Chelsea v Liverpool: Rafa Ultimately Does Drogba a Favour

Shove that in your overactive cakehole Rafa!

 

Still pretty stunned here if I’m honest. Not just have we finally beaten the dippers in the Champions League, and got to out first final, but on the night we actually deserved it. Actually, stunned really doesn’t cover it. Take every expletive you can imagine, roll them into one and even that still doesn’t cover it.

 

After a really positive first half from us, going in a goal up at half time, the old Chelsea in me still couldn’t predict the outcome. Old habits die hard and all that. And almost as if to confirm that, our second half brought back memories of games I’d really rather forget. Drogba seemed to have totally given up on the game and the rest were obviously considering early retirement as a preferable option as well. So the equaliser inevitably saw texts of “same old, same old” sent out to all and sundry. Oh ye of little faith indeed! But with extra time on the cards yet again, you could almost read the writing on the wall.

 

“We’re too tired for extra time”, “It’s all over”, “here we go again” – you name it, I said it – with the odd ‘F’ or two for good measure. And I’ll even admit to throwing my hands up in the air when Frank stepped up to take the penalty. The cynic in me just saw the worst in everything. So, there’s no-one happier than me that Lampard proved me wrong. And even Drogba got a new lease of life in extra time, so that totally shut me up –  although there was enough life in my lungs to summon a celebration, even if Babel’s goal put a temporary gag on the proceedings – which, by the way Cech, I’d have saved in a pair of oven gloves! Torres’ substitution almost made sense for a minute, until you questioned what exactly Rafa felt the risk was seeing as they’ve got nothing left to play for this season anyway – Quel Surprise!

 

As for Rafa, his face was a picture throughout. Having hurled bile in our direction all week with an arrogance that’d been unrivalled this season, reality finally seemed to be sinking in – the dippers would have to console themselves with their ‘history’ to bleat about again this season while we were busy making ours at their expense. And for the record Tubby, yes we all know Drogba “falls down easily” but thanks to you whingeing about it in the press for days on end he made damn sure he stayed on his feet tonight, so we owe you one really.

 

Should they have had a penalty? At the time I thought yes – and duly laughed my arse off – but now I’ve had the benefit of replays and a heart beating somewhat more normally than cardiac arrest status, then it’s debatable. But no time for pity here, this was the dippers, this was for a place in the Champions League final and this was finally our year. Get in!!!!!!

 

KTBFFH.

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Chelsea v Liverpool: Benitez Feeling The Pressure?

It’s funny how Benitez’s tongue seems to have loosened a lot lately. Maybe it’s because he thinks Grant’s more likely to crumble under the pressure than his old adversary? Then again, maybe it’s because he himself is starting to feel the strain this year? But whatever the reason, Rafa just doesn’t seem to be able to shut it at the minute.

 

We’ve already had his scandalous accusations – in the press of course – that Drogba dives, so at least we know Didier will be in good company with Gerrard on the pitch then. And we’ve had the requests for a certain type of referee – that’ll be the type who sees goals that don’t exist eh Rafa? But now that the ref has actually been named, we’ve got the hints of him wearing blue-tinted glasses. Now, I know the words pot, kettle and black will immediately spring to mind, but wait, because the Spaniard clearly has cause for concern. After all, Italian ref Roberto Rosetti has taken charge of 6 games in Europe this season, 5 of these were won by the home side and the 6th saw our away win at the Mestalla. So there you have it, overwhelming evidence the ref was selected because he’s a blue. I tell you, Poirot’s job is seriously under threat with Rafa about.

 

Anyway, having exerted just the right amount of media pressure on the Italian, suggesting he needs to be “strong” at Stamford Bridge, Rafa remembered to kiss the ref’s arse as well (just in case, you understand?), declaring him “not a bad referee”. Oh, and just in case it’s slipped anyone’s mind, Rafa’s reminded us again that Didier “falls down easily”. Now, he does acknowledge “everybody can see it every game, it is very clear” but obviously just feels some strange compulsion to repeat himself – daily.

 

Ok, so we’ve got a diver and a biased ref, what else could there possibly be for Tubby to chat up the press about before the game? The ruck between Utd players and our ground staff at the weekend of course. Can’t see the connection? Well, according to the goatee’d one, since Mascherano received not only a red card against Utd but also an additional 2 game ban, the FA should adopt the same approach in this instance. Here, here Rafa, if I were the FA I wouldn’t let our ground staff play again either to be perfectly honest. 

