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Chelsea achieved another cup triumph at Leicester City and in so doing progressed yet again to the FA Cup semi finals where they will take on Southampton for a place in the final. It was the forgotten men of Morata and cup specialist Pedro who scored the all-important goals. The latter headed home from a cross from the excellent Kante to record a depressingly rare goal from a Chelsea substitute. Earlier Alvaro Morata ran on to an exquisite through ball from Willian and delightfully stroked the ball beyond Schmeichel in an effort reminiscent of his less accurate attempt at Arsenic back in early January.
Chelsea actually played quite well, but they were given a dose of their own medicine. All too often in recent years, we have soaked up pressure and mugged opponents like Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenil with a few goals even though they dominated possession. This time around it was the Spanish league leaders who absorbed some considerable pressing from Chelsea, defended stoutly, keeping a clean sheet, and proving to be lethal when they ventured forward. It would be easy to blame Courtois for two or three of the goals, but he isn't the first goalkeeper to watch the ball slip through his outstretched legs. On another day maybe Tibo ought to have saved all three goals, but this doesn't disguise from the fact that the outgoing champions of England failed once more to score, when they clearly had to.
An Unimpressive Victory
The hosts took maximum points and avenged two defeats by Crystal Palace from the last twelve months, but this was a mediocre win against a mediocre team. The home team should have been out of sight by half time, but their recent goal shy shortcomings were in evidence once again. Giroud has become the latest culprit of missing gifted chances from close range. Such has been the car crash nature of this disintegrating season that our players will insist on hitting the woodwork. Whilst the supporters will applaud near misses, the grim truth is that you don't obtain any points from near misses or hitting the posts.
A Predictable Result
As expected, champions-elect Manchester City gave outgoing champions Chelsea the runaround, as the latter were treated to a footballing lesson. It's doubtful whether the slow learners of Chelsea Football Club will learn much from this ritual defeat. They certainly need to find a way of playing against teams that press our defenders. Reciprocating by pressing opposing defenders would be a start. Unfortunately Chelsea are firmly en route for next season's Europa League courtesy of a nonsense ploy of persisting with Hazard, Pedro, and Willian as the front three. Regrettably playing Hazard as a centre forward is as sensible as playing Charlie Cooke or Pat Nevin as the centre forward.
A Pitiful Setback
One-goal Chelsea came unstuck in Salford when they again failed to score many goals in a major match and consequently failed again to beat a major rival. Since these two teams last met, Chelsea have failed thrice to beat Arsenal, failed to defeat Liverfools, and failed to overcome Barcelona in a home match, scoring five goals in those five matches, averaging at a pitiable one goal per match. It is now looking increasingly unlikely that a goal-shy Chelsea will make the cut for next season's Champions League. Quite frankly, the competition would probably be better off without them.
Decent Effort, Mediocre Result
Chelsea's prospects of progressing through to the last eight of the Champions League were left hanging by a thread, after a characteristically dramatic home encounter against perennial foes, Barcelona. A draw in the end probably flattered the visitors. They had the lion share of possession but really didn't put Tibo Courtois to any trouble. However, a lapse from an otherwise outstanding Chelsea defence was cruelly punished, as Lionel Messi belatedly opened his goals account against the Blues, after years of frustration. Perhaps Courtois committed himself too early, leaving Messi with the task of slotting home from a narrower angle, but it's hard to blame the goalkeeper. He was commanding from their corner kicks and was totally untroubled, courtesy of a well-marshalled home rearguard.
The champions of England made very light work of overcoming Hull, thereby earning themselves a considerably trickier sixth round assignment at Leicester City. Willian helped himself to a well-taken brace, with fine shots from each foot. This has taken his goals tally to a healthy double figures. Meanwhile Pedro recorded his fifth goal of the season, courtesy of an excellent assist from Cesc Fabregas. Best of all, new recruit Olivier Giroud slotted home his first goal for his new employer from close range. Finally Willy Caballero cemented his reputation as an excellent penalty saver, by defying a second half spot kick. I'm not sure however that the visiting Barcelona will capitulate so easily this forthcoming Tuesday.
A Hazard-Inspired Revival
It almost inevitably took a brilliant contribution from the irreplaceable Eden Hazard to help Chelsea re-acquaint themselves with a league win after two disastrous outings against Bournemouth and Watford. The Belgian ace stroked home the opener after a lay-off from the erratic Giroud, but it was his second which really caught the eye. The maestro took the ball on the edge of the penalty area and let rip with his weaker left foot. The outcome was a shot that flew inside the near post, leaving Ben Foster helpless. No goalkeeper in this world would have saved that effort, unless he had actually positioned himself on the post. In between, Vic Moses calmly controlled the ball and scored also with his left foot from close range, after an intelligent run into the box that beat the offside trap, leaving the opposing defence stranded.
Just when you think that your team cannot sink any lower, they then proceed to surpass themselves with another truly wretched performance. It's not just that Watford were able to dance through our defence to land three well-crafted late goals, but more to the point, the champions were awful even when the score was deadlocked at 0-0. Even with eleven men, the visitors were never able to test the Watford goalkeeper. Willian had a decent chance which he blasted over the bar. Pedro did likewise with a half-chance. Is there nobody on the training field at Cobham who could urge our misfiring muppets to stop firing efforts over the bar? Salah seems perfect capable of drilling low shots into the net, so why do Pedro and Willian insist on leaning back and aiming their attempts at the roof of the net. At least work the goalkeeper or induce a block from a defender, for pity's sake!
A Dreadful Embarrassment
I dreamt last night that Chelsea suffered one of the worst results in their history by losing three-nil at home to Bournemouth. However, when I woke up this morning, I realised that this nightmare had indeed taken place. It wasn't just a bad dream. You got to hand it to the class of 2018. They don't do things by halves. One week they are winning four-nil at Brighton and the next week they are losing three-nil at home to another south coast club. Losing narrowly by one-nil or two-one would have been slightly excusable, but this was a drubbing. The champions may have dominated in terms of possession, but it's a damning indictment that Marcus Alonso appears to carry our greatest goal threat at present.