Date:Sunday March 28 2010
Attendance: 41 825
How are you all doing, fellow Vital Villans? Not considering stringing yourselves up from the nearest tree I trust? What a ninety plus minutes of football eh? Trouble is, I don’t know where to start. I don’t really know what to say. I've never had to pen a few words after such a reversal.
I don’t feel inclined to write a piece praising Chelsea to the heavens, I'll leave that to their supporters who will no doubt gloat in our humiliation, while singing the praises of their boys in blue, who on today's evidence are more than capable of going to Old Trafford next Saturday, taking all three points on offer, and then march on to hold the Premiership trophy aloft in the merry month of May.
I'm also not going to tear into our lads, hurling flak in their every direction, I'll leave that to the more volatile amongst us, who wont be slow in coming forward to hurl their abuse at MON and his quite obviously battle weary team. The lads look totally shattered, that was obvious to all. That's not an excuse to explain away our capitulation, it’s a fact. You can see it in their faces. They are in need of a break, an opportunity to rest up, heal those niggles that so many individuals are so clearly carrying.
When the final whistle blew, we didn't boo them off, we stood and applauded. What else were we to do? This hardy unit of regular traveling Villans are noted for one thing over recent seasons. 100% support and commitment to the claret and blue cause. It was kind of touching to witness, I nearly had to wipe a tear or two away!!
Right, for what its worth, here we go. I'll do my best, but reliving what I witnessed is going to be difficult.
The dress rehearsal. At least in the eyes of many that's what today's get together at Stamford Bridge was, but of course it has a lot more serious implications than that, as we attempted to get our top four challenge back on track. Two successive home draws have dampened the spirits of many a Villan, with the less positive amongst us already proclaiming to anyone and everyone who will listen, that for the second season running fatigue, a small squad, inability to rotate the players that we have, inability to beat visiting teams to Villa Park etc. etc., has cost us dear, in that our hopes of a Champions League place have once again flown out of the window.
MON doesn't outwardly at least seem too perturbed, and with some justification suggests that the battle for the coveted fourth place spot will no doubt extend to the wire, with a lot of football still to be played. However few would argue, including quite probably MON, that the importance of picking up at least a point from today's encounter against Chelsea, had to very much be the order of the day.
With injuries and niggles now beginning to raise their ugly head, it seems that MON's promise to rotate the squad, to keep everyone fresh and on their toes, will now be forced upon him, as opposed to being kept out of choice.
Once again plenty of Villans on the road as we sped south down a crowded M40 towards the capital city, and today's little set-to with Carlo Ancelloti's Chelsea. It's friend Andy's birthday today, and his birthday gift from the other three of us? He gets to be the days designated chauffer. He's also in charge of the in-car entertainment, so we weren't surprised to be serenaded by early Motown greats, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight, and Marvin Gaye. A great opportunity for us all to join in and sing along, something we did with relish, just glad that our better halves weren't around to witness/hear our efforts. Neil as per usual tells us that he did a great version of Marv's 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', and that if fate and circumstances had treated him fairly, he could have had a huge hit with his version, and appeared on 'Ready, Steady, Go', at the old Aston Hippodrome studios. We humour him, we always do.
We enjoyed a few cold one's to lubricate the old tonsils in The Cock and Hen Pub, full of Chelsea fans, full of hot air, and full of confidence exuded by the west London Blues. What a mix of nationalities supporting those Blues too. Fans who as Andy pointed out, probably had never even heard of Chelsea at the turn of the century.
Word outside the stadium was that Gabby had been passed fit, and would start, but no news about our injured duo of Richard Dunne and James Milner. Old Joe, who must be one hundred and twenty if he's a day, told us that the lads had looked in good spirits as they arrived at the ground, and that he'd heard talk that both Dunne and Milner would be in the line-up from the off.
Inside the stadium, with the traveling support in very vocal and boisterous mood, we learned Martin's starting eleven. Gabby, Richard and James were indeed somewhat surprisingly named, with Luke Young in at right back to replace Carlos Cuellar, and Steve Sidwell replacing Stewart Downing.
Our team then:- Friedel, Luke Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Petrov, Sidwell, Milner, Ashley Young, with Gabby and John Carew up front.
On the bench we had Guzan, Beye, Cuellar, Davies, Downing, Delfouneso, and the forgotten man, Salifou (Murph will be happy).
We started brightly, defending The Shed, forcing three early corners. Two were completely wasted, producing routine takes for Cech, while the third was met by James Collins, gliding the ball just wide of the far post, with no Villa player in position to force the ball home. Martin had started the contest with us lining up 4-5-1, but it was clear from the off that this might not be our best route to get something out of the game.
