Chelsea 4 Stoke City 2
Saturday 31st December 2016 15:00
In the words of Eddie Murphy: Merry New Year! And in the words of Chewbacca: Uuuuuuurrrrgh Ahhhhhr Uhrrrr Aaaaaaarg.” Which I am reliably informed translates as “Stand up, if you hate T*ttenham.”
The Others: The league’s most prolific scarecrow, Worzel von Gummidge, and his merry band of nivea coated sh*tty topknots remain six points behind after serving another dose of humiliation out to Pep. City are now ten points off the pace. But more importantly, how tedious is BT coverage? And I had gin on the go. How much does Klopp go on? Is he capable of delivering a post-match interview that comes in shorter than a Lord of the Rings film? I quote Marlene (sitcom aliases) at half-time in their game: “Look at Michael Owen, what a j*zzmop - f*ck off back to your horses.” Quite. And as if he isn’t tedious enough, what about Gerrard? He is about as void of a personality as he is of any league silverware. One had to pity Jake Humphries playing to a crowd of deadpan Scouse-affiliated pond-life for the usual four hours of post match analysis. Kompany didn’t want any part of it - he voluntarily stood out in the crowd shivering his nuts off instead.
United left it late to turn Boro over. I swear HWWNBN was not this tedious when he was with us. He’s waffling away about having 70,000 brilliant fans on the pitch with his team. Anyone who’s been to Old Trafford knows that this is bullsh*t. Someone pointed out to me that love is blind, but this awakening is epic. For us, this must be the level of horror that Peter Andre felt when he woke up and realised that he'd been married to Katie Price. Elsewhere, Burnley thumped Sunderland, Leicester did enough to secure a home win against West Ham, Bournemouth battered Swansea and Southampton lost at home to West Brom. They’ll be willing Charlie Austin back for his goals as much as I am so that I can drool over him in a pair of shorts.
Our Game: Pesto (auto spell) got an enforced rest as he saw out a one game suspension, and Matic dropped to the bench to prevent him picking up the one yellow that would mean he’d miss Sp*rs next week. The rest was as you were. The only injury we've picked up is Conte, who got so excited in training that he gave himself a calf strain. I'm a little bit in love with him. Ok. A lot. Stoke were missing Walters, which was a shame given his goal scoring record for us. Crouch on their team sheet ensured that we’d have an hour and a half of amusement as his expense and urgh, Charlie Adam - giving every chubby middle-aged man in the stands hope that he can still make it as a Premier League footballer. I've seen better specimens of man at the darts this week. Actually, if you stripped Adam and Phil Taylor naked and put a bag over each of their heads, I'm not sure I could tell the difference.
Stoke had definitely come to have a go. More of a go than West Brom, anyway. Their display hinged on them being disciplined in midfield and keeping possession, but straight away, as soon as they were under pressure at the back they looked flaky. A quarter of an hour in I wrote in my notes: “It will not take 80 minutes to break this lot down.” We had an early opportunity, which Kante scuffed wide, but in truth, there was so little on it that it would have been comical if Stoke had actually conceded it. We made a practice of taking short corners, which made complete sense when you looked at 10 big b*stards (well nine big b*stards and a freak of nature) packed into their box. As the half progressed, Operation Timewaste kicked in, as Stoke attempted to dull any intensity we could get going, but when we did have the ball we weren’t doing anything exciting with it. Dare I say without Pesto there was not quite the same pizazz (great word) but maybe this is more about how he fits in with Hazard and Costa at the moment as opposed to us being dependent on him as an individual. It's the three of them together, on fire that are unstoppable. Diego controlled it under difficult circumstances, but smashed it straight at the keeper. Stoke were lucky that the quick rebound off their defender and fell into his arms as opposed to their own goal. Marlene and I had been saying that we should send in some long corners, as defending set plays, Stoke appeared to be essentially a big ugly collection of meatheads with a combined IQ equivalent to a cabbage. On 34 minutes we did just that and Cahill took advantage of Alonso leading off the defenders to head it home. The discipline that had seen Stoke keep plenty of possession evaporated after the goal, as did, thankfully, the desire to spend more time over every throw in or goal kick than Charlie Adam spends lingering at a Christmas buffet table. We went into the break pretty relieved to be 1-0 up.
