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Premiership
Saturday, 18th November 2006

Chelsea 1
West Ham United 0

by Gordon Thrower


I really do have to stop making little throwaway comments as I leave the house on matchday – all too often they seem to be coming true to our detriment. This week’s howler as I left the lovely girlfriend was something along the lines of “As long as we don’t end up losing 1-0 thanks to Mike Dean’s usual incompetence in the face or Chelsea’s usual penchant for blatant cheating I’ll be happy”. OK I may not have used the word penchant but in every way the rest of the prediction came true. We lost 1-0 thanks to a Drogba dived that the corrupt/incompetent cretin Dean fell for.

Transport For the self-aggrandisement of Ken Livingstone (sorry London) had agreed with whoever digs up the track on the District line that the main line from east to west London could be dug up on precisely the day when it was most needed making it an awkward journey for most of us. I myself ended up walking along the King’s Road alongside people wearing nice shiny new Chelsea shirts. Now I know that Chelsea are an easy target for this sort of thing but when you hear comments such as “Shall we get a latte here or do they do them in the soccer stadium” from a frightfully well-spoken woman in a beret and a suspiciously-new looking Chelsea scarf you think “sod it – they deserve all the stick they get”

Home team news was that Tristram and Jessica had had decided to attend the match rather than going to the rugby as it was a “frightful bore” to watch a side on a 7 match losing streak. Meanwhile back on planet earth Anton was back to replace the injured Collins and Zamora was to play as the lone striker giving us a starting XI of Green, Spector, Konchesky, Gabbidon, Ferdinand, Tevez, Etherington, Mullins, Bowyer, Reo-Coker, Zamora.

It was a mediocre start by both sides. I’d like to see the stats but possession seemed fairly even to me though this was more a function of both sides having a tendency to give the ball away. Maybe I should stop being surprised by this but it always amazes me how quiet things are at Stamford Bridge these days, the home crowd’s silence being interrupted only by a strange whining sound that reminded me of the mosquitoes on my holiday earlier this year. It turned out that John Terry was in full whiney mode, whingeing at every decision. Presumably Terry was not aware of the fact that every time Dean referees us – and the stats will bear me out on this- it is decisions from him that cost us the game so why not just let him get on with it.

Drogba was first to cause problems, manhandling Spector to force a corner. Terry’s header went over but only after the England captain (and boy does that show how the job has been devalued in recent years) had pulled Ferdinand out of the way something that even Dean couldn’t miss.

We weren’t without ambition – much good work came down the left where that well-known jazz combo “The Etherington-Konchesky Axis” were showing occasional signs of combining well. One such move forced a corner which was pulled back to the edge of the box. The delivery was a mite too high and Spector’s header went harmlessly over. Another good spell of passing saw the ball worked out to Tevez on the right but, in a tale of the season thus far, the final ball lacked quality and went wide.

Chelsea forced another corner which Terry headed wide prompting another barrage of abuse aimed at Dean. There had been no foul of course – if anything Terry had been climbing, but it was another example of the not very subtle softening-up of officials that goes on at Chelsea.

Then the diving started. First everyone’s favourite tub of lard went down under absolutely no challenge whatsoever blatant and appalling but Dean needs no invitation to stitch us up and gave it with glee. Lampard’s shot was awful but Dean, working on the principle that no shot from Lampard could possibly have been that bad of its own accord, gave a corner. He should watch the occasional match – most of Lampards goals head in that direction before being deflected in.

Dean then booked the Lampard for a cynical trip on Spector. The resulting free-kick caused a bit of a fuss between Cudicini and his defence to bring a corner but as ever that came to naught. As Chelsea broke away Bowyer had both legs taken away from behind but the perpetrator escaped punishment from the weak and incompetent Dean.

Then we went 1-0 down and, as ever with this particular official, it was Dean who can claim the credit. A long ball played up towards Zamora saw Carvalho haul him to the ground – this was somehow deemed to be a free-kick to the home side. From the free-kick the ball was played through to Schevchenko whose clever lay-off put Drogba through. Drogba lost control and dived. There is no other word for it. We all know he dives, the whole of football knows it – hell even Dean knows it. He gave the free kick anyway. It was a fine free-kick that Geremi dispatched with aplomb but should never have been given. Once again we’d been cheated and once again Dean was at the centre of things. Which is probably exactly how he likes it. To add insult to injury Gabbidon was cautioned for the non-challenge.

Drogba then spent the next ten minutes trying to goad Reo-Coker into reacting. “Accidentally” walking into the skipper here, a subtle kick at the ankle there. Dean saw all this but other than wagging an admonishing finger from time to time took no action – though had Drogba been in claret & blue I doubt he’d have made half time.

The final chance of the half came our way. Tevez did well to win the ball back on the right. The cross found its way to Etherington on the edge of the box. The winger set himself up but volleyed a yard or two wide.

The half-time entertainment at Chelsea is always amusing. It consists of parading an ex-player around the ground and asking the various stands to applaud him. Last season they’d used Pat Nevin – a player who had done a lot for Chelsea. Of course nobody had recognised him. It seems that they’re running out of “legends” or, failing that, they’re not even bothering. Hence the arrival of Jason Cundy who, by any standards, would probably struggle to register so much as a footnote to an appendix to any air-brushed history of Chelsea that they might publish. Let’s face it, if they wheeled Pele out at half time it probably wouldn’t be enough to put the “customers” off their half-time search for a latte so Cundy had no chance. Of course there were a few boos from the away contingent as he passed – prompted no doubt by his spell at Sp*rs. Cundy looked delighted that finally someone knew who he was.

