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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Don't worry, they can still win ugly. Chelsea may have proved this season that they're capable of playing breathtaking football, but they needed a reprisal of the hard-working, tough-tackling days of Jose Mourinho in order to overturn Roma at Stamford Bridge last night.

The Italians arrived in London with absolutely no intention of trying to win, or even score, and camped themselves deep inside their own half within minutes of the kick-off. Typical Serie A counter-attackers? Not a bit of it. Roma didn't even play with a striker. Francesco Totti was the most advanced of their ranks, an attacking midfielder occasionally crossing the half-way line and looking for support that never came. For much of this game, Roma sat back, in what was essentially a 4-6-0 formation, and let Chelsea come at them and they got exactly what they deserved from the evening. Absolutely nothing.

Luciano Spalletti, their shiny-headed coach, is under serious pressure after a disastrous start to the campaign that has seen Roma lose as many games in the opening weeks as they did in the entirety of last season. Looking at this performance, it's hardly surprising. Lower league teams like Macclesfield and Scunthorpe have shown more ambition in this stadium than the Italian giants did. At times, Chelsea seemed genuinely baffled at their opponents' tactics. They passed the ball between themselves under no pressure whatsoever, looking to each other as if to say, "What do we do now?"

Luiz Felipe Scolari's answer came at half-time. "Do exactly the same, but do it faster," he must have told his bewildered players. Chelsea came out for the second half with renewed intent, pinging the ball around the pitch looking for space. John Terry and Frank Lampard led the charge, flying into tackles and piling on the pressure. The only two players to pre-date Roman Abramovich are the heart of the football club and how their influence was needed on a frustrating night like this.

Almost inevitably it was the two of them who combined for the winning goal. With just 13 minutes left to play, Lampard swung in a corner and John Terry, like a Pamplona bull, clattered across the penalty area, shoving over anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way, and angling a powerful header into the bottom corner of the net. Stamford Bridge erupted with joy, Scolari punched the air in relief.

The Brazilian manager will be happy to continue his unbeaten run in charge of Chelsea, but he'll also been warmed by the mentality of his team. Against opponents so appallingly limited in desire, his players need to concentrate and they needed to be patient. With no Didier Drogba to aim long balls at, they had to work their way through the Italians, pushing and working them until a gap appeared. Their hard work paid off and they now find themselves with three group games remaining and just one win required for qualification to the next round.

There won't be any commemorative DVDs of this horrendous dirge available in the shops, but Scolari won't mind one bit. Even victories as ugly as this are still worth three points.



Doni 6, Christian Panucci 6, Cicinho 6, Philippe Mexes 6, Alberto Aquilani 6 (Simone Perrotta 6), Mirko Vucinic 6, Francesco Totti 7, Rodrigo Taddei 6(Jeremy Menez 6), Daniele De Rossi 6, John Arne Riise 6 (Max Tonetto 6), Matteo Brighi 6


Petr Cech 6, Ricardo Carvalho 7, Frank Lampard 7, John Obi Mikel 7, Florent Malouda 5 (Juliano Belletti 6), Jose Bosignwa 6, Wayne Bridge 6, Deco 7, Salomon Kalou 5 (Franco di Santo 6), John Terry 8, Nicolas Anelka 6

Yellow Cards - Malouda, Terry (Chelsea), Mexes, Panucci (Roma)

Red Cards - None

Attendance - 41,002