Thursday, December 21, 2006

I hate Didier Drogba

Newcastle Utd 0 - 1 Chelsea

The lads at Cheer Up Alan Shearer recently claimed they came out top on a google search of the phrase "I hate Didier Drogba". Well, after last night, last week, and the UEFA Cup semi final a couple of years ago, I think I'm justified in doing my bit to try and knock them off that particular perch.

For the second time in eight days, Drogba proved to be the difference, as he again came off the bench to score with about quarter of an hour left to play. This time his goal coming from a well struck free-kick, won after first Solano and then Nicky Butt had done their best to flatten Arjen Robben (unsurprisingly Butt proving the more effective). However, that foul took place a good four yards from where the free kick was taken, with Chelsea surreptitiously relocating the ball to give Drogba a better angle to strike the set piece, and in doing so enabling him to curl the ball beyond Shay Given.

By that stage, Newcastle could have been in front, when Obafemi Martins latched on to a Solano ball in the first half and crashed a thunderous shot off the underside of the bar only to see it bounce down and out. With the linesman nowhere near a position in which to make a decision, referee Chris Foy ruled that the ball hadn't crossed the line. Having seen a replay, it was probably the correct decision, with a small sliver of the ball on the line, although a handily placed Russian linesman may well have seen it differently.

The visitors, who again chose to rest some of their better players (leaving Ashley Cole, Ballack, Lampard and Drogba on the bench), were generally restricted to long shots, and with Shevchenko enduring a pretty barren season, they lacked a real cutting edge up front (although the Ukrainian did hit the post).

Goalless at half time, it was the strength in depth (and some repositioning of the ball) which made the difference in the second half, with Mourinho bringing Lampard, Ballack and Drogba on as the half progressed. By comparison, Glenn Roeder brought Sibierski on for James Milner with five minutes to go.

By the end, we were desperately trying to get the ball forward when Given's poor clearance fell to Lampard, whose instinctive lobbed shot came back off the post to safety. By that stage though, the game had gone, and with it the hopes of this season lifting the one domestic trophy to have so far eluded us.

On the plus side, the game saw a return to action for Solano, and a full 90 minutes for Dyer, Emre and Parker, as well as another good showing by Huntingdon - this time at left back. It is to be hoped that the defeat won't deflate the team spirit which has been apparent in recent weeks, and with Spurs the visitors on Saturday having had to play an additional 30 minutes last night in their struggle past Southend, the return of fresh(er) legs to the team might be cause for optimism.

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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