Blues 1 Chelsea 0 - Ron's Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 22 November 2010

That was what I said when Blues lost 2-1 at Arsenal last month.  It's always seemed to be the case too - Blues play the top clubs, generally don't get stuffed but come off at the end having lost my a narrow margin with everyone patting them on the back saying it was a good effort.

Well, that was until this Chelsea game.  For the first time since the Premier League began and, incredibly, for the first time in my lifetime, Blues beat Chelsea. 

Bizarrely, it was one of the few games against one of the top clubs in which Blues were opened up at will.  When fulfilling their role as gallant losers, Blues normally restrict the top clubs to a few chances, one of which is taken.  Here Chelsea had what seemed like hundreds of chances, but couldn't take one.  Perhaps Blues should approach these games differently in future…?

Had Chelsea won this game 4-1, you'd have left the ground disappointed but commenting that it was fair result.  That they didn't was down to a quite stunning performance from Ben Foster and some incredible resolve shown by those in front of him.  The travelling Chelsea fans applauded their team off at the end, which was fair.  They couldn't have done much more, to be honest.  They played very well.  Apart, of course, from putting the ball in the back of the net.

Much had been made of Chelsea's poor form, injuries, lack of Ray Wilkins, etc - there was plenty of focus on it.  Sunderland had absolutely torn them apart six days previously at Stamford Bridge and I'll be honest, I thought that could backfire on Blues.  It's often said that wounded animals are the most dangerous, and it's true. 

If you wanted more evidence of how tough it was going to be, you only had to look at the Chelsea side which, despite all of their injuries, was still pretty damn good.  Their four most advanced players were Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka, Solomon Kalou and Didier Drogba.  Those are often their first choices in their respective positions.  Granted, Kalou's not always a starter, but he often is and the other three certainly are.  Then behind them they had Jon Obi Mikel (who is very under-rated and acts as their Barry Ferguson, knitting everything together), Ramires who is a Brazilian international and cost a fortune, then four international defenders all playing in their proper positions and one of whom is probably the best left-back on the planet.  Then in goal there was just Petr Cech.  It was still a pretty awesome side. 

Credit does need to go to Alex McLeish for his team selection in that he opted for 4-4-2 and perhaps decided to have a go for Chelsea.  It could well have backfired and had Chelsea taken either a quarter of their chances, it would have done, but as Steve Bruce is always saying, sometimes you make your own luck in football.  Would it have been different had Blues picked 4-5-1?  Possibly not, but we'll never know.  Lee Bowyer came in for the injured Craig Gardner but otherwise it was the same team for Blues, with Keith Fahey keeping Alexander Hleb out of the side (I must confess, I never thought I'd be writing that eighteen months ago).

Chelsea's first half performance was excellent - make no mistake about it.  They started well and played well for the full forty-five minutes, apart from one ten second spell that I'll mention shortly.  Before Blues scored, Drogba should have put Chelsea ahead when one one one with Foster who made the first of many saves.

We all know as Blues fans that Seb Larsson is crap in open play, Cameron Jerome is rubbish in the air and if he's lucky enough to get his head on anything, it's like russian roulette as to which direction it will go in and, of course, the Lee Bowyer's legs have gone.  These are facts.

Imagine the surprise, therefore, when Larsson put in a fine cross in open play, Jerome towered and won a controlled header onto the onrushing Bowyer who'd made a Bowyer-esque run from midfield for him to calmly slot past Cech.  Who'd have thought it??  Bowyer deserves immense credit for his finish.  It may have looked easy, but the way that he just took his time and waited for Cech to commit before lifting it over him was sublime and something not all Blues players would have done.  It looked much easier than it was.

That was it from Blues.  Their only chance of the game.  Do we care?  Of course not.

The rest of the first-half was Chelsea v Foster and Foster won.  Well, he drew 0-0 I supposr, but Chelsea couldn't beat him - that's the main thing.  Some of his saves were standard, but some were quite stunning, such as the Gordon Banks-like one from Drogba's header and the near post save from a free-kick when he literally saw it at the last minute.  Malouda was excellent in midfield whilst Drogba looked more like his old self and, to be honest, Blues couldn't cope.  Foster could though, so that was ok.

The second half wasn't dissimilar, except that Chelsea created less really.  I think those in front of Foster decided it was time that they helped him out a little and Blues put on a fabulous defensive performance.  A backs against the wall job can be even more thrilling to watch that dynamic attacking (I guess as a Blues fan I have to say that, as it's all I've ever seen), and that's what Blues produced.  Roger Johnson who, as per usual, played on with an injury, was superb.  So were his three fellow defenders.  So were the midfield - Fahey had another excellent game.  Even Jerome up front contributed very well second half in giving the team an outlet and working the Chelsea defenders.  It's also worth mentioning one header that he flicked away from Alex from a corner when Alex looked for all the world as if he would power it into the back of the net - Jerome had let his escape in the first half for one of Chelsea's 317 chances, and it was good to see he remedied it in the second half.

As their were heart attacks around the stadium, the clock very slowly ticked down.  The fans that made up the poor attendance, given the opposition, got louder and louder as they willed Blues not forward, as such, but just to stop where they were - defending.  As the full-time whistle went the scenes were fantastic and such that aren't seen at St Andrews enough - literally everyone fully celebrating a fine result.  It was a great feeling.

After defeat at Stoke, Blues' next two games were away at Manchester City and home to Chelsa - sides full of multi-million pound signings (plus Gareth Barry) bought by billionaires.  One point from the two games would have been a huge bonus.  Blues got four without conceding a goal.  That's pretty decent really.

Have Blues turned a corner?  Well, it's far, far too early to say.  On another day Chelsea would have won this 4-1.  Blues were very lucky, but sometimes you earn that luck and sometimes you deserve a little luck . Blues got it and that was great.  By no means was this a victory like Sunderland's last week though.  Blues were up against it from start to finish and got lucky.

Who cares though, right?  The fact is that Blues fans shouldn't get carried away by this result, but at the same time, if you can't enjoy results like this, why bother going to football?  Blues will probably lose 2-0 at Fulham next week and everyone will think we're going to get relegated again - it's the nature of football.  Let's just enjoy this result and this week first - they don't come around too often.

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