Monday, October 26, 2009
Ancelotti, back in the dugout after visiting his seriously ill father in Italy in midweek, watched his side produce a fabulous performance against ragged Rovers to go two points clear at the summit.
Chelsea destroyed Sam Allardyce's outfit with two goals from Frank Lampard, one a penalty, plus others from Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and an own goal from Gael Givet.
The game was so one-sided that had Chelsea taken all their first half chances, the scoreline could have been in double figures.
But four goals in a 15-minute second half spell handed Rovers their biggest defeat since Allardyce took charge at Ewood Park and kept Ancelotti's 100 per cent home record intact.
Joe Cole, making his first start since January, should have opened the scoring for Chelsea within the opening minute but he somehow headed a cross from Lampard wide of the target from six yards.
Lampard was inches away from giving Chelsea the lead in the 10th minute when his 20-yard shot just evaded the far post.
But the Blues broke the deadlock in the 20th minute with a goal of classic simplicity.
A Blackburn attack broke down allowing Michael Ballack to collect the ball in midfield.
The Germany captain fed Nicolas Anelka on the left flank with a superb low pass and when the France international crossed the ball into the six-yard box, it was turned past his own goalkeeper by the unfortunate Givet.
Blackburn had to rely on counter-attacks and in the 25th minute they almost grabbed an equaliser but Morten Gamst Pedersen's 20-yard effort flashed wide of Petr Cech's right-hand post.
Chelsea's players were lining up to shoot and Essien tried his luck from 25 yards in the 29th minute but although the ball dipped violently in the air, it still went over the crossbar.
Lampard wasted another chance to increase Chelsea's lead moments later when Ballack's cross found him unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. However, the England midfielder put his header wide of the target.
In the 33rd minute, Rovers goalkeeper Paul Robinson came to their rescue when Lampard fed Anelka inside the penalty area.
A second goal seemed on the cards but Anelka's shot hit Robinson in the chest, much to the frustration of Ancelotti.
It was shooting practice for Chelsea and Robinson did well to punch away a 35-yard blockbuster from Drogba.
Five minutes before the break, Anelka turned and twisted before firing an 18-yard shot into the sidenetting.
Pedersen was the first player into the notebook on the stroke of half-time for a foul on Branislav Ivanovic. Seconds later Robinson pulled off a magnificent save to deny Lampard again.
Chelsea, somewhat predictably, went further in front in the 48th minute through Lampard.
The England midfielder scored his first goal in open play in the top flight since last April when he finished off a fine Chelsea move.
Essien sent Drogba racing into the penalty area and his cross was only half cleared by Lars Jacobsen, leaving Lampard to pick his spot from eight yards.
It was 3-0 in the 51st minute when Essien sent a 35-yard shot thundering beyond the despairing dive of Robinson.
Anelka then tried to repeat the feat in the 54th minute and his 20-yard shot was so fierce that Robinson had to save at the second attempt.
It got worse for Rovers in the 58th minute when Ryan Nelsen brought down Drogba inside the penalty area and Lampard converted the spot-kick for his second of the game.
Drogba underlined Chelsea's superiority in the 63rd minute when he rose highest to head home a corner by Lampard to make it 5-0. It was the Ivory Coast international's eighth goal of the season.
In the 67th minute Chelsea replaced defender Ricardo Carvalho with youngster Jeffrey Bruma for his Premier League debut.
Cole was then replaced by Daniel Sturridge, making his home league debut, in the 76th minute. Cole received a standing ovation from the fans and a hug from Ancelotti.
The England midfielder had shown he was back to his best during an afternoon when Chelsea returned to top form.
Saturday 24th October 2009 will live down memory for both Ancelotti, Chelsea faithfuls and Blackburn Rovers.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Argentina and Honduras were they first before host Nigeria and Germany followed suit. There is much to say about the first day, but will limit myself to issues that are more of football than peek into the facilities.
At about 4pm local time, on one the few grass tuft of these championship, the Argentines took the game to Honduras from the blast of the whistle.
Though sometimes quilty of over elaboration, showed so much class i thought i was watching the senior world cup. One thing we need to give to this championship is the standard of play so far. It took so much persistence for them to finally breach the Honduran defence who just would'nt just yield.
They later scored and were it not for the water logged pitch, would have probably scored more goals.
Two hours later, the Nigerian Golden Eaglets took the stage along with the Germans. Many people were looking up to this team to erase the sad memories of the U-20 world cup, but that was not to be as they quickly went down by a goal following poor ball delivery and lack of cordination. The Germans superior tactics was such that at the end of the first halt, they were already 2 goals up.
