deserved and I’m not having any of it. Rafa should give his players more credit. They looked ten times more likely to be a threat to this result when they actually played football, as opposed to all standing in their own box waiting for us to make a mistake. This could have been a weekend of refereeing f*ckwittery at the top which contrived to work entirely in the Red Scouse’s favour. Colour me not in the least bit surprised. But in the face of adversity, justice and right half-prevailed, in our favour, not City’s. So hurrah. Stick that in your yack-worthy Amazon documentary and smoke it Pepalicious. What a performance from Hazard, while we’re talking about adversity. And George Michael. More general observations? Looking more organised every time I see us, and ten times more motivated in all quarters than in this fixture last season. What I like most about Sarri so far is that we aren’t always last to every 50/50 by ten yards. And I like his hippy approach. Apparently Sarri told the defenders to ignore their opponents; ostensibly because Condom wasn’t very good. It’s a novel approach, but it just about worked today. Also, why buy a house when you can just live at the training ground? Why buy clothes when you can live in your complimentary tracksuits? More money to spend on fags, init.
Read more from Alexandra on her excellent blog.