The pleasant interval surprise was a sudden tap on the shoulder from Upton Girlie who sits behind me at the Boleyn and keeps me supplied with chocolate at half time. Having spotted me in the crowd she made the trek from the far right hand side to supply me with my half time Kit-Kat – it was just like being at home!

The second half was fairly even. The fat one had an earlyish chance when a loose ball from Gabbidon found Shevchenko whose clever ball inside was wasted – possibly causing the occupant of row z where the ball ended up to spill her latte. Up the other end a similarly clever run and ball in from Tevez met with Zamora’s unwieldy touch and the move fizzled out.

Cole (A) then got some space on the left hand side of the box but his cross was poor. The clearance was pooere and fell to the feet of Lampard whose touch let him down and Bowyer was able to block easily. A Green punch under suspiciously illegal pressure fell to Essien whose first shot was blocked and whose second shot was about as accurate as a governmental inflation forecast- ie well wide of the mark.

A through ball to Shevchenko was dealt with excellently by Ferdinand – Shevchenko’s dive and roll for once not fooling the idiot Dean. Etherington then got the better of Geremi only to see the final ball once more let us down and Terry was able to clear easily for a corner.

Dean had been quiet for a bit so started dishing out the yellows – Mullins foul on Essien was revenge for a similar lunge the same player had perpetrated on him in the first half. Mullins cautioned Essien not. Reo-Coker then picked up a yellow for attempting a foul on Shevchenko – Dean loved that one. Tevez then picked up the days most stupid disciplinary sanction – a yellow card for a challenge so minor that Essien probably wouldn’t have noticed had the idiot Dean not decided that it was caution-worthy.

Harewood replaced Zamora who as ever had run his legs off in the lone striker role. Shortly after, Chelsea had their best chance of the half when Essien’s 25-yard effort hit the base of the post to go wide. That and a goal hilariously ruled out for offside was about it for the hosts – Green dealing comfortably with everything that came his way. Young Edward and McCartney replaced Bowyer and Etherington and, whilst we enjoyed a fair bit of possession, the guile required to break down a stubborn defence wasn’t there. Dean had one last trick up his sleeve – spotting Drogba’s handball was one thing but somehow forgetting to pull out the yellow card for unsporting behaviour that should have followed was unforgivable.

A late chance fell between the feet of Ferdinand but digging it out proved to be beyond the defender and Cudicini held on to the ball for the final 20 seconds of stoppage time to see the home side home. Lampard endeared himself to the away support by making a reasonable facsimile of a rude gesture towards the 3,000 or so proper supporters in the ground who had stayed behind to applaud a battling performance. Closer inspection will probably reveal that the gesture fell slightly short of the required standard to qualify as obscene but the intent was clearly there and the pathetic attempt at applauding the away support was obviously designed to make things look better. Put simply it was a stupid gesture from a stupid little boy – oh for a Fletcher out there to “have a word”!

Overall it was a better performance than I’d hoped for – going 1-0 down a few weeks ago might have seen us cave in. Not this time. I’d have preferred to have seen us work the ‘keeper a bit more though that was always going to be hard given the opposition. Overall there was enough in the performance for me to be cautiously optimistic for the next two weeks. At least we won’t have to spend it in an arena as soulless as Stamford Bridge.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Rarely can an away ‘keeper have been tested as little at Stamford Bridge – though there was a wee question mark over his positioning for the goal.


Jonathan Spector
Stuck to his task well without ever quite dominating his man.


Paul Konchesky
Continued improvement from a rocky start to the season – Matty’s improvement can be linked to the renewal of their partnership out on the left.


Anton Ferdinand
Another solid game against star-studded opposition. Managed to do all that without moaning at the ref. Terry take note.


Danny Gabbidon
Another one who is improving after not the best of starts. Shouldn’t have sneezed so close to Drogba though – well there has to be some reason why he went down so easily.


Hayden Mullins
Not overawed by the opposition and not afraid to dish out a spot of revenge when the law enforcement task proved to be beyond Dean.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Battled hard but was somewhat distracted by the somewhat cynical wind-up efforts of Drogba, though thankfully he stopped short of landing the right-hander that the Duane Dibley look-alike richly deserved.


Lee Bowyer
Another who got little reward for his efforts – Dean being particularly lenient in regard of some of the late challenges that went his way. There again, given the fact that Dean regards a broken jaw as ok where Bowyer’s concerned we should be thankful for small mercies.


Matthew Etherington
In the game a lot more though didn’t quite have the beating of his man. He’ll get more out of lesser opposition.


Carlos Tevez
Not a performance of the eye-catching breathtaking variety that we’ve been waiting for but he worked incredibly hard and did a lot of the defensive donkey work on the right. Candidate for softest booking of the season.


Bobby Zamora
Ran and ran and ran and ran to keep the home back four on their toes. Barely looked like scoring however.


Substitutes


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Zamora, 71) Harried and hassled as best he could but didn’t really look like scoring.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Bowyer, 81) A couple of nice lay-offs but otherwise nothing to write home about.


George McCartney
(Replaced Etherington, 81) Got into a couple of good left wing positions but, as has been our problem for a while, the cross was lacking.


Gabor Kiraly
Did not play.


Christian Dailly
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: M.Dean.

Attendance: 41,916.

Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: None.

Booked: Danny Gabbidon 21 Nigel Reo-Coker 68 Hayden Mullins 71 Carlos Tevez 74    .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Chelsea

Cudicini, Geremi, Carvalho, Terry, Cole, Makelele, Essien, Lampard, Robben, Drogba, Shevchenko..

Substitutes: Boulahrouz (Carvalho 45), Cole (Shevchenko 69), Mikkel (Robben 84)..

Subs not used: Hilario, Wright-Phillips..

Goals: Geremi (22)..

Booked: Lampard (18)..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon