Chelsea vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers : 26 November 2011
Well, I won’t lie. After all of the travelling to and from Germany, I would have preferred the League game with Wolves to have been taking place on the Sunday. Saturday was just too quick. Too soon. I think that my head was still over in Germany. You know how it is when you go away on holiday. It takes a while to adjust and get back to normal. Then there was the dark cloud hanging over everyone at Chelsea. The fact that we are going through a dip in form certainly did not help.
The alarm sounded at 6.30am and I struggled to get out of bed.
“Here we go again.”
I called for Lord Parky and we were on our way. I told him of my malaise and he knew how I felt. He was under the weather with a head cold and we both spent the first few minutes a-mumbling and a-grumbling about our recent run of poor form.
Parky has such an infectious personality though – don’t tell him I said so – and so it didn’t take us long for the melancholy to subside and for us to get back into our stride. We were soon making silly quips and puns as I drove to London. I relayed a few stories from my few days in Germany, too. The time soon passed.
Straight into the Yadana Café on Lillee Road and a Super Breakfast. Then, around the corner to The Goose. We heard on the grapevine that there were loads of spare tickets floating around for the game. The pub, actually, seemed quieter than usual.
There was quite a showing from the North American continent in The Goose. Beth, Josh and Andy were in already – plus the four Beltway Blues who had travelled to Leverkusen; Stephen, Lizabeth, Allison and Cassie. Mike and two of his members from the New York Blues suddenly appeared out of nowhere and then none other than Gumby joined the fold. I limited myself to just two pints as I was driving. The days of having five or six pints before games seem a long way away.
I made my way to The Bridge and walked towards the turnstiles for the Matthew Harding, with the montage of the West Stand wall to my left.
My good mate Andy often goes to watch Rangers north of the border. The reasons for this are many and varied, but I remember his comment that the game in Scotland still exudes a working class feel, with allied atmosphere and noise levels. Andy goes up to Ibrox around five times each season and has got to know several Bears. He had contacted me about freeing up my mate Glenn’s season ticket for the Wolves game for one of his Rangers mates. Part of the deal was that I watched the match from the opposite corner of the Matthew Harding, while Andy sat with Davie alongside Alan in The Sleepy Hollow. I didn’t mind that at all.
In fact, I jumped at the chance to see the game from a different perspective.
I took my seat in Gate 15 – two rows from the back, just in front of Daryl and his mate Chris from Guernsey – just as the Chelsea flag ended its course of travelling above the heads of the spectators in the Upper Tier. I quickly zoomed in on the Upper Tier of The Shed and took a photograph of the Americans and Canadians in Gate 4, just above the goal defended by Wayne Hennessey in the Wolves goal.
Yes, there was a substantial amount of surprise in the ranks that Drogba was again starting ahead of Torres. Lampard was on the bench too. The mood amongst the nearby supporters was of typical Chelsea cynicism at the start. I had said to a few friends that the game might turn out to be as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist’s.
We opened brightly and a spirited dribble from Ramires after just five minutes resulted in a low shot which Hennessey did well to turn around his right post. From the corner in front of the 1,500 Wolves fans in the south-east corner, John Terry rose and headed the ball down and in to the Wolves goal. I clicked away as the captain was joined by several team mates and watched through my lens as he raced towards the Chelsea bench. He stopped short of the manager, though. I noticed that Villas-Boas was almost ignoring the advancing players and was instead gesturing across to other players, concentrating on the job in hand.
Soon after, a low cross from Ivanovic was met by Juan Mata but the effervescent Spaniard blasted over. A great move down the left resulted in Mata skipping past several lunges from desperate Wolves defenders. He slotted a low ball across the six yard box for Daniel Sturridge to slam home from close range. It was a goal reminiscent of Studge’s equaliser against the Scousers – although it was not celebrated quite so wildly. Sturridge then had a drive which was palmed over.
I admired the way that Drogba controlled a high ball on the halfway line. He then advanced before pushing the ball back to Ashley Cole who swept the ball into the path of that man Mata. A crisp and instinctive finish and we were three up and coasting.
Crisis? What crisis?
To be honest, it was all Chelsea in the first-half and the visitors were unable to ask many questions of our under-fire defence. From my viewpoint high up in the corner of the MHU, I was able to see how John Terry often played the ball through to Mata and Cole. Our best moves often came down the left. In the middle, the composed Romeu looked settled and put in a fine performance. It was noticeable how often Mata left his left-wing berth and came inside in search of the ball.
I met up with San Francisco Pete at half-time and – for once – there were no moans. We both agreed that we would quite happily take the 3-0 scoreline. We both realised how important it was to keep a clean sheet.
Every great journey starts with a single step.
Despite the pleasing performance in the first-half, the atmosphere in the Matthew Harding was pretty woeful. To their credit, more noise seemed to be coming from the opposite end, and the Shed Lower appeared particularly animated. Down in that fat corner, Parky and Andy Wray were but 15 seats apart.
I was enjoying being able to watch a Chelsea game from a different part of The Bridge. I had watched a few games from that corner before. I was able to take plenty of photographs of the game, but I was also able to pick out new angles of the four stands too. I could hardly believe how many seats were not used in the expensive tier in the West Stand. I noted all of the differing supporters’ club banners in the West Stand.
Ramires tested Hennessey after 50 minutes with a looping effort from the inside-right channel. Our little Brazilian gem was having a fine game; tons of energy and enthusiasm. On 52 minutes, David Luiz seemed flat-footed and allowed Stephen Ward a shot on goal, but Cech was untroubled. Daniel Sturridge then made a super run from deep right down below me and advanced to within eight yards of the goal. His final pass across the goal was awful, though.
With Fernando Torres warming up in front of the family section, the Stamford Bridge crowd were baying for his appearance –
Torres! Torres! Torres! Torres!
Wolves had a little spell of possession and forced Cech to scramble two efforts away within five seconds. It would be there last real efforts on our goal. Villas-Boas rang the changes with Lampard coming on for Meireles and then Bosingwa and Torres replacing Ivanovic and Drogba. The Torres one we understood. The Bosingwa one not so.
Oh well. He’s the manager. It wasn’t as if the game was on the line.
Torres looked keen in the final fifteen minutes and we certainly willed him on. But he still looks leggy and low on confidence.
I hope he starts on Tuesday.
The most bizarre part of the day’s play was John Terry taking ages for a throw in over on the far side. He was unsurprisingly booked and I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. With hindsight, it appears that it was all very intentional.
On the drive home, Parky and I both admitted that Wolves had been poor, but we were just so grateful to evade our first three-game home losing streak since 1993. We are not out of the woods yet, but let’s build on this. As I raced home, we listened to some classics from Kraftwerk, that seminal band from our youth. It was quite clear that Germany was still lingering in my thoughts.
The games are coming thick and fast with hardly a pause for breath.
Liverpool next – and there is revenge in the air.