How often does this happen?
Two previously free-scoring teams meet with much expectation
of a goal bonanza but instead a tight, less-than-spectacular
match is served up as entertainment.
In fact there were shades of Chelseaís last home Premiership
home game this afternoon, the narrowest of wins and a
very similar Hasselbaink poached goal to his one past
Villa deciding the day. But against more in-form, and
frankly better opposition today than OíLearyís lot, satisfaction
is there to be taken from this result.
City did have it within their power to press Chelsea back
at times, particularly in the opening and closing periods,
and the post kept them out soon after the Chelsea goal.
Claudio Ranieriís side also threatened again soon after
that goal as the visitors were briefly reduced to chaos,
but otherwise it was a victory based largely on hard graft.
It was the flanks of the team that were freshened up by
the Chelsea coach going in to the game. Mario Melchiot
was restored to right-back, Joe Cole was given a rare
start on the left of midfield and Jesper Gronkjaer was
given the chance to stretch the long legís of Cityís Michael
Tarnat down the right.
Adrian Mutu was the striker retained to play alongside
Hasselbaink and it was a combination that paid dividends
with the goal on 33 minutes.
A patient build-up had allowed the Romanian to peel off
to the left and when he received the ball, he had little
else in his mind than to attack Sommeil who had followed
him. Mutu won the dash to the bye-line and smacked the
ball low across goal.
Before the game David Seaman endured with a smile the
arm-flapping taunts of the Matthew Harding end but those
taunts suddenly looked rather prescient when the superannuated
stopper only succeeded in pushing the ball into the path
of Hasselbaink who bundled home.
Mutu had nearly carved out an opener just minutes earlier
when his chip to the far post was headed in by Frank Lampard
as the linesmanís flag went up for offside. It must have
Then just a minute after taking the lead, Lampard reversed
the roles and flew down the right before crossing to Mutu
at the back post. The goal looked to be gaping but instead,
the option of a head back across to Cole was taken but
it was a header too strong.
Anelka had unsurprisingly looked the biggest threat for
the visits in the opening stages, the offside flag his
greatest opponent at times, but it was Robbie Fowler who
came the closest to pulling it back, forcing Cudicini
into a superb flying push onto the post when he sent Tarnatís
cross goalwards. It was practically the only time anyone
noticed the rusty former goal machine.
That was the most enthralling period of the game. For
the rest of the time stout defending and competitive midfield
battling ruled. There was a fair share quick balls forward
in attempts to exploit the pace of Anelka and Mutu but
otherwise, it was with crosses that most in-roads were
made by either side.
On five minutes defender Sommeil advanced forward and
met Tarnatís cross but volleyed over and Chelsea retaliated
when Frank Lampardís long ball was reached by Hasselbaink
but he shot tamely wide. Joe Cole at one point moved over
to the right and made a thrust for centre ground before
sending a low ball in; a stretching Hasselbaink turning
it into the gloves of Seaman.
And good play by Lampard allowed Hasselbaink to find Mutu
who also prodded at Seaman After the break, Gronkjaer
attempted to bring variety to the attack, steaming off
down the centre of the pitch from his own half but after
performing a Moses act on the parting City defence, he
shot straight at Seaman.
A creative moment from Cole fed Mutu who brilliantly jinked
into space in the area but his shot was blocked and then
Bridgeís follow-up cross caused a scramble before City
In truth, another goal was looking unlikely. Trevor Sinclair
resorted to trying his luck from distance but this was
the real Cudicini rather than that impostor at Highbury
and he dropped on it with ease.
With quarter of the game to go, Geremi was brought on
for Gronkjaer and then minutes later Duff came on for
Cole. Wanchope entered for Fowler as Keegan attempted
to bring a new edge to his attack.
The tall Sibierski then followed for Reyna which may have
prompted the introduction of Huthís height. Hasselbaink
departed as Chelsea mutated into a 3-4-3.
In the closing stages Sinclair took the opportunity to
crack another shot in but Cudicini was again up to the
task as Chelsea held onto the win with relative easy.
Kevin Keegan has never won here as a manager, neither
for Man City or Newcastle. He has suffered far more convincing
defeats than this one at Stamford Bridge before - but
as we prevented the Premiershipís top scorers from finding
the net, we continued to look a side that will be very
hard to beat.