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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Hi all, apologies for the lack of these recently. Not been too well, so just been filing and then retiring back to my sick-sofa. Back now though with more ill thought-out, poorly constructed critiques of the rich and famous. And so without Freddy Adu....




If Manchester United's victory in Denmark was costly, what price can you put on Chelsea's solitary point in Cluj? Sir Alex Ferguson faces 10 weeks without Paul Scholes as well as an undisclosed lay-off to Wayne Rooney, but Luiz Felipe Scolari could only watch in horror as Didier Drogba was carried off with what is now thought to be a broken ankle. Drogba had already tumbled to the ground twice in apparent agony only to get back up again unscathed, but when he fell again in the 55th minute it was clear that, this time, he wouldn't be making such a miraculous recovery.

The loss of Drogba was bad, but it could have been even worse for Chelsea who struggled to make any impact at all on the Romanian champions. Cluj may have passed the ball with all the frugality of a lottery winner with a bag of dollar bills, but they were gutsy and tenacious and managed to restrict Chelsea to just a handful of half-chances. Granted, at times they defended so deep that they were almost in the stands behind their goal, but they played a clever game and very nearly snatched all three points at the end.

Chelsea have played some splendid football this season, but this was a return to the bad old days of Avram Grant. A solid defence secured safety, but in front of that everything was unbalanced and incohrent. John Obi Mikel, who usually stops other teams from playing, was lost at sea, Frank Lampard kept pumping balls straight to Eduard Stancioiu in the Cluj goal and Saloman Kalou was so poor that he was withdrawn at half-time. Chelsea really miss the string-pulling of Deco, as well as the impish creativity of Joe Cole, both out injured.

If you think that Roman Abramovich, with his four managers in five years, has a patience deficiency, try working for Iuliu Paul Muresan. The Romanian bankrolled Cluj all the way from the third division, but sacked the coach responsible for last season's league and cup double, Ioan Andone, after a slightly disappointing start to this campaign. His replacement, the very brave Maurizio Trombetta, has already masterminded victory over Roma and now requires just two victories from his four remaining group games to secure a place in the second stage. Bordeaux, abject at Stamford Bridge and soundly beaten last night at home to Roma, are up next in back-to-back fixtures.

Cluj, as you will almost certainly have read in the last 24 hours, is in Translyvania, a land that Bram Stoker immortalised in his classic novel 'Dracula'. It was an appropriate venue for a horror show like this. Chelsea were howled at by the locals, pursued relentlessly by their opponents and then grievously wounded by the loss of Drogba. With just Nicolas Anelka and young Franco di Santo left up front, Scolari will be having nightmares about this for weeks.

MATCH STATS

Cluj

Eduard Stancioiu 7, Alvaro Pereira 7, Gabriel Muresan 7, Tony 7, Cadu 6, Andre Galiassi 6, Eugen Trica 7 (Didi 6), Emmanuel Culio 8, Dani 6, Sebastien Dubarbier 6, Yssouf Kone 6

Chelsea

Petr Cech 7, Jose Bosingwa 7, John Terry 7, Alex 7, Wayne Bridge 7, John Obi-Mikel 5, Frank Lampard 6, Michael Ballack 5, Saloman Kalou 5 (Nicolas Anelka 5), Florent Malouda 5 (Di Santo 6), Didier Drogba 5 (Juliano Belletti 6)

Yellow Cards - Alex, Anelka (Chelsea), Pereira, Dani (Cluj)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 22,000
 

Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
Just my luck that the most boring game I cover all week requires two reports....



Chelsea are battle-scarred and limping. Luiz Felipe Scolari's title hopes were dealt a savage blow on Wednesday night with what could be a long-term injury to striker Didier Drogba, as well as a number of knocks to other first-team players.

The Blues now face high-flying Aston Villa on Sunday with injuries to, and you may want to take a deep breath here, Michael Essien, Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, John Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole and Drogba. That's pretty much an entire first team. Scolari will meet with his medical staff this week to discuss his options, but it seems certain that he will have to field a number of fresh faces, a scenario that could prove costly against Martin O'Neill's impressive outfit. For all of their spending over the years, Chelsea have operated with just a tight first team squad, neglecting their back-up players and rarely, if ever, blooding their youngsters.