 

Fear not though, just in case anyone thinks his sudden inability to button it is a sign of pre-match nerves, Rafa reliably informs us “We will score. We will win and we will get to the final”.  So that’s that then, no point us even turning up really seeing as the Psychic One already knows the outcome. Even Saint Gerrard, in his own bit of media manipulation, confirms us as favourites whilst at the same time declaring Liverpool a better team. So, apart from an away goal, a decent home record and the fact the dippers haven’t scored at Stamford Bridge in 8 games, we haven’t got much going for us really.

 

Indeed, instead of imagining we have some divine right to be Moscow-bound after tonight’s game, our own players are a little more modest. Whilst Ballack warns that our job is far from done, suggesting “if we display an ounce of arrogance or become complacent in any way we will get beaten” – a hint at a certain Ivorian team mate maybe? – Terry, won’t even risk saying that much, stating “I’m keeping quiet this year because for four or five seasons I’ve been thinking it can happen and we’ve got close”. Grant’s confidence meanwhile remains as unfussy as his dress sense, with him suggesting “If you come to this stage and are not optimistic, you do not need to be in sport”.

 

So, we know who’s done all the talking in the press but who’s going to do the talking on the pitch?

 

What we know is that we have an away goal and Liverpool need to score eventually, so a defensive game from us is too big a risk to take. In 3 of our 4 meetings this seasons, they’ve been the better side and we’ve had more than our fair share of luck, so we can’t rely on luck (or Riise’s head) for this one. We might not have done it much this season, but against Utd we showed we can still play a bit. So, we need to get out there, look like we’re up for it and show them we’re not prepared to go out to them in the semi’s for a third time!

Didier Drogba: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous?

Why is it that so many of our supporters insist on defending Drogba’s behaviour no matter what he does? Are they prepared to put up with any amount of embarrassment in the hope that he’ll stay? Which of course he won’t – then again maybe he will – then maybe he won’t, because after all, he’s about as decisive as a rabbit caught in headlights.

 

The latest episode in the World of Didier saw him almost coming to blows with Ballack over a free-kick against Man United, so indignant was he that he alone should take it. Essien summed up my feelings perfectly, pulling his shirt over his head whilst shaking it in sheer disbelief. But of course in true Drama Queen fashion, even after he’d got his own way that wasn’t to be the end of the matter. Having taken a decent enough free-kick to be fair, he bided his time until there was a break in play then strode over to Ballack in an attempt to swing his handbag again. Ballack dodged the handbag – or at least cocked a deaf ear – so the incensed Ivorian turned on the watching Steve Clarke in a shameful display of disrespect.

 

He’s always had a problem with Ballack anyway, having suggested (in the papers of course) that the German should’ve signed for Man United instead because Chelsea are ‘special’. And whatever bug he’d got up his arse over Ballack clearly remains firmly in place as he’d already fallen out with him again in the build up to the Arsenal game before this weekend’s tantrum.  He just seems intent on causing as much disharmony as possible if the reports of mud-slinging at Makelele and Cech as well are to be believed.

 

The man really does have an ego the size of a house and the re-emergence of his aerodynamic affliction hasn’t helped endear him to me this season either. I swear the cast of platoon aren’t as dramatic as him and most of them have had several rounds pumped into them before they hit the floor. I’m not suggesting he’s never fouled, of course he is, but I fail to see how even the slightest trip sees him rival the Wright brothers’ maiden voyage in terms of dodgy flights. Even then, if he was genuinely injured (and the way he goes down it wouldn’t be that hard to believe he’d actually hurt himself) it’d be easier to accept his apparent agonised rolling halfway across the pitch. But he inevitably gets up and either limps a bit for effect, or with scene-one, act-two apparently in the can, proceeds to wallop the free-kick with the foot he’d broken two minutes earlier.

 

Of course I can’t write this piece without acknowledging what he brings to the Chelsea side (when he’s in the mood). He virtually carried us through last season and on his day he’s immense, running at and pretty much through defences, he can finish pretty well at times too. He’s got a great first touch, a free-kick that’d have most keepers’ hearts in their mouths and he’d be a welcome addition to most defences. But that’s the thing, he’s strong enough and talented enough not to need all the antics in his game and when he cut it out last season we saw him fulfil the potential he’s got. This year though, he’s been stroppy, disinterested and spent half his time tripping over his bottom lip, blades of grass, imaginary feet, the air, etc. So instead of the workhorse-like performances we’d got so used to seeing, the only consistent thing about him this season has been his ability to mouth off.

