Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roman wall

Chelsea 0 - 0 Newcastle Utd

For the first time in seven years, we avoided getting stuffed at the home of the Russian billionnaire and his merry band of Blues. In terms of results, this was an incredibly pleasant surprise, and one which should rightly be hailed as a victory for pragmatism, discipline and hard work.

True, we never looked like getting more than a point, with only a couple of half breaks by Obafemi Martins, and a weak effort from Jonas Gutierrez to show for our offensive efforts. This was very much a Newcastle team which came with the intention of setting up two solid walls in front of our goal, and forcing Chelski to play in front of us, and try and find a gap. It was all hands to the proverbial pump, and that meant the returning Little Saint Mick, in for Shola Ameobi, operating predominantly in midfield and not having even the faintest whiff of goal.

To be fair, though a few moments of individual brilliance saw them create a handful of chances, all of which Given was equal to (demonstrating once again why his international manager seems intent on hawking him round Serie A), the home side singularly failed to rip our defence apart. Fabricio Coloccini finally had the towering game we've been expecting of him, but was ably supported by those around him.

Last year we were cheated out of a richly deserved and much needed festive point when, having fought our way back level, the referee and linesman conspired to allow Salomon Kalou's offside winning goal to stand. This year, thankfully, the officiating was rather better when it came to the game's two key decisions: Joe Cole's goal celebrations were cut short by a linesman's flag when he followed a blocked shot from Florent Malouda to tap into the net under pressure, while Given was rightly adjudged not to have carried a free-kick from Lampard over the goal-line (though it was heart-in-mouth close).

Nerve-wracking and not particularly pretty to watch, but definitely a point to savour - how often are we described in match reports as "wonderfully organised and feverishly committed", as the Guardian's Dominic Fifield did? The fact that our league position has actually worsened (as a result of Wigan's win over Everton tonight) doesn't really matter - it's so tight anyway, and it's where we sit come May that counts. By then, we could well be hailing this as a crucial point in our quest for survival.

A Chelsea perspective: Chelsea Blog

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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