As many red cards as goals and only the narrowest
of wins was probably not the majority prediction for
Chelseas first home game of our new cash-rich
era. But in a game not short of talking points, it will
be the manner of Adrian Mutus winner that those
present will be recalling as they leave Stamford Bridge
It was a day of pain as
well as pleasure for our newest recruit as he made his
home debut. A nasty gash on the wrist that required
stitching was the low point of his afternoon but his
awesome drive to restore the lead on the stroke of half-time
was most definitely a high.
The Chelsea players are
probably still asking quite how they found themselves
in the position of needing to recover from an equaliser
in the first place, so perfectly had the story began.
We all know the script
its one we have seen played out many times
before. The visitors come to keep it tight, the home
side scores in the blink of an eye and all plans go
out the window as the stars turn it on and romp to victory
in front of jubilant fans.
When Leicester new boy
Lilian Nalis stooped to head Verons corner embarrassingly
into his own net after only 100 seconds of this encounter,
the scene indeed seemed set.
Duff had again started
on the right, this time of a midfield four, while Veron
and Lampard floated around in front of Geremi as the
anticipation grew for further goals.
The floodgate became stuck
however and although after the goal Chelsea moved the
ball in neat patterns with flashes of flair from the
likes of Duff and Veron, Ian Walker in the Leicester
goal was left only worrying about long range efforts
for most of the remaining game.
Mutu hit one such effort
crisply with the Leicester keeper saving low down and
he curled another not too far wide, interspersed by
a Lampard drive that matched his recent England effort
for power but not direction as Walker stood his ground
Leicester simply didnt
look like scoring with Carlo only called upon to catch
a couple of crosses. Set pieces always have the potential
to upset the status quo however and that is exactly
what happened in the 39th minute.
Izzet floated a deep free-kick
to the far post and with the Chelsea keeper remaining
on his line, Scowcroft rose above John Terry to head
the fourth goal against us of his career.
It was a shock and the
sound of our critics sharpening their pencils was almost
audible. Time to shut them up in style then and relief
was pleasingly prompt.
Chelsea were awarded a
free-kick ten yards outside the area at The Shed End
and Mutu lined-up his sights. His first right-foot shot
was well struck but it hit the ball. The rebound fell
to his left and he caught it perfectly slamming
an outswinger past Walkers despairing drive into
the bottom corner. Talk about two-footed! And talk about
shutting up the Leicester fans and their waste
of money chants!
We had now seen the Romanians
power and we had also seen his lightness of foot throughout
the afternoon. He backheeled beautifully to Lampard
in the opening minute of the second-half and Walker
was forced to save low down again.
Then another back-heel,
from Veron this time, allowed Mutu to find Hasselbaink
and with Walker comically missing his attempted interception,
Jimmy smacked the face of the near-post from a narrow
The thrilling football
was flowing for a short time now as Duff and Hasselbaink
exchanged passes at pace and Duff scooped over.
In the 67th minute that
flow was halted in a moment of high drama. In a standard
midfield passage of play, Geremi slid in and won the
ball but followed through two-footed on Scimeca and
referee Styles wasnt slow to produce a red card.
Gronkjaer had been set
to come on even before that shock development and the
substitution continued to go ahead as he instantly replaced
Mutu with Jimmy now left to operate alone up front.
Chelsea began to look vulnerable.
Substitute Gillespie took on and beat Wayne Bridge down
our left and Scowcroft headed the cross over. The introduction
of frequent thorn-in-the-side Brian Deane increased
the tension but credit must go to the Stamford Bridge
crowd who continued to cajole the team on rather than
fret and criticise.
Then as the game entered
its final ten minutes, Leicester indiscipline came into
play. Gronkjaer followed the text book and ran the ball
50 yards into the corner area and after Rodgers had
pushed him over, the defender swung a kick in the general
direction of both the ball and Jespers stomach
and was dismissed.
Danger at the other end didnt disappear totally
with Deane out powering Desailly and heading a high
bouncing ball over but a second Leicester departure
brought victory another step closer.
Joe Cole broke through
the middle of the park and was brought down from behind
by Scimeca who saw yellow for a second time.
Joe Cole, on as a late
sub for Duff, was the prominent player in the closing
minutes, shooting tamely wide from one well worked opening
but then playing the ball through his own legs with
wonderful deftness before cracking a shot against the
The cushion of a two goal
advantage failed to come but Leicesters hard fought
resistance had slowly come to an end.
At times this game was
easy on the eye, at times it was ugly. At times we were
cruising, at times there was a stutter. At times you
could sit back and soak it in, at times you were worried.
But we won again!
At least Roman Abramovich
is receiving a crash course in what it is like to support