 

In fact, so often has he shared his deepest feelings with the press this season that he almost regards it as therapy. Yes ok, while I fully understand he wasn’t happy to see Mourinho go, neither were a lot of us and yet we’ve managed to get over it without such sizeable pay packets to ease the pain. Most of us have been a bit disgruntled over the whole management saga this season but it’s not made any better by having bitter players happier throwing their weight around in the press than they are on the pitch. And that’s not to say I expect undying loyalty from someone who by his own admission, didn’t want to sign for us in the first place and wanted to leave for most of his first two years at Chelsea anyway. But what I do want is a degree of respect for both the club and supporters who pay his over-inflated wages and whilst running towards the ‘eternally grateful’ crowd, grabbing at his shirt might be good enough for some, but for me, from Didier Drogba, it’s become an empty gesture.

Benitez in ‘Drogba Diving’ shocker!

Remember that Benitez bloke? You know the one, the one who always had a go at Mourinho for using the press to play games. Of course, he was always superior because he’d never use the press in the same way would he? He’d never be worried enough about the outcome of a game to stoop to that sort of level would he? Well ok, he would, but he used to play the martyr and veil it a little more subtly than he does now. I mean, we’ve already had the bravado about how Liverpool are most definitely going to win at Stamford Bridge Wednesday night – and that’s ok, I mean why wouldn’t he be confident when he’s got good enough reasons to be? But now, he’s using the press for referee selection.

 

What he would like, just in case anyone from Uefa is reading, is a ref from a “European country with a big league“, oh, and if the pea could be removed from his whistle as well, that would be appreciated. Apparently, Konrad Plautz puckered up a little too much at Anfield and most annoyingly, the Liverpool players hadn’t even bent over. That really is a turn up for the books – no wonder Mr Benitez is so vexed. To think an official could sympathise with Drogba without even noticing Chelsea players were inflicting bruises on Torres had the Spaniard incensed. Bruises playing football! Whoever’s heard of such scandal?!

 

As if such a thought isn’t enough to shock us to the very core, Benitez wants to make it known that a certain Didier Drogba dives. Surely not? I mean this man’s powers of observation must be second to none. Surely there can’t be a supporter in the land who’s noticed anything of the sort going on, every week? I know, I know, it’s truly shocking news, but alas it’s true and Rafa has the proof. Not that he’s in anyway obsessed or anything, but he has his very own home movie. “He is amazing because he is massive (and yet he goes down). It is very impressive,” says Benitez – read into that what you will. Having a goatee does not qualify you as a voyeur (does it Mr Wenger?), although maybe a 19 match medley of one man does.

 

So anyway, what Mr Benitez would like – just in case the refs haven’t read the papers – is a good referee to stop Drogba’s ‘antics’ because apparently “you can’t do anything to stop him going down” according to Benitez. Personally I think it’s disgraceful behaviour! No wonder he chose to share the video with some of his players – a certain Mr Gerrard has to pick up tips from somewhere eh?

Liverpool Confident Despite Lack of Ambition

This weekend saw a tale of two games, two very different games and two teams with very different levels of ambition. Even though our actual chances of winning the league appeared slimmer than a size 0 on a diet, Grant chose to field a full-strength squad for the home game against Manchester United.  Benitez’s ambition, on the other hand, saw him make nine changes to the side we faced in the Champions League semi-final first-leg at Anfield. Whilst our players ran their arses off to come away with the three points they’d clearly gone out to get, Liverpool just about managed a point after clawing back a 2-0 deficit at Birmingham. And the happiest manager? While for once we saw some genuine animation and emotion from the Not So Special One, Rafa appeared more than satisfied with their now almost certain fourth place finish. And if there’s a dipper out there who hasn’t yet worked out fourth place is as ambitious as it’s likely to get in the Premier League under The Tubby One, he’s spelt it out for you “I’d like to finish as high as possible but sometimes this cannot happen and at the end you must be happy with the fourth position and happy if you do well in the Champions League.” So fourth place it is again this year and the foreseeable future no doubt, but at least they can put out a nicely rested full-strength squad against us Wednesday eh?

 

Talking of which, it seems our players upset Kuyt by celebrating the 1-1 draw at Anfield as if they’d “already reached the finals”. Considering we’d played some of the most dire football Europe’s ever seen, got an away goal courtesy of Riise when we were never going to score ourselves and managed all this against our bogey side in the Champions League – our celebration for that one game alone was never going to be subtle. As for believing we’re there already – I hardly think so. Not that any of that matters to Steven MBE, OBE, MFI, B&Q Gerrard, who’s already vowing, in his saintly capacity, to lead Liverpool to victory in the second leg. We might be unbeaten at Stamford Bridge since the 2-1 defeat to Barca *spits* in February 2006, but Gerrard is so confident Liverpool’s curse over us in Europe won’t be lifted, that he’s saying they WILL win – and Kuyt reckons we’re confident?!

