Hull Battle For A Point
February 3 2010
Chelsea failed to take full advantage of their game in hand at the top of the Premier League as Didier Drogba could only mark his return with an equaliser in a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Hull City. I shall gloss over the fact a failed to back my prediction of 1,1
The build-up to the match had centred on the furore surrounding John Terry, and Steven Mouyokolo had threatened to pile further misery on the under-fire Chelsea and England captain with a headed goal in the 30th minute.
However, Drogba, back from African Cup of Nations action, equalised three minutes before half-time as he expertly curled a free-kick around a shoddy Hull wall to embarrass Boaz Myhill.
The draw allowed Chelsea to extend their lead over second-placed Manchester United but only to two points which was far from the advantage boss Carlo Ancelotti would have wanted.
Terry himself had been named as Chelsea's captain for the second match, having nodded the Blues to three points at Burnley on Saturday, since allegations of his private life hit the headlines.
After a so-called 'super injunction' was overturned by the High Court, widespread reports have stated that the centre-back had an affair with the ex-girlfriend of England team-mate Wayne Bridge, and rumours suggest that further revelations are imminent.
Debate surrounding Terry's suitability as England skipper has therefore increased in magnitude since the outing at Turf Moor and a meeting with Fabio Capello regarding the subject is predicted to take place on Thursday evening or Friday morning.
The 29-year-old, though, was a relative passenger and seemed unaffected by constant booing when joined in club manager Ancelotti's starting XI by Drogba and the returning Ricardo Carvalho.
England left-back Ashley Cole was on the bench as a precaution due to injury, while Hull showed just one change from their 2-2 draw with Wolves as Craig Fagan replaced Bernard Mendy, with January loan signing Amr Zaki a substitute.
Terry was greeted by taunts from those already inside the KC Stadium when he emerged from the dressing room to lead his side out for their pre-match warm-up and Hull seemed intent on offering the defender a similarly difficult start to the match.
A couple of early Stephen Hunt set-plays, an infamous weakness of Ancelotti's side, had the Chelsea backline under the nose of the nervous Petr Cech, but the Blues soon found a bit of stability.
Frank Lampard unleashed a trademark, swerving long-range effort which Myhill did well to palm but the Hull goalkeeper was fortunate to see Nicolas Anelka surprisingly make a hash of the rebound as the Frenchman mishit.
Hull, however, continued to pressure their opponents while Chelsea were struggling for rhythm as Michael Ballack, usually a reliable figure in the air, headed a Branislav Ivanovic cross at Myhill.
Shortly after, Ivanovic's clumsiness at the other end of the field was exposed. The Serb has had a consistent season but he can at times look leaden footed and a trip on Jozy Altidore earned a booking.
The resulting free-kick was headed behind by Carvalho and from the corner Hunt demonstrated why Hull spent the winter transfer window rejecting Wolves' advances as his perfect delivery was headed home by Mouyokolo on the half-hour mark.
Cech had been unable to make an attempt to claim the set-piece due to a cunning shield from Fagan, which had doubtless been prepared to take advantage of the goalkeeper's recent anxieties.
Jitters appeared to be spreading to the rest of the Chelsea team as a final ball was lacking and chants of, 'Terry, Terry what's the score?' rang around the KC Stadium but the home fans' confidence proved misplaced.
On 42 minutes Drogba demonstrated why Ancelotti has been so keen to welcome back his star man as, after George Boateng brought down Anelka on the edge of the area, the striker curled a free-kick around Hull's wall to beat Myhill at his post.
Anthony Gardner, who scored a howler of an own goal against Wolves, wasted a glorious chance to regain the lead for his side on the stroke of full-time as the defender headed over the bar.
The second half began as the first had concluded, only with a different guilty party, as Altidore wasted a headed chance when flicking on a free-kick, which had been awarded after Terry had been booked for bringing down the Hull man.
Hull's failure to make the opportunity count became increasingly wasteful as the home side found themselves on the back foot when Ivanovic and Drogba tested Myhill before Paul McShane was booked for tugging at Ballack's shirt.
Tigers boss Phil Brown introduced Zaki in place of the ineffective Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink on 65 minutes, and Ancelotti responded shortly after as Joe Cole entered at the expense of Ballack.
Chelsea were pushing towards the closing stages but Hull were giving as good as they got, although both teams were guilty of a wastefulness in possession.
Ancelotti played his final gamble as he brought on Ashley Cole and Daniel Sturridge to bring Anelka and Yuri Zhirkov's evenings to an end but the changes made little difference.
Sturridge almost grabbed his side a dramatic win when he hit a left-footed volley towards the Hull goal in injury-time, however, Myhill dived low to palm away the danger and frustrate Chelsea.
|Paul McShane *||6|
|Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink **||6|
|Jozy Altidore ***||7|
|Kamil Zayatte (90) *||5|
|Kevin Kilbane (85) ***||5|
|Amr Zaki (66) **||6|
|Yuri Zhirkov *||7|
|Michael Ballack **||6|
|Nicolas Anelka ***||6|
|Ashley Cole (81) *||6|
|Daniel Sturridge (81) ***||6|
|Joe Cole (71) **||6|
A great result for the Tigers in there battle to avoid the drop, if they can keep this form up against lesser teams then we may see Phil singing on the pitch at the end of the season. Lets just hope it was not just a one of and a case of them raising there game against the better teams.pqs: qs: