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Premier League
Saturday, 25th April 2009

West Ham United 0
Chelsea 1

by Gordon Thrower


Did someone mention the words “bare bones”?

Pre-match was enlivened by a Romford anecdote that commenced with the words “when I was canoeing along the Chelmer”. Sadly I cannot tell you the rest of the story as Romford’s attempts to actually relate the tale disappeared beneath a roar of raucous laughter at the thought of the big fellah lowering his frame into a kayak. The Deano tale that ended up with the words “I bet you wish you could do that” was equally funny but is probably unrepeatable and, in any case, the mime is impossible to actually convey in print so you’ll just have to use your imagination. All of which jocularity was interrupted by the team news text.

Injuries as usual left Zola with few options though Dyer was deemed sufficiently fit enough to be given a start for the first time since Romford was small enough to actually fit in a kayak. This meant that Neill could start in his more familiar right back spot. Collins’ injury-hit season continued, meaning another runout for the Tomkins and Upson partnership. Parker was still not ready following his injury and Kovac had only recovered sufficiently enough to make the bench. This left the starting line-up as Green, Neill, Ilunga, Tomkins, Upson, Noble, Dyer, Boa-Morte, Stanislas, DiMichele Tristan.

The match was preceded by a minute’s applause in honour of the late Jimmy Neighbour, the winger who formed an integral part of the 80/81 promotion and League Cup final side. Jimmy later went on to work with the Academy kids and it was a bit of a shock to hear of his passing at the ridiculously young age of 58. As ever our condolences go out to his family.

The start really summed up the game. Chelsea dominated possession but rarely looked like doing an awful lot with it. Sure they kept the ball well but it seemed to spend an awful lot of time going from side to side and a truly decent side – which Chelsea clearly are not – would surely have made a lot more of the possession. Our problem was passing, or rather the lack of it. Time after time as we’d won the ball after a tedious spell of keep-ball came to an end we’d play the ball forward only to see the pass misplaced or a poor first touch see the ball given straight back. A case in point was Neill’s clever diagonal ball to Tristan that had seen Schnorbitz get between a very square Chelsea back line only for his first touch to let him down.

There were few incidents of note really. Just after the quarter hour Mikel took a crude hack at LBM on the touchline, the first of a number of yellow card offences he committed, a deliberate handball breaking up a promising move a few moments later. It will come as no surprise to seasoned Mike Dean watchers that the moron failed to apply the usual sanction on any of the occasions that the laws of the game required him to do so. Clearly the coin that recently hit Dean in the head narrowly missed what passes for his brain by six feet.

Despite the visitors’ monopolisation of the ball, arguably the better chances fell our way. A speculative DDM effort was well wide to the left but, after Tristan had made Terry look stupid with a clever turn and flick before playing Dyer was played through one-on-one with Cech only for the no. 7 to sidefoot weakly straight at the keeper. It was one of a few moments in the match that we were to rue.

Almost immediately Chelsea went up the other end and forced a corner following LBM’s covering block. Nothing came of it as Green eventually gathered a long hopeful cross into the box. The trouble was that every time we looked at breaking out we gave it away, either by virtue o rubbish passing or, in the case of DDM and Schnorbitz (when not actually offside) by trying to dribble through non-existent gaps.

Just before the interval we spurned another opportunity to go one up. Stanislas’ shot from the left was optimistic but caught a deflection for a corner. After we were treated to a few “look at me everyone” moments from Dean over some imagined transgressions in the box, Noble was finally allowed to take the corner. Upson and Tomkins both rose at the far post and one or both of them nodded goalward. Tristan flicked the ball on only to see Mikel clear from the line. Schnorbitz ought to have got more on it to be honest and the flick was as weak as a train station cup of tea or a Wenger “I didn’t see it” excuse.

Beletti was the next beneficiary of Dean’s decision to give his yellow cards a day off, a promising run being ended by a crude and cynical hack about 20 yards out. Stanislas’ effort was dipping in but lacked pace serious enough to seriously bother Cech and that was basically it for the first half.

As with the first half, the second was characterised by long spells of Chelsea possession punctuated by occasional crisper passing movements from the home side that would break down with a misplaced pass, a bad touch or a trip down a blind alley. Symptomatic of this was the move from the edge of our own box that involved Stanislas and Tristan. Stanislas used a decoy run from Dyer well and returned the ball to Tristan who promptly turned right bak into trouble and a promising move ended with a tame shot being blocked off to safety.

A Chelsea move then saw Fat Boy get a shot in on the edge of the box but a combination of LBM and Ilunga got the block in. Ilunga went down injured and, in another display of ignorance, Dean ordered the ball to be thrown out of play so that Ilunga could receive treatment. How about just stopping play like the laws say Dean? The stretcher appeared – it seems to have been in use every match recently – but thankfully, for once its appearance was merely precautionary in nature and Cheri was fit enough to continue after a spot of treatment.

The goal came five minutes shy of the hour. Lampard went down the left and stuck a cross over that Green needed to get more of a contact on than he did. The ball fell to Kalou who had the time and space to control and volley the ball into the net roughly at the spot where Green might have been had he staid put. This prompted some noise from the away “support” for the first time all day. With so much plastic on show they’d probably been keeping out of the sun bless their ignorant little socks.

From the restart we pushed forward and Dyer got a shot in that Cech spilled rather fortuitously away from goal. Of course having gone one up we were treated to the full repertoire of time wasting tactics from the visitors – maybe not quite as bad as Stoke (that would be difficult) but things like the three weeks it took Bosingwa to leave the field when being substituted were so obvious that even Dean spotted it, though the yellow card for delaying the restart was mysteriously absent.