 

Although the dippers are apparently sick of hearing how they haven’t scored under Rafa at Stamford Bridge in eight games, Gerrard insists Torres is going to rip us apart in the return leg because he hasn’t played at the Bridge yet – as good a reason as any I suppose. Just remind me though, who was the last Liverpool player to score there, surely it was in Rush’s day? On a more serious note though, I will have to agree with him on one thing, they did create the better chances in the first leg – in fact they pretty much created the only chances – and if it wasn’t for Riise, Reina wouldn’t have had to move all night. We’re going to have to do a lot better than that.

 

Rafa himself doesn’t seem any less confident of a victory, talking about the “four very clear chances” they created at Anfield – the fact they only actually took one of them seems to have passed him by. “Somebody has to win the match” he tells us. What can I say? The man is clearly a genius. “There is no point going there for a draw”, course not Tubby, you reserve them for the Premier League. Rafa has also more or less confirmed Riise will start against us in the second leg and has suggested the benevolent full-back make up for his last minute blunder which handed us a very fortuitous draw. No pressure then eh? In fact, to confirm Aurelio’s absence and therefore Riise’s place, what Tubby actually said was “He will be out for three weeks, but back in time for the final!” And Kuyt had the front to say we jumped the gun?

 

I know I bang on about what we’ve done – or more to the point, haven’t done – in the league this season, but this is one game where I couldn’t care less if it comes off Ten Cates arse from the touchline and goes in, I’ll take another result against them any way we can get it. In fact, the dodgier the win against them the better.

 

Anyone else want to see the smug goatee get his comeuppance in the CL again?

Chelsea 2 – 1 Man United: Dramatic Finish at Stamford Bridge

At the start of play, it was a must-win for us to stay in the running while a win for Utd would all but secure them back-to-back titles. Nice to see Hargreaves, Ronaldo and Tevez on the bench then – Fergie had certainly taken our recent standard of play into consideration when picking today’s team.

 

Surprisingly it was Utd with the nervier start with Brown heading back to a badly placed Van Der Sar. Essien picks up the clearance and volleys it over, but the early signs looked good with us much the brighter side. Vidic, who seems to have had more than his fair share of sicknotes lately, retired again inside the first 15, having inadvertently headbutted Drogba’s knee. The enforced substitution sees Hargreaves brought in at right-back and Brown shuffle in a bit to keep Ferdinand company. Midway through the first half sees Joe Cole rattle the frame, as we continue to dominate the first half and that pressure pays off a minute into time added on as Ballack heads a Drogba pass past Van Der Sar. Momentary excitement sees him strip off his shirt and receive a yellow for his unchecked emotion. So, we go into the break a goal up and as rare as it is this season – we actually looked good for it.

 

Ten minutes into the second half though and the expected cock-up was inevitable really. Oddly enough coming from Carvalho, one of the most experienced centre-backs in the Premier League, who celebrates his 100th game by gifting Rooney the ball, leaving the defence wide open for Rooney to finish easily. Having finally managed to break his duck against Chelsea – and possibly something else judging by the way he left the field cluching his nether regions, Rooney is forced off, to be replaced by Ronaldo. Three-quarters gone sees tempers fraying a little with JT moving players out of Wiley’s face only for Utd to go in for the full onslaught. Drogba and Ballack then bizarrely do verbal battle over a free-kick and having got his own way, Drogba still insists on striding over to berate Steve Clarke, waving an angry finger in the Scots face. 15 mins to go and Mikel gets his obligatory booking, how reassuring that some things never change. Ah, but they do, because with 6 minutes remaining, having just decided Brown hadn’t put laces in the ball, the linesman adjudges Michael Carrick to have handled in the area as United concede their first penalty of the season, harsh timing indeed. The new and improved Ballack stepped forward, slotting the ball home and leaving the home crowd far too long left to bite their nails with the ref adding an agonising 5 minutes. And a nerve-wracking 5 minutes it proved to be with both Ashley Cole and the barely warmed up Shevchenko both clearing off the line. And just as we have so many times this season, we managed to hang on with our home record intact – albeit more deservedly so on this occasion.

 

I’m not sure there’s anyone more surprised at this result than me, particularly taking the quality of our football this season into account and I’m certainly not going to get carried away with the result, united still effectively have a point over us with their greater goal difference and they remain in the driving seat. But considering the manner in which the game was played, I will get carried away with a bit of praise today – a rarity indeed – because the boys done us and themselves proud and it’s been well overdue.

 

Drogba v Ronaldo: A Question of Diving?