Thanks to a penalty awarded the Eaglets and a red to the Germans, we regained control of the game only after we have gone 3 goals down. In very quick successions the goals came and it was 3-3 just before we went slowly back into our slumber. We couldn't capitalise on the 10-man situation to snatch a winner. Overall, they standard was high and the argies were particularly inspirational. The Eaglets showed a lot of promise but you could easily detect a disjointed team without any form of camping to get use to aone anoether. good first after all. See you tomorrow.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Benitez's circumstances are clear enough. He needs to end Liverpool's worst run since 1987 swiftly, and while a meeting with Manchester United provides danger it also provides opportunity and the best possible chance to blow away the clouds of crisis.
And yet, in among the politics and behind-the-scenes pantomime that has replaced what used to be called "The Liverpool Way", it should not be ignored that the champions have not always been convincing themselves this season.
It does not do to question the team that sits on top of the Premier League once more, and Ferguson's faith in Manchester United's growing maturity and his strength of squad is backed up by how they have held firm as Liverpool and Chelsea have slipped recently.
But even seasoned and partisan Old Trafford observers would have to agree there has been an uncharacteristic vulnerability in defence, a fault that can be attributed to the uncertain goalkeeping of Ben Foster and the lack of match fitness and sharpness of Rio Ferdinand.
United needed to call on their time-honoured knack of escapology to fashion a draw from an awful display against Sunderland and it was sobering to witness the panic stations as they held on for victory against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford last Saturday.
The Champions League win against CSKA Moscow in Russia, sealed by the rapidly improving Antonio Valencia, had a reassuring "job done" air from a reshaped team and will have provided huge satisfaction for Ferguson.
Sunday provides a pivotal moment, even though we are talking about a season in its infancy and the glint in Ferguson's eye as he pondered this trip to enemy territory proved the point.
If United can go to Liverpool and win, revenge for two defeats last season will be a small matter when placed against the wider context. Ferguson is unlikely to have forgotten the way Liverpool - and in particular Fernando Torres - made short work of a defence that had made Premier League history in a 4-1 thrashing at Old Trafford, but a win at Anfield would soothe those painful memories.
Victory would be an emphatic assertion of authority by United. It would put them 10 points of clear of Liverpool and make pre-season predictions of a return of the title to Anfield (who was it who made those bold claims?) an even more distant prospect.
Ferguson will give Rooney every chance of recovering from a calf injury because he will be the main thrust of their game plan against an uncertain Liverpool defence. Darren Fletcher falls into the same category because he is implictly trusted to exert influence amid the midfield mayhem of such encounters.
If Rooney comes up short, what price the intriguing inclusion of Michael Owen in Manchester United's line-up against Liverpool at Anfield? The once unthinkable prospect.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is facing up to the worst injury crisis of his five years at the Reds' helm ahead of Sunday's visit of champions Manchester United.
Benitez will oversee a succession of scans and medical examinations on a host of his top stars following Tuesday night's 2-1 Champions League defeat at home to Lyon.
Benitez said: "We have just too many problems, I cannot remember an injury situation like this."
Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson both missed Tuesday night's game with groin injuries, while Steven Gerrard limped out of the match in the first half with a recurrence of the problem he picked up while playing for England last week.
Winger Albert Riera is also in need of a scan on his hamstring while teenager Martin Kelly's impressive full debut was ruined by an ankle injury.
And Benitez claimed his troubles do not end there.
He said: "There are other players with other problems, I have no idea what team I can put out against Manchester United until we have had the players tested and seen by the medical team."
Benitez, however, refuted suggestions that playing Gerrard was too much of a gamble and insisted his team can still qualify from Group E and reach the last 16.
Lyon maintained their 100% record at the top of the pool with Tuesday night's win, while Fiorentina's 4-3 victory in Hungary against Debrecen puts them in pole position to grab the second qualification spot.
Liverpool now must raise their game in their final three matches in order to progress further. They are away to Lyon in a fortnight, then travel to Budapest on November 24 before their final home game against Fiorentina on December 9.
The hosts led at half-time on Tuesday night through Yossi Benayoun, before crumbling under pressure to concede goals to substitutes Maxime Gonalons and Cesar Delgado - the latter in stoppage time.
Benitez said: "It was not a gamble to play Gerrard. He wanted to play and had trained normally for two days.
"He was given the all-clear by the doctor and it was just bad luck what happened. He felt something wrong in his groin, and it was wise to come off."
Liverpool have launched amazing recoveries in group stages in previous seasons to advance in Europe's premier club competition, and will need another one now.
Monday, October 19, 2009
By lunching it page on facebook, it has beome the first football club in the world to use the new Facebook connect app. Next month peter Cech is set to fill questions from fans all over the world from the club' website and fans will be able to participate in an online live streaming interview session. Cech will try as much as possible to answer every question.