We made changes of our own. Sears and Kovac replaced the tiring Dyer and the ineffective DDM. Kovac then spent the remainder of the match playing the ball into touch on the Chicken Run side. Time after time. After time.

A slip by Upson then let Anelka in but Green was equal to the one on one with the ball coming off Anelka for a goal kick. Cole, who replaced Bosingwa a few hours earlier, then hit a cross shot off the top of the bar.

The equaliser should have come on n 70 minutes. Stanislas and Cheri combined on the left. Cheri played the ball in to Tristan whose clever backheel played the ball back into the path of Ilunga’s run only for Kalou to haul him over. Amazingly, since it was an obvious penalty right in the view f Dean he gave it, though the ridiculous pose adopted by the Premiership’s worst official in pointing at the spot was camp in the extreme. Still it’s all about him isn’t it, something that was reinforced by the daft amount of time it took him to be satisfied that the ball was on the spot. Noble somewhat telegraphed the penalty and Cech saved well to his left, aided by a step off the line before the kick was taken. It would take a brave and competent referee to give those decisions of course, two qualities that Dean is not exactly noted for.

LBM left to generous applause before the corner could be taken with Savio replacing. Lampard was then upended on the break by Stanislas in a tackle identical in execution to a number of earlier efforts on LBM. For some reason Stan’s was the only one deemed to be worthy of a caution. Dean then gave a mysterious free kick against Kovac when Malouda had slid in on him. Lampard’s effort from distance was easily tipped over by Green once it had eventually been taken – civilisations have been known to rise and fall in less time than it takes Chelsea to make a substitution when they are 1-0 up. Lampard took the corner himself – again the walk out to the corner allowing many supporters to go and empty their bladders of one pint and purchase another without missing any action.

The time wasting was acknowledged by Dean’s addition of 5 minutes of stoppage, during which not much occurred save for Ivanovic hauling Noble to the floor without punishment and Lampard putting the ball into row Z with the worst shot of the game.

It was disappointing to play so poorly against a side that didn’t appear to have much of a clue in how to break teams down. Hilariously, given his trouble on crosses and the occasional handling error, the talk in the papers was all about Cech’s so-called return to form. The fact that we didn’t put him under more pressure said more about us and our scarce resources than it did about Cech.

On the way home I bumped into Sicknote & Sam. Well actually, distracted by a text message I bumped into a fence while they laughed. Their view was that Chelsea looked impressive. I disagree. A really good side would have taken advantage of the possession and wouldn’t have been in a position where the penalty might have cost them points. Barcelona won’t be quite so accommodating with their passing.

Us? Well even while we were in 7th place, for me Europe was always going to be a long shot and the lack of resources, especially up front where DDM and Schnorbitz are really not good enough in my opinion, has been showing. We’ll need one or two back before the end of term if the challenge is to be maintained though, on the plus side, if we finish in the same 10th place this season as we did last year it’ll be fair to say that the football has been better to watch and the management’s signing of new contracts (care to comment Daily Express?) is something that will be universally welcomed – apart from at Stamford Bridge of course!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
One good save. A number of much easier ones. Some culpability with the goal.


Lucas Neill
I thought he had a fine game in his usual spot.


Herita Ilunga
Ok defensively but I thought we could have had a bit more from him going forward.


James Tomkins
Came for one or two that he’d have been better off hanging away from. Contnues to improve though.


Matthew Upson
Generally ok though one slip might have let Anelka in during the second half.


Mark Noble
Got through a lot of running but the distribution left a lot to be desired. Telegraphed the penalty unfortunately.


Kieron Dyer
A welcome start but he seemed uncertain in the middle as if he wasn’t quite sure whether he should be holding or pushing on. Ended up doing neither. Should have scored in the first half.


Junior Stanislas
Cut inside far too often rather than testing the full-back.


Luis Boa Morte
Worked hard with little reward. Interestingly, the boo-boys seem to have abandoned him as their pin-up.


Diego Tristan
A couple of nice touches but in all honesty Schnorbitz’s good days are long behind him. If we see him on the team sheet next season something is seriously wrong.


David Di Michele
Poor. One shot well wide, gave the thing away too easily.


Substitutes


Fred Sears
(Replaced Dyer, 61 mins) No real contribution in the period he was on.


Radoslav Kovac
(Replaced Di Michele, 61 mins) Kovac has an imaginary friend that only he can see. Which would be fine if only he didn’t insist on passing to him.


Savio Nsereko
(Replaced Boa Morte, 72 mins) Like Sears, failed to make an impression.


Jan Lastuvka
Did not play.


Walter Lopez
Did not play.


Jonathan Spector
Did not play.


Josh Payne
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Mike Dean.

Attendance: 34,749.

Man of the Match: Luis Boa Morte.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Lucas Neill, Herita Ilunga, James Tomkins, Matthew Upson, Mark Noble, Kieron Dyer, Junior Stanislas, Luis Boa Morte, Diego Tristan, David Di Michele.

Goals: None.

Booked: Junior Stanislas 72          .

Sent off: None.

Chelsea

Cech, Mancienne, Ivanovic, Terry, Bosingwa, Mikel, Belletti, Kalou, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka.

Substitutes: A.Cole (Bosingwa 58), Essien (Kalou 73), Ballack (Mancienne 83).

Subs not used: Hilario, Di Santo, Stoch, Drogba.

Goals: Kalou (55).

Booked: None.

Sent Off: None.

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Luis Boa Morte