Monthly Archives: March 2012
Chelsea defeats Benfica 1-0 in first leg of Champions League quarterfinal
Where has this defensive discipline been all season for Chelsea? For most of the match at Benfica yesterday they looked like the stubborn Chelsea defense of old. Even Cech looked much better than he’s been for much of this season with several fine saves. Sure Benfica threatened here and there, but the back four of Luiz, Terry, Cole, and a very surprising Ferreira remained focused, unified, and got the job done.
When I initially heard Di Matteo was starting Kalou and Mikel, I was a bit concerned. They’ve both had rough seasons, particularly Kalou who has barely earned a start this year. But, they were both spry, didn’t seem a bit rusty, kept mistakes at bay, and had an all-around excellent game. Kalou even punched in the goal via a smart pass from Torres. Speaking of, Fernando had a solid outing as well. Like many other Chelsea fans, I wish he’d go on a scoring rampage, but the important thing is to keep winning and he definitely helped Chelsea do that yesterday.
Surprisingly, Mata had an off night. He seemed tired (rightly so after all the big games he’s played in such a short span) and I was surprised he wasn’t subbed in the second half.
Ramires drove me nuts with his poor final passes, until the qualities I admire about his game actually initiated Chelsea’s goal. It was his acceleration and tenacity that got the ball to Torres up the right wing, which was followed by Torres’ pass in to Kalou who scored.
It was pleasing to see Chelsea take care of business so matter-of-factly, with no major defensives gaffes and no goals allowed. It was also great to see them get the result using several players who haven’t been in the lineup much recently (wish Malouda had also participated) – that must be a morale booster for both starters and bench-warmers, as well as good for locker room harmony.
So now, with things looking grim in the Premier League for Chelsea, the club finds itself one game away from a Champions League semifinal spot. Who would’ve thought that was a remote possibility back in December? Benfica visits Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, April 4 for the return leg where Chelsea will have to resist the urge to relax with their 1-0 lead, and remain vigilant to finish off sure-to-be-feisty Benfica.
Will Chelsea advance to the Champions League semifinals?
Thoughts on Chelsea’s 2-1 loss at Man City and 0-0 draw with Tottenham
After the generally dismal season Chelsea fans have endured, the past couple weeks have been a very welcome respite. Just a month ago, a loss at Manchester City like the one this past Wednesday would’ve seriously irked Blues fans. But there is enough positive afterglow from the Champions League comeback against Napoli to outshine the disappointing loss at Manchester City.
This EPL season was a lost cause for Chelsea long ago. It’s all about Champions League survival now – advancing in the current tourney and qualifying for next season’s edition. It doesn’t render EPL games unimportant of course – a win Wednesday would’ve been very helpful, but yesterday’s clash with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge carried the most significance. Even interim Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo admitted a loss to Spurs might have put next season’s Champions League berth out of reach.
Chelsea and Tottenham played the whole match Saturday like they were afraid to lose. Mission accomplished as neither team scored. The goalless draw was more disappointing than the loss at Man City since no progress was made toward reducing the five point gap separating Spurs (in fourth place) and Blues (in fifth). It was a disheartening missed opportunity for Chelsea. Though there are eight league games remaining, it is a very tall order for Chelsea to overtake Tottenham. Failure to qualify for Champions League play next season would be a huge disappointment. It’s hard to imagine that competition without Chelsea! Still, there are eight games left. Chelsea must take care of business and hope Spurs sputter badly.
Meanwhile, there’s the little matter of Chelsea’s trip to Benfica Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. Can’t wait for that one. It’s going to be a suspenseful April for Blues fans!
What do you think – will Chelsea earn a Champions League slot for next season?
Chelsea defeats Napoli 4-1, advancing to Champions League quarterfinals
Wednesday’s second leg round of 16 clash with Napoli at Stamford Bridge was hands down Chelsea’s biggest win of the season. It was a crackling night of classic and dramatic Champions League action that saw Chelsea overcome a 3-1 aggregate deficit by netting four goals. The game was thrillingly suspenseful for 120 minutes, having been forced into extra time since the aggregate score was 4-4 at the end of regulation. In the 104th minute, Ivanovic scored the winning goal for Chelsea in the kind of triumphant moment reminiscent of the Blues’ better days from the past several years. It was the kind of moment that makes soccer fans swoon, the kind that have been unfortunately few and far between for Chelsea supporters this season.