Chelsea looked sluggish (that's laughable now), and while we weren't looking a serious threat when we went forward, all too often failing to use the final ball, its fair to say that we weren't under any pressure at the back either.
Then, arguably against the run of play Chelsea took the lead. Malouda found himself a couple of yards of space out on the left hand corner of the box, his low cross beating every Villa defender in sight, and the ball was turned home at the far post by Lampard.
We weren't behind for too long though, on twenty-nine minutes the Ashley Young-John Carew partnership, so productive of late, brought us back on level terms with a goal very similar to Chelsea's opener.
Ashley cut in from the left, angled a low ball with his right foot across the box, and there was Carew to tuck home at the far post. A deserved equaliser, but we didn't realise as we celebrated in style that it was going to be all down hill from there.
Chelsea began to step up a gear, and we were slowly but surely pushed back more and more. We were allowing Lampard way too much space, just not picking him up, and you had the feeling that unless we sorted ourselves out, we would be in for something of a battle for the rest of the afternoon.
Just before the break Chelsea took the lead, Lampard scoring from the spot after James Collins had clipped Yuri Zhirkov. Brad went the right way, but Lampard had hit his effort so fiercely, there was no way he was going to get anywhere near the ball. 2-1 to the home side.
If only we had known what awaited us during the second forty-five, I think that I can safely say that we'd have headed back to the car and got the drive home underway.
We got taken apart. There's no other way to describe it. It became embarrassing to say the least.
2-1 quickly became 3-1, as Yuri Zhirkov, in acres of space out on the left, played the ball into the box, where Malouda swept the ball home from ten yards out.
Lampard made it 4-1 from the spot after Richard Dunne had brought down Zhirkov, and four soon became five when Malouda rifled home from twelve yards with a stunning strike, after being set up by Frank Lampard.
Goal number six was simplicity itself. Anelka twisted and turned on the edge of our box, before setting up Kalou to hit a first-time right-foot shot beyond Brad Friedel from ten yards out.
Shell-shocked! And with the rain driving down, those of us towards the front thoroughly soaked through to the skin, you can imagine our mood and feeling of sheer and utter despondency. We hadn't seen this coming at 1-1, but unfortunately, it wasn't over yet.
Our faces were well and truly rubbed in it, when Frank Lampard rifled home his fourth goal of the game, and Chelsea's seventh.
I repeat, I don’t really know what to say chaps. I saw us get tonked 7-0 at Old Trafford once, in the Best, Charlton, Law era, Law actually scored four goals that day too, just as Frankie-boy had done today, but I never expected to witness such a beating in this the modern era.
We collapsed second half like a bunch of cards, brushed aside by a rampant Chelsea, who until they took the 2-1 lead, had looked far from convincing. Second half, as they pressed forward, it seemed as if they would score at will. Indeed they did.
When you consider that we've got to meet this team again in a couple of weeks time, it makes you want to run for cover and hide. Plus of course, no doubt Didier Drogba will be out there and firing on all cylinders.
MON had thrown on Habib Beye, Stewart Downing and Nathan Delfouneso, replacing Carew, Agbonlahor and Petrov, but in truth he'd have had to throw on all of us behind The Shed end goal to make any difference to that shambles.
A nightmare. One that will live long in the memory. Unless of course Chelsea go one goal better at Wembley in two weeks time!
Any bright spots I hear you ask? Well yes, young Nathan Delfouneso looked lively and impressive when he entered the fray, but otherwise it was just a complete and utter disaster, surely MON's darkest day in his managerial career.
How he lifts the troops after that ninety minutes plus, I have no idea.
Anyway, back home now, wet, tired and hungry, so excuse me gents if I miss out on awarding marks out of ten for that showing. I think you'll all appreciate where I'm coming from. I'm a little 'tight' under normal circumstances when it comes to awarding my individual points out, so under the circumstances, I think I'll pass this week.
Lets lick our wounds, recharge our batteries, and get ourselves ready for the trip to Bolton next weekend.
The claret and blue lion is most definitely hurt and wounded, but he'll be back, proud and roaring (I hope). Trust me.
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Date:Sunday March 28 2010
|1.||Pride of Lions||714|
|Man Utd||3||-||1||Aston Villa|
|15. Aston Villa||33||8||8||17||-21||32|
|17. Hull City||32||6||10||16||-16||28|
|18. Leicester City||32||7||7||18||-17||28|
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