This will be very welcome as fans will have the one on one feel with the Keeper. This interview session with the fans comes up early next month and all you need to do to participate is to add the Chelsea badge to your facebook profile. From there you can post your questions and get it answered by Cech. To get the full details visit http://www.chelseafc.com/page/LatestNews/0,,10268~1830622,00.html .
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Chelsea faltered at Villa Park against a more organized and determined Martin 'O Neil's side. liverpool showed again how much the team over depends on their captain and Torres.
Though sunderland isn't everyone idea of a very bad team as showed so far having claim Manchester United's scalp earlier on, the Ballon Goal notwithstanding, Liverpool need to do some spending in January. For now the league is looking like we are talking about top 7 when you consider that Aston Villa, Totternham and Manchester city are clicking so well.
Arsenal maintained thier 100% home run this season even when they appear shaky in the second half. Deja vu? Last time Eduador was the victim, this time Walcot. Manchester city will take on Wigan today and if they win they go third. I think i like it this way.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I have been busy with several other issues like putting finishing touches towards upgrading the website www.naijafootballfans.com to an online magazine as well as lunch the print version of the site. So much on my hands in the last few weeks as i virtually left the rantings to Imaikop. Good job Imaikop. We'll be hearing more from Imaikop anyway whether or not i am available.
Now to issues more football. My worst fears look like hitting us hard at the camp of the super Eagles. Rumours have it things have gotten so bad that, the Yar'Adua's task force, is so frustrated despite all the force, have resort to ignoring the team as it is looking more and more true 2006 missed opportunity is about to replay in 2010. Again let me just say it again, i will not watch the Super Eagles if they qualify for the world and Amodu gets to be the coach.
Yes, the eagles are likely going to qualify. After watching the Mambas, i have every reason to believe the Cartage Eagles can't possibly leave maputo with maximum three points. I am almost 100% certain of that. My doubt is in wether the Super Eagles can capitalise on this to snatch the ticket. I don't know if we can beat Kenya.
On other matters, Samson Siasia receive an ovation from fans in defeat. That was really commendable as we seem to have matured enough to know when and where not to lay blames. I was impressed but dissapointed with the act of booing the Nigerian national anthem.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Drogba, a bizarre mixture of toe-curling amateur dramatics and fearsome attacking threat, was even more of a nuisance when upright, on his feet and punching holes in Liverpool's Premier League title credentials.
The Ivorian's contest with Fernando Torres was billed as a heavyweight confrontation wrapped within Chelsea and Liverpool's battle to make an early statement of intent to challenge Manchester United's domestic domination.
There was only one winner. Drogba may spend more time on the deck than any glass-jawed boxer, but he delivered crucial blows while the subdued Torres barely laid a glove on Chelsea.
Benitez navigated his way around any inquisition about Drogba's antics. He has more to worry about than Drogba after a third defeat in eight league games raised fresh doubts about Liverpool's capacity to end a 20-year wait to win the title.
Drogba showed all sides on his nature in a game settled by fine margins, but one deservedly decided in Chelsea's favour. Call him an old ham. Call him a drama queen - but never call him anything less than a world-class striker.
On one occasion, Chelsea captain John Terry even appeared to suggest to Drogba that he might be better served getting up and getting on with it rather than making another appointment with the Stamford Bridge physio.
This was one of many priceless interventions from Terry, because Drogba's main talent is playing with the sort of power, drive and ruthless pursuit of opposing defenders that set up goals for Nicolas Anelka and substitute Florent Malouda.
Torres, in contrast, had a laboured and fruitless afternoon. He started a physical confrontation with Terry that he was never going to win with a nasty early challenge, an ill-judged move that only appeared to inspire Chelsea's captain in his efforts to snuff out Torres, a personal battle he won long before the final whistle.
If there is a minor flaw in this great striker's make up, it is a tendency to became side-tracked by pointless bickering instead of inflicting damage with his ability. He has been bogged down by side issues on three occasions this season, when Liverpool have played Spurs, Aston Villa and now Chelsea.
Liverpool fans, and perhaps Torres, can work out for themselves what is the common denominator in those three results.
If Drogba provided the muscle in Chelsea's win, Terry was the heart and soul. He was withering in his assessment of Chelsea's performance in defeat at Wigan - and he led by example here.
When Anelka put Chelsea ahead on the hour, Terry cut short his celebrations to gather his team-mates around him and order total concentration. When Malouda settled affairs deep into injury time, Terry's release of emotion was an illustration of the importance of this victory.
It was fitting that the final act of the game was Terry rising imperiously to clear a corner before leading a communal huddle of elated colleagues. He was an immense figure for Chelsea.
And for coach Carlo Ancelotti, it was a win that put another layer of gloss on his reputation. Luiz Felipe Scolari's early successes were exposed as a false dawn when Liverpool won at Chelsea last season - no such problems for Ancelotti.