Long compared to Olympic Gold Medallists for their technical ability to hit the deck at will, Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba have never won any praise for their ability to stay on their feet. Certainly, they’ve both been guilty of the odd un-induced tumble in the past but are they still being judged on past (theatrical) performances?

 

As recently as the CL games midweek, they’ve both seen penalty claims dismissed – apparently without consideration – and yet, in lesser situations Saint Stevie of Me would undoubtedly have been granted the opportunity to go for a hattrick. So, how much has that got to do with the official’s poor eyesight and how much is about preconceived ideas? I mean, anyone who even dares to acknowledge Saint Gerrard isn’t the angel he’d have us believe, has to admit his diving is pretty pathetic. Not for him the ‘gunned down in action’ Drogba dramatics or the histrionic Ronaldo tantrums we’ve seen so often and yet the ‘oh dear I seem to have tripped under the threat of that defender breathing near me’ seems to work so well for him. And whereas the saintly one gets up gingerly, making tearful doe eyes at the ref, Drogba appears to demand an immediate public hanging, such is his indignance and even Ronaldo has been prone to the odd stamp of feet if his hair’s been messed up.

 

To be fair to them both, they are targeted but then that goes hand in hand with being a constant thorn in the opposition’s side, so they are subjected to the odd foul here and there although with reputations preceding them, decisions are as rare as over 20’s at Arsenal. But with Ronaldo seemingly having three genuine penalty claims turned down in one game alone this week, are these reputations still justified?

 

In his first two seasons for Chelsea, whilst some quarters of the home support might have appreciated his workhorse-like contributions, Drogba hit the headlines more for his amateur dramatics, lack of impact in front of goal and his apparent desire to show off his ability to handle a ball. So incensed was he that these qualities were not welcomed with open arms, that, a la Gallas, he had a tantrum and threatened to leave. However, a word from his manager and team mates saw a complete about-turn, with him not only accepting his take on what’s ‘sportsman-like’ behaviour was bound to meet with a little derision, but also addressing this balance problem he had the misfortune to be afflicted with. And the effect of staying on his feet paid dividends as Chelsea saw Drogba have the best season of his career to date, becoming the first Chelsea player since Kerry Dixon to score 30 goals in a season and inspiring us to an FA and League Cup double.

 

Unfortunately, following the departure of Mourinho in September, Drogba was reported to feel like “an orphan who has lost his spiritual father” and again, publicly reiterated his desire to leave the club he now believed was “broken beyond repair”. In fact, on more than one occasion this season we’ve heard how he needs to leave because he feels he has “nothing left to prove in England” – as if we wouldn’t have picked up the clues in his game. Whilst he might still run towards supporters clutching at his badge, the truth is, Drogba cares about Drogba first and foremost and his disinterest in Chelsea couldn’t be more obvious. Unable or unwilling to produce anything like the form we saw last season, he’s lazy, lethargic and whining like a dipper. Not only is he throwing himself on the floor at every given opportunity again but even the brush of an opponents shirt leaves him writhing around in agony – such is the abrasion he apparently receives.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been pretty supportive of Drogba, even in his first couple of seasons. He might not have been banging in the goals but I appreciated his work-rate and could definitely see why Mourinho had faith in him. The problem I have with him though is his laziness – because that’s what his going to ground comes down to – he simply can’t be bothered to stay on his feet and fight for the ball. Add to that his constant mouthing to the press and I’ve been slowly falling out of love with him all season.

 

This is after all the very same Didier Drogba who also cursed us all by saying Cristiano Ronaldo’s form last season was a one-off. Having seen Ronaldo provide a cutting edge to United’s attack last season, hitting 23 goals, Drogba was adamant the Portugese winger would be unable to sustain this sort of form again – but maybe he should’ve just kept it to himself eh?

 

Because, maybe if he hadn’t addressed his own aspirations to pull off the perfect triple-salko, then he very well might not have played to his potential. However, this season has seen Ronaldo play some of the most entertaining football, with an end-product, that the Premier League has ever had the fortune to witness – and for me to be able to acknowledge that, he really must have done something pretty special. In contrast to Drogba, Ronaldo has shown total commitment to United, not that he’d need to whore himself in the press as long as United keep him happy anyway. But he’s been a reliable source of goals, he’s delivered pretty much what is expected of him and more – consistently – and much of this has to be down to staying upright. Whilst still prone to the odd stamp of the feet – once he’s got up off the floor – the difference now is that it’s more often than not a foul that’s put him there. He may still have the odd lapse, but he wouldn’t come close to Drogba in the run up to the Oscar’s this year.