“There’s only one Di Matteo!” The words rang around St.Andrews from the travelling Chelsea fans often and passionately in support of the caretaker manager. Before I say anything about the game, I’d just like to say the support today was incredible, definitely the backing needed till the end of the season.
Now to talk about the game and the performance. The team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Mata occupying his more natural no.10 role, with Ramires playing on the right wing and the rare starts for Ryan Bertrand at left back, Mikel partnering Raul Meireles in midfield and Salomon Kalou completing the three behind Torres. The first half was nervy and reflected performances of late. The odd chances being created, the two most notable ones falling to Spanish compatriots Juan Mata and Fernando Torres. Defensively there wasn’t really an alarm bell in sight, Zigic was making his presence felt, but after a couple of kicks to the head courtesy of David Luiz, the very big Serbian didn’t have much influence in the game.
Fast forward to the second half. Slicker football from the offset, Kalou and Mata particularly looked lively and it was of course the latter who found a way to break the deadlock. Fitting that the goal be an incredibly scrappy attempt after some good play on the right hand side by Ramires before he crossed into the 6 yard box, a playground-esque melee ensued as the Birmingham defence failed to clear the ball and it was left to Juan Mata to prod home. Now, if the first goal was a scrappy affair that could be likened to Haye vs Chisora, the second was a moment of magic and a contender for Chelsea goal of the season. As Ivanovic charged down the right hand side, his ball to the edge of the box found Ramires, who in turn cushioned the ball for Raul Meireles to rifle home into the top corner. His lack of celebration probably a sign of respect to recently departed manager Andre Villas-Boas. It really should’ve been three when Fernando Torres (non-existant first half, much better second) was felled inside the penalty area. The fans immediately voiced their opinion on who should take the penalty, chants of “We want Torres” were made very clear. However the striker, running low on confidence or out of respect to the natural order of penalty takers (My guess being the former) allowed Mata to atone for his previous missed penalty against Birmingham, however the little genius, missed, yet again. One does wonder if Torres will get a better chance than that to score?
Yes, it was only one game. Yes, we only really performed for one half, but that second half performance I’m sure brought a lot of joy to the fans after recent events. No players performance on the day should bring about many concerns, only the baron spell in front of goal Torres has. Best players – well, to no one’s surprise I’m going to mention David Luiz first, in addition to his marauding runs and no nonsense bully like defending, he appears to have learnt the fine art of clearing the line when necessary. The only attribute that eludes the loveable character. After receiving a fair bit of stick for recent performances, Raul Meireles was solid in the 2-man midfield with Mikel, both were great in breaking up attacks and passing the ball around comfortably. As always the pair of Juan Mata and Ramires were once again, exceptional. One for his flair, vision and dribbling. The other for his hard work, determination and dribbling respectively.
Finally, a big congratulations to Roberto Di Matteo and staff, unity displayed between them and the rest of the team was uplifting to see.