Ancelotti has made the partnership of Drogba and Anelka work, while he showed his willingness to be flexible by withdrawing Frank Lampard from the point of Chelsea's midfield diamond formation.
It was a not a move that brought immediate success, but it was Lampard who won the ball from Javier Mascherano to start the move that led to Chelsea's first goal. The record shows he is more effective arriving late in the area and Ancelotti's switch appears to be a recognition of this.
Chelsea were also well-served by stand-in keeper Hilario, in for suspended Petr Cech. After questioning his ability in the build-up, it is only right his faultless contribution is acknowledged here.
If it was a game that will have given Chelsea fresh confidence for battles ahead, it was an experience that will have left Liverpool nursing renewed doubts.
ln Benitez's words they were "not bad." He was right because Liverpool were not bad, but not bad never wins Premier League titles and they were found wanting in crucial areas.
Liverpool, while lacking serious ambition, were coping until Anelka ended the stalemate, but the dash and verve that illuminated their final three months of last season has not been present against a better class of opposition this term.
Benitez's team selection also begs questions. The exclusion of Yossi Benayoun for Albert Riera was mystifying. He drifted around the edge of affairs, looking more the player he was on loan at Manchester City than the Spanish international Benitez splashed out on.
And while it is understandable that the temptation to tuck Steven Gerrard just behind Torres is almost irresistible, surely on this occasion the captain would have provided a better midfield contrast to Mascherano than Lucas.
Mascherano and Lucas is a creative vacuum as a central partnership and Liverpool needed more, and will need more. Did the fact Benitez chose not to move Gerrard demonstrate not just his unswerving loyalty to Lucas, but also a lack of faith in Liverpool's attacking undercard?
Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel gave cause for hope with an improvement on performances in recent weeks, but they could not deal with Drogba and Anelka when it counted.
Xabi Alonso gets better with every game he doesn't play for Liverpool, while the pressure on Alberto Aquilani to deliver grows with every day he edges towards eventual fitness.
Benitez sought some solace in defeat by suggesting Liverpool are now winning more games this season while they were guilty of drawing too many last term. In other words the points might even themselves out this time around even if Liverpool lose more matches - risky logic this.
Six points off the top hardly represents crisis time for Liverpool, but they lack momentum and Benitez cannot rely on what he sees as a more unpredictable Premier League throwing up results like Wigan beating Chelsea or Burnley beating Manchester United. It's early days still and, as Benitez says, no time for panic.
There is no shame in losing to Chelsea but Liverpool have lost to the four best teams they have met this season at home and abroad - there is no shield against this reality.
For Chelsea coach Ancelotti, it was a satisfactory end to a week that brought ludicrous suggestions that he was under pressure after his first league defeat and a scratchy Champions League victory.
The Italian was at his deadpan best as he dismissed the scare theories and delivered the line: "Football is the same the world over." Not quite Carlo. Not every team has a Didier Drogba. And for all his faults Chelsea were grateful they had him to see off Liverpool and return Ancelotti's side to the top of the table.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Arsene Wenger becomes the longest-serving manager in Arsenal's history on Thursday. The Frenchman took charge of the Gunners on September 28, 1996 and has since gone on to win three Premier League titles and four FA Cups during his 4,749 days at the helm. Wenger also led Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006 but his hopes of European glory were crushed after Barcelona secured a 2-1 win in Paris. The former Monaco chief has now surpassed George Allison, who was in charge of the north London outfit between 1934 and 1947, as the Gunners longest-serving manager and he has been backed by his current squad.
Wenger Brought Henry into the club in 1999 from Monaco and he went on to be the club's top goalscorer of all time with 226 goals in all competitions between 1999 and 2007 having surpassed Ian Wright's total of 185 in October 2005. Wright's record had stood since September 1997, a feat which overtook the longstanding total of 178 goals set by winger Cliff Bastin in 1939. Henry also holds the club record for goals scored in the League – 174– a record that had been held by Bastin until February 2006.
Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal's current captain, was signed by Wenger as a 16-year-old from Barcelona's youth team and he has now gone on to be one of the most valuable players in world football during his time at the Emirates Stadium.
After failing to produce any silver ware for almost the last 5 seasons, wenger credibility has in recent times comes under scrutiny. But the frenchman does not bother himself about this. The board management and fans are still in support of him. He is still a great coach. He has recruited more players, and many youth team players has been called into the senior team to boost the squad. The likes of Russian Arshavin, English Theo walcot, Spanish fran Merida who gave Nigeria U20 something to think about in Egypt on monday and Thomas Vermaelen, etc.
These are talented stars that can turn things around for Arsenal. I hope they will bring back those good days for Arsene Wenger to smile victoriously again.