Ahead of today’s game I had several concerns about how we were going to get on. I was worried that we were going to get outpassed in midfield. I worried that Didier Drogba would have too much for our third and fourth choice central defenders. I was worried after the less than passionate display against Liverpool that our players would struggle again to get themselves up for a big game.
Foolishly, I didn’t take in to consideration the most important thing which would eventually lead to our downfall today.
With less than ten minutes played Wayne Rooney raced behind the Chelsea back-line, with Ashley Cole on the far side playing him onside. Rooney was one on one with Petr Cech but the linesman raised his flag.
With fifteen minutes played Antonio Valencia beat John Terry for pace as he broke in to the box. Terry pulled on Valencia’s shirt and tumbled, tripping Valencia. I was almost celebrating the awarding of penalty until I saw Valencia’s look of dismay as the referee played on. It was nailed on but not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, Terry gets away with it.
It was at this point that it seemed as though all my worries ahead of kick-off were misplaced. We were easily the better side, passing the ball around nicely, exploiting the spaces Chelsea’s diamond formation left them in midfield and not having an awful lot to do defensively, having already been denied two goal-scoring opportunities by the officials.
Chelsea grew in confidence from time to time but they were generally well contained. Our midfield oozed class. Anderson had a cracking game, Darren Fletcher worked as hard as ever, even Michael Carrick who has been suffering poor form of late looked good. We were just the best side on the day and now we needed to take advantage of our position and score.
Rooney forced a great save from Petr Cech and pulled another shot just inches wide of the post. It felt like a goal was coming. Valencia was doing a good job on Ashley Cole down the right wing and we were pushing forward all the time.
Then with fifteen minutes to play, Fletcher won the ball fairly from Ashley Cole, whose weak stature went flying up in the air. It was a great challenge and under the referee’s nose, which makes it totally bemusing as to why a freekick was given.
The freekick came in and Didier Drogba pulled Wes Brown to the ground. He was then stood in an off-side position and flicked a foot out at the ball and influencing play for the goal. The ball went in to the back of the net and despite the furious reaction from our players, the goal stood.
It’s hard to get perspective on all of this right now as I’m still fuming. Losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge wouldn’t have been a bad result if both teams performed as they had been doing for the past couple of weeks. As it is, we were the better side, we saw more of the ball, there were two massive decisions made against us within the first fifteen minutes, and their goal shouldn’t have stood on three counts. We could be one point clear at the top of the table today but as it is we’re five points behind. How can you get perspective on that?