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Chelsea v. Aston Villa

Blues win Barclay’s Asia Trophy with 2 – 0 victory over Aston Villa

1st Half Highlights/Commentary

-1st min:  Amazing start for Chelsea… Bosingwa made a great leading pass to Anelka who raced into the box and shot, but was blocked by Villa GK Shea Given.  Ball deflected to Malouda who shot, but Given saved it again.  This time McEachran slammed the rebound into the net!

-Aside from the obvious early goal, Chelsea began the game very strong, perhaps even stronger than the Kitchee game.  The passing was precise and had a quicker tempo than we saw in the first two Asian games.

-Competition for starting forward spots seems to have inspired everyone to step up their game this preseason (except Torres – yet).  Anelka and Sturridge had a sharp first half against Aston Villa, both carrying the ball confidently into space.

-Commentator Martin Tyler again talked about the “ageing” Chelsea stars.  The problem in bringing this up so often during this preseason is that age doesn’t appear to be a factor for Chelsea yet.  Next year, or two seasons down the road, it will probably be something to talk about.  But right now you can’t say Terry, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka, or Drogba are struggling because of their age.

-Good to see Chelsea dominate a Premier League side, looking very comfortable in the first half.  Minor quibble with the fact that Chelsea’s scoring threats dried up in the last 20 minutes of the half.

2nd Half Highlights/Commentary

-Great to see Alex on for the first time this preseason!  He replaced Ivanovic to start the second half.

-55th min:  Fantastic dribble run at the top of the box by Sturridge, who slid it to Malouda on the left.  Malouda made an excellent cross to Lampard who headed it on goal.  Given made a diving save, deflecting it out to Sturridge who blasted it over the goal.  Great sequence, though Lampard and Sturridge should’ve scored.

-57th min:  Van Aanholt on for Zhirkov, Torres on for Sturridge, and Drogba on for McEachran.

-58th min:  Shocker – Torres’ first touch of the game is a goal!  Malouda took an overly ambitious long-range shot, which Torres calmly glanced on the run and into the goal.  2 – 0 for Chelsea.

-72nd min:  Benayoun replaced Anelka.  Anelka had the best game I’ve seen him play in quite some time.

-Chelsea wasn’t able to get Drogba involved at all in the second half.  Perhaps it was just too crowded up top with Anelka, Drogba, and Torres in at the same time.  Great to have a hungry offense – they’ve just got to figure out how to share the creative space.

-84th min:  Kalou came on for Lampard.  Chalobah entered for Terry in the 89th minute.

-Overall, Chelsea worked hard, demonstrating very positive progress from the earlier games of their Asia tour.  Chelsea looks confident and fans have adequate reason for optimism about the season’s start in two weeks!

What positives/negatives did you notice from Chelsea against Villa?

Chelsea v. Kitchee

Blues roll to another preseason victory

1stHalf Highlights/Commentary

-Chelsea sported their new black away kit for the first time in a match.  Looked snazzy overall.

-Chelsea came out looking confident and enthusiastic with a lot of immediate possession.  Much more energetic from Chelsea than their previous two Asian games.

-Chelsea didn’t get the ball to Drogba enough in the first fifteen minutes.  He wasn’t a threat.  Granted, it’s not easy to crack the goal with eight or nine Kitchee defenders cramming the box.

-16th min:  Drogba finally found some space and served a great cross from the right to Kalou who connected with his head, but the ball bounced off the ground, then off the crossbar.  No goal.

-A primary difference between Drogba and Torres – Drogba usually fights to win back the ball when he loses it.  Torres often lets it go.

-Thirty minutes in, Chelsea still looked better than previous games, but for all their possession, still not enough shots on goal to show for their effort.

-Chelsea had plenty of room on the flanks, as they often do, but they’ve got to figure out a way to deal with these defenses packed in the center of the box, because they’ll be facing similar strategy all year against EPL teams.

-36th min:  Benayoun made a great cut into the box.  One touch too many took away his shooting opportunity, but he was hacked down, and the ref awarded a PK which Lampard put away to make it 1 – 0 for Chelsea.

-43rd min:  Great free kick by Drogba from about 35 yards out.  Kitchee GK had to make a good save.

2nd Half Highlights/Commentary

-49th min:  Great grounder cross from Malouda on the left.  Drogba made a good run to tap it in, but didn’t have to as the Kitchee defender knocked it into the net.  2 – 0 for Chelsea.

-60th min:  Deflected cross from Malouda was knocked in by an aggressive Drogba header (once again the kind of hustle I’d like to see from Torres).  3 – 0 for Chelsea.

-61st min:  Torres, Sturridge, McEachran, Ivanovic, and Mikel entered the game for Drogba, Malouda, Zhirkov, Terry, and Lampard respectively.

-Sturridge was off target with a distance shot and a free kick just a few minutes after entering the game, but it was good to see his hunger and enthusiasm for goal.

-72nd min:  Sturridge made a nice leading pass down the right to Fereirra who crossed it right across the goal and past Torres who seemed to jog toward it.  For some reason, commentator Martin Tyler immediately came to Torres’ defense, saying “at full throttle – and he [Torres] shouldn’t be expected to be at full throttle at this stage of the preseason – that would’ve been a goal.”  I disagree.  Why isn’t Torres digging deep to try to win a starting spot?  Torres didn’t seem to be expecting the cross.  I don’t get it.  Drogba would’ve gone all out trying to get the ball in the net.  Torres was hesitant and slow and it was entirely typical of his play since joining Chelsea.  I’ll try to take a break from Torres-bashing, but I just can’t believe we haven’t seen any change in his effort.

-Rajkovic has potential.  He’s a tall, intimidating presence in the back line.  He did have a few awkward touches on the ball today, which he probably would’ve paid for in an EPL match.  Shortly after one such touch late in the second half, Nathaniel Chalobah replaced him in the game.

-77th min:  Sturridge showed tremendous skill in the box, getting by two defenders and rifling in a smart shot from a tough angle on the right side.  4 – 0 for Chelsea.

Sturridge is making a strong case for himself to be a regular starter.  At the moment, if there are three starting forward positions open, Drogba and Sturridge deserve 2 of the 3 slots (with Kalou and Malouda neck-in-neck for the 3rd).

-The “Barclay’s Man of the Match” was Yossi Benayoun – a deserved honor for a player who has looked aggressive and hungry throughout the preseason to win a regular starting spot.  After struggling with injury last year, it’s good to see him fit and contributing.

-90th min:  Torres took a strike from 30 yards out that hit the right post.  It was a good idea.  Here’s hoping we see more of that assertiveness from him Saturday against Aston Villa.

Who are the top three Chelsea forwards so far this preseason?

Chelsea: The Age-Old Question

Villas-Boas defends Blues veterans

I saw a few stories this morning about Sir Alex Ferguson’s jabs at Chelsea, basically saying the Blues haven’t done much to alleviate their ageing problem this summer.  Andre Villas-Boas responded by pointing to the squad’s past success and reiterating his belief that they are still strong contenders.

First of all, Fergie is a master of the mind game sound bite (covert trash-talking).  Man U’s currently rolling across America, full of confidence, toppling MLS teams left and right.  So with the EPL season just a few weeks away, Fergie figures it’s time to launch a strategic barb, aimed at the club he must know will be Man U’s primary title competition next season.  With all the talk of Chelsea’s “struggles” last season, it’s easy to forget that they finished a not-too-distant second (and that was with all their supposed geezers in the lineup).

Secondly, Fergie is hardly one to talk about ageing players.  Ryan Giggs is still a regular starter for goodness sake.  And what about the recently retired Neville and Scholes?  I guess they weren’t playing as regularly as Chelsea’s core group of vets, but still.  Sir Alex seems to believe in keeping vintage players around and the past few seasons I’ve thought him wise to do so.

Andre Villas-Boas is taking the right approach with the Chelsea roster.  People are too quick to write off players over 30.  Any other EPL team in their right mind would start Terry, Lampard, or Drogba as often as possible.  And those who say Chelsea is just relying on the same old squad haven’t been paying much attention.  What about Luiz, Ramires, Mikel, Kalou?  And this preseason has shown significant youth promise for the club with McEachran, Bertrand, Van Aanholt, Sturridge, and Chalobah.

Don’t be fooled by Fergie’s mind tricks, Chelsea fans – AVB’s got a strong mix of veterans and youngsters brewing.  In the end, I think it will make an exciting, winning combination.

Do you think Chelsea needs more youth in the starting eleven?

Chelsea @ Thailand All-Stars

Blues look a little better in 4 – 0 win

1st Half Highlights/Commentary

-First 10 minutes were once again sluggish for Chelsea.  They were firmly in control of possession, but the build-up was slow, with no real speed in the final third.

-17th min:  Some good action from the forwards for a change.  First Sturridge sent a floating cross from the left, Torres settled it, tried to move into the box, but cut it back to Anelka who got a shot off at the top of the box, but it was snuffed out.

-Anelka found a lot of space in the first 20 minutes, but his shots and passes weren’t sharp enough.

-32nd min:  Best shot of the game so far was by one of the Thai all-stars.  Cech had to make a good save.

-34th min:  Three Chelsea players (Anelka, Torres, Van Aanholt) touched the ball in the box but couldn’t get a shot on goal!

-37th min:  Van Aanholt made a great pass into the box to Torres who made a very poor left-footed shot across the goal that missed wide right.

-37th min:  Fortunately for Chelsea, Lampard took one of his classic worm-burner shots from the top of the box to score (Anelka set up Lampard with a short pass).

-First half negatives:  Corner kick finishing was dreadful.  Chelsea did not seem interested in connecting via headers or otherwise.  The corners were simply wasted.

Torres and Sturridge found some decent openings, but their finishing shots were sorely lacking.  Don’t mean to pick on Torres too much, but when is he going to get it in gear?  He is not a threat to opposing defenses at all.  He is slow, sloppy, seems to give up easily on the ball, and his shots are either too soft or not even on frame.

-First half positives:  McEachran had excellent ball control and impeccable passing.  The Chelsea defense handled the few Thai challenges with poise.  Anelka was more involved with the action than he was against Malaysia XI.  Van Aanholt continuously made contributing runs down the left flank, working several connecting passes into the box.

2nd Half Highlights/Commentary

-The only change for Chelsea to start the second half was Hilario taking over for Cech in goal.

-49th min:  Bosingwa sent in a cross that looked disappointing because it was too close to goal, but the Thai GK appeared to misjudge the ball’s flight and knocked it into the goal… 2 – 0 for Chelsea.

-51st min:  Great sequence from Ivanovic starting the ball forward from the back, played a give-and-go to McEachran, then Ivanovic found himself one v. one with the GK and slid it in to make it 3 – 0 for Chelsea.

-61st min:  Drogba, Malouda, Benayoun, Ferreira, Zhirkov, Cole, Kalou, and Rajkovic entered the game.

-72nd min:  Malouda ran onto an excellent through-ball from Cole and Malouda scored to make it 4-0.

-76th min:  Jamal Blackman took over for Hilario in goal.  Chalobah replaced Ivanovic.

-Second half negatives:  Chelsea’s possession was more sporadic than in the first half.  The defense was a little leaky, allowing several dangerous Thai shots.

-Second half positives:  Though the Chelsea attack wasn’t particularly cohesive, they were much better at finding openings and finishing in the final third.  Villas-Boas talked about wanting to see more “vertical” passing after the Malaysia game and Chelsea finally achieved more successful vertical balls today.

Also, Hilario was fantastic in goal.  I have not been impressed in the past by Hilario’s play (in the very few appearances he’s made), but he looked world class today.

Summary:  It was great to see so many goals, however, the score doesn’t actually reflect much Chelsea improvement over the Malaysia game.  There was still a painful lack of urgency from the Blues in the first half and a very casual pace in the second.  However, Chelsea was much better at creating space and scoring opportunities than in their last outing.  Hopefully, the team will continue looking sharper as they move camp to Hong Kong.

Do you think Chelsea played better today than against Malaysia XI?