Particularly gratifying in this match were the unified heart and fighting spirit the team demonstrated throughout. It was the kind of will to win that has been oddly absent for much of this campaign. The fact that three of Chelsea’s four goals were scored by Chelsea’s “old guard” (Drogba, Terry, and Lampard respectively) was also quite gratifying. Their goals and leadership were emphatic parries to critics’ jabs this season that Chelsea would be better off without these “geezers”. What is remarkable about this rampant critical ageism is the double standard demonstrated by the rave reviews heaped on Manchester United’s own geezers Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Wednesday night’s performance proved that Drogba, Terry, and Lampard are not done yet!
The victory over Napoli keeps hope alive that perhaps something magical can be salvaged from this otherwise dreary season for the Blues. Today’s Champions League draw determined that Chelsea will now travel to Benfica for the first quarterfinal leg on March 27th. Here’s hoping that Chelsea’s recent recovery blossoms into a resurgence that will propel them all the way to the final in Munich!
How will Chelsea fare against Benfica in the quarterfinals?
Andre Villas-Boas gets fired after 1 – 0 loss to West Brom
I have mixed feelings about AVB’s canning on Sunday. On one hand, I generally liked the guy. I liked his passion on the sideline. I liked the way he took the job with gusto last summer and the way he sometimes blamed himself in the press when results were less than rosy. But at the same time, something is seriously awry at Chelsea FC this season. It makes one nostalgic for the mere “dip” in form last season that saw Chelsea finish second in the league. Second! Hard to believe that was just last season. Are the Blues’ current problems AVB’s fault? Partially it seems, but impossible to know just how much without being inside the locker room and on the training pitch regularly with AVB and the squad.
Ultimately, I suppose, Chelsea fans have to trust that the CFC higher-ups are correctly aiming their blame, in which case showing AVB the door (even at this awkward point in the season) is a good thing for the club. Problem is, owner Roman Abramovich is completely trigger-happy when it comes to firing managers. Taking that into consideration, it seems quite possible AVB may not be entirely at fault for Chelsea’s current woes.
As I’ve mentioned here before, the managerial Ferris wheel at CFC is a real problem. The club must find a manager they’re willing to stick with for several years! The frustrating thing is I thought AVB was that manager when he was hired last summer. I though Abramovich had turned over a new leaf and was willing to reboot. Instead, think of all the millions that have been blown on managers the past several seasons! Imagine how many players could’ve been brought in with that cash instead! I thought firing Ancelotti last year was a mistake. Now it looks like a huge blunder. It’s hard to fathom why he was sacked after winning the Double and finishing second in the league last season. Makes this season look even bleaker!
I wanted AVB to succeed, not only for stability and growth at the club, but I also wanted to see this young dude (only a year younger than myself by the way) defy the odds and prove that a young, relatively inexperienced manager could make Chelsea champs again. It must be extremely frustrating for AVB personally to have not been able to win with the kind of talent the Blues have. It’s very weird. After the smoke clears, I hope some insights materialize as to how this season went off the rails for Chelsea.
For now, the club has a real mess on its hands. Where do they go from here? Some rumored names are already surfacing as replacement managers, but I’ll have to leave that for another day’s exploration…
Did Chelsea do the right thing by firing AVB?
Spring brings new kits for U.S. Men and FC Dallas
I’m on the fence about the new U.S. away jersey. At first glance last Wednesday against Italy I was iffy about the white sleeves because it made the sleeves look like cut-offs. But I’m starting to come around.
The new design retains the retro diagonal stripe, though it is now black. I’m not a fan of the new penchant to include black in the red, white, and blue mix (like the all-black U.S. Women’s uniforms). Like many U.S. fans, I’d like to see the red third shirt become a mainstay. Nevertheless, the new away look is slowly growing on me, and of course it doesn’t hurt that it is now associated with that historic 1-0 defeat of Italy!
FC Dallas also unveiled their new home and away jerseys on Thursday. I think the home shirts are a classy, subtle improvement on the now familiar horizontal red/white stripes.
I also really like the return of some gray in the blue/white away shirt.
A lot of fans would like to see FCD join the ranks of teams with sponsored jerseys. I would be fine with it as long as the sponsor’s logo doesn’t radically clash with team colors (i.e. Philadelphia’s Bimbo shirt), but in the meantime I like FCD’s uncluttered jerseys.
It would be fun to see FC Dallas throw a third jersey into the mix, perhaps a departure from the usual “hoops”. Other MLS teams are starting to experiment with third jerseys (I think the Timbers’ third shirt for this season is pretty cool).
The unveiling of new jerseys means the new MLS season is just around the corner! FC Dallas kicks off (at home) against NY Red Bulls next Sunday, March 11 on NBC Sports Network.
What do you think about the new U.S. and FC Dallas jerseys?