Fresh blood is exactly what this Chelsea side needs right now, ironically after such a dismal performance in vampire country. Without Deco to orchestrate their offensives, there was very little penetration from the midfield. Florent Malouda and Saloman Kalou were desperately poor and Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack looked like they were wading through treacle as they struggled through the Cluj midfield. All the clever spontaneity had drained out of the team and with a rusty Drogba failing to hold up the ball, chances were few and far between.

"It was difficult," admitted Scoalri. "We did not play well and the players know that, but one point is better than zero. We didn’t play the same as other games, but now I’m happy with one point. Cluj were confident, they wanted to prove something. A 0-0 draw was not a bad result."

Given that Cluj were the victors in the Olympic Stadium against Roma, a draw may prove to be a very good result when this group stage is complete. The Romanians were desperate to put on a good show for their fans, who were in boisterous form on the occasion of their first ever Champions League home tie. Given that this is a team who were playing in the third flight just five years ago, it's hardly surprising. Scolari will be glad of the opportunity to lick his wounds.

That said, these are serious wounds indeed. Drogba is not simply another striker, easily replaced by the next man in the chain. He is the pivot on which the entire team is balanced. He brings other people into the game, he provides aerial superiority, he terrifies defenders. Nicolas Anelka has yet to show form worthy of his price-tag so far and Franco di Santo is, for the moment, an untested teenager. In a league as tight as the EPL, the last thing Scolari needed was to go for a long stretch without his talismanic frontman. Sunday, and the visit of Aston Villa, will be very interesting.



HEARTBREAK - Didier Drogba has been slowly working his way back to full fitness, playing with the reserves in half-empty stadiums, recreating pre-season on the training field and it was all for nothing. With generous estimates putting him on the sidelines for six weeks, it could be nearly Christmas by the time he's back to his best.

UNLUCKY - Franco di Santo could have scored for Chelsea with his first Champions League touch. On for the underwhelming Florent Malouda, he leapt into the air and almost adged a long throw-in into the top corner. Very unfortunate for the young Argentine.

TANTRUM - Alvaro Pereira's sickening first half dive earnt the fierce condemnation of Michael Ballack. The German midfielder waited for Periera to get up and then shouted and pointed in his face, furious with his cheating. Quite right too.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Emmanuel Culio was one of several Cluj players to cause Chelsea problems at the back. His tireless running and deft interplay deserved a lot more. He's one to watch this season.

PUNTERS RANT - Despite Cluj's victory over Roma, Chelsea were clear favourites for this clash, so it must have been a testing night for punters. Nicolas Anelka's wild slash at Jose Bosingwa's late cross would have pushed anyone to the limit.

MATCH STATS

Cluj

Eduard Stancioiu 7, Alvaro Pereira 7, Gabriel Muresan 7, Tony 7, Cadu 6, Andre Galiassi 6, Eugen Trica 7 (Didi 6), Emmanuel Culio 8, Dani 6, Sebastien Dubarbier 6, Yssouf Kone 6

Chelsea

Petr Cech 7, Jose Bosingwa 7, John Terry 7, Alex 7, Wayne Bridge 7, John Obi-Mikel 5, Frank Lampard 6, Michael Ballack 5, Saloman Kalou 5 (Nicolas Anelka 5), Florent Malouda 5 (Di Santo 6), Didier Drogba 5 (Juliano Belletti 6)

Yellow Cards - Alex, Anelka (Chelsea), Pereira, Dani (Cluj)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 22,000
 

sufcintheprem

This is a modified caption
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
10,185
Location
Putney
Roma were pretty hopeless against Cluj and I gather improved greatly last night (although required a sending off to get back in).

Chelsea were blunted though by Cluj. I would credit the Romanians (ok, the team from Romania) with trying to actually play on a level playing field with Chelsea rather than solidly defending but meekly giving the ball up. Several of their players were big fans of enterpising runs at the heart of Chelsea and Kone might have tried the most ambitious runs but was rewarded with good progress.

I honestly think that they're one top quality central midfielder from being in the Olimpiacos(hehe)/Porto bracket of Champions League teams. A bit more composure from midfielders in advanced positions wouldn't go amiss either.

Drogba's missing but he was also missing earlier in the season and that didn't hurt them. I think their Champions League hopes look in good shape and their league hopes are at least decent. Drogba's looking a bit like he might do an Owen. Boy who cried wolf though perhaps?
 

sufcintheprem

This is a modified caption
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
10,185
Location
Putney
By the way, based on numbers today, I would say that the Punter's Rant is spot on!
 
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