Then after half-time basically all hell broke loose. I’ve got to say I think the guy that was offside did pull Courtois off from being able to save Martins Indi’s goal but I’m only seeing that wih the benefit of a replay. And we have been rather spoiled in not conceding anything of late, and annoying as this was, Stoke by no means looked stable at the back. This was entirely surmountable. Time to step it up. And we did. Willian hit the side netting less than two minutes later, we went just wide on 51, forced a save on 52 and then fizzed it across the box on 55. Finally, just after that Moses did brilliantly to cross into Hazard, who teed it up for Willian. The shot was hit perfectly to make it 2-1. As of now the wheels came off discipline wise. No doubt this will be referred to as “dogged” or “determined,” but when Crouch is employing a unique tackle that involves grabbing Luiz around the throat and dragging him off the ball, and Diouf misses the ball and punches Alonso in the face, you’ve got to question why they aren’t getting penalised. I don't even know why I'm surprised. C'est Stoke. C'est la vie.
The away side made a double substitution on the hour and shortly afterwards there was a melee in the box that possibly included a foul, but when you let a player who can't even walk properly score against you, you can’t really complain. Chaotic defending and Crouch bumbling around kicking people resulted in him being in precisely the right place to hit it home.
These are my notes:
“Let’s not have a tantrum. Not every game goes your way. You just have to knuckle down and....
What happened?! Who F*cking cares!!!
OK, so as it turns out, we kicked off from having just conceded the second and Hazard just wasn’t having it. Within a minute we’d charged up their end and Willian struck up into the roof of the net to put us back ahead. The game still did not settle and Conte made the utterly sensible substitution of Matic for Fabregas to shore thing up and make sure we didn’t f*ck it up again. The play continued to go from end to end, as Stoke tried to get a third equaliser and we took the opportunity to counter attack. Three passes down to Diego on 76 minutes and he clipped it over the bar, Moses, of all people cleared it off the line at our end. Then on 85 Costa held off two defenders fouling him, like a beast, and rifled it in from a ridiculous angle to seal the three points.
Refwatch: Bobby Madeley. I read in a preview that he was the worst ref in the league. That’s harsh, said Marlene and I. No. It isn’t. Literally bonkers at times. Absolutely impossible for the players to gauge the tone of the game with yellows being brandished for nothing and nasty fouls and persistent infringements going unpunished. I’m losing track of how many times I’ve said this: As fans, we don’t ask for perfection, we just want consistency.
So: Thirteen in a row. THIRTEEN! Oh the irony. The first 3pm kick off on a Saturday since people celebrated the New Year by drinking mead and pillaging the next town in search of witches, and it was worthy of being on TV. It was a repeat of the Scouse game for Stoke, who at least turned up to play football and were not thumped by any means in terms of play. But still they ended up shopping four goals. We were Apollo Creed (In the first film, not against the Russian) and they were Rocky Balboa: big, ugly and stupid, but nonetheless slogging it out to the end. Someone said that Willian has been shit of late. I don't think he’s been that bad, but his decision making has not been great of late. He’s seems to hang on too long before passing, or he gives it away, or he doesn't pass at all. Let’s hope that his brace and his second half showing today is the start of an upturn in form that will bring him somewhere close to the blessed little fluffy haired saviour who basically carried us for most of last season. Costa almost literally broke his neck trying to score today. I’m starting to lose count of how many goals are a result of this kind of effort on this part, whether he gets the glory or not.
We were given a different challenge today. Pegged back twice and we’ve still managed to win it without destroying everyone’s blood pressure too much in the end. In the same way that you have to blag 1-0 victories when the going gets tough, two or three times a season you have to win these inexplicable matches where you make mistakes and a team as hapless as Stoke score two against you. We are relentless, apparently. And I take that as a compliment. And as for today, a little bit of adversity builds character, even if it is of your own making.
I'm off to carb up ready for my never-ending ghetto walk along the Seven Sisters Road on Wednesday night.
Image of large happy fan defying gravity with the grace of a swan comes from Chelsea's official Instagram page.