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An Erratic European Performance
Fresh from their ritual humiliation at Crystal Palace, Chelsea failed to win at home to AS Roma, in spite of opening a two-goal lead. The faltering hosts then conceded three goals, before a rare headed goal from Eden Hazard rescued a point. Fortunately Atletico Madrid drew a blank in the scoreless fare in Quarabag. However, Chelsea's defending is so fragile that their hopes of finishing top of the group are not so straightforward as previously expected. The English champions will be seeking a share of the spoils when they do battle with Roma again in two weeks' time.
Predictably Crystal Palace played against Chelsea like it was the FA Cup final. Predictably Chelsea played against Crystal Palace like it was a pre-season friendly. Predictably Crystal Palace quickly scored their first goal of their league campaign against Chelsea. Predictably Crystal Palace collected their first league points of the season against Chelsea. Predictably Crystal Palace won their first league match at the eighth attempt against Chelsea. Predictably Chelsea were clueless and toothless against an inspired Crystal Palace. You see, Crystal Palace defeating Chelsea is no longer a shock result, but a matter of routine. It's all very depressing for Chelsea fans, as their team are consistently inept against Crystal Palace.
Congratulations to Manchester City on a thoroughly deserved triumph at Stamford Bridge, and were it not for a few decent saves from Tibo Courtois, then the margin of victory would have been greater. Ultimately it was Tibo's fellow countryman Kevin de Bruyne who stabbed his former club with an exquisite goal halfway through the second half. Chelsea, for all their industry, rarely looked like scoring - a fact not helped by Morata's departure from the proceedings after half an hour. Unfortunately Conte's Chelsea, rather like Mourinho's Chelsea, seem intent on defending in numbers and trying to mug opponents on the break. Our opponents by contrast attack in numbers and suffocate you by closing down our defenders and successfully thwarting our attempts to pass the ball out from the back. Chelsea didn't seem to have the nous to circumvent this strategic stranglehold.
A Brilliant Comeback In Madrid
Handicapped by playing away from home in the hostile environment of Atletico's new stadium and then further disadvantaged when Sideshow Bob conceded a stupid penalty, Chelsea nonetheless came back from an interval deficit to emerge with all three points in this potentially pivotal clash. To come top of this group would be desirable, as it would probably mean less lethal opposition in the last sixteen, and well the Londoners went a long way towards securing first position with this impressive triumph.
Alvaro Morata silenced the doubters (me included) with not one, nor two, but a hat trick of goals with his feet, after previously scoring thrice with head only. Clearly he is not a one trick pony and he is beginning to tick an awful lot of boxes. The self-admiring Jim White on Blokesport may be right after all when he announced in the summer that Morata would be "a sensation". He certainly was at Stoke where the hosts were ultimately defeated four-nil by Spain, given that all four visiting goals came courtesy of two Spaniards.
A Batshuayi Hat Trick!
It would be fair to state that young Michy Batshuayi is not without his critics. He looks far from convincing as a lone striker, especially against decent opposition. However, he remains a supremely lethal marksman who has a knack of scoring goals without playing terribly well, perhaps reminiscent of a certain Andy Cole. Last night, the Belgian recorded hopefully the first of many hat tricks for Chelsea. Nottingham Forest may not be the footballing superpower that they once were, but a five-goal demolition of them was most welcome indeed. Twas equally good to see Kenedy open the scoring with a sweetly timed volley from ten yards, after running onto a Rudiger cross. Better still, wunderkid Charly Musonda expertly drilled his first goal for the English champions, after being teed up by yet another exquisite pass from the master of assists, Cesc Fabregas. This was definitely a morale-boosting performance for some of our periphery players. Maybe our midweek team (with eleven goals from their last two outings) should be employed at weekends too! Eden Hazard also got allocated a start, having been deemed fit enough for such an undertaking. The reward for the team's endeavours is a home time in the last sixteen of the Carabao Cup against beleaguered Evercrap. Given our form against them in the last twelve months, this almost amounts to a bye through to the quarter finals! Well, almost....
A Rare Stalemate
Chelsea recorded their first league draw of this campaign and their first draw at home during the managerial tenure of Antonio Conte. On the positive side, the English champions still haven't conceded a goal in open play since that traumatic first half against Burnley. There appears to be something approaching defensive solidity. The Blues are still only three points off the leading duo from Manchester who are already being hyped to the hilt as competitors in a two-horse race. On the other hand, Chelsea have now only won one of their last five matches against Arsenic. Furthermore, the terrible twins of Manchester are sweeping all before them, with goals a-plenty. Chelsea by contrast are seemingly not on that cosmic level at present. With the dynamic Eden Hazard being eased back into the picture, the champions need to crank up the quality in their performances, or they will get left behind by the two frontrunners.
A Gentle Reintroduction
Predictably the 2012 European champions made light work of their lightweight opponents from Azerbaijan in this mis-match. The occasion was a morale-booster for a few players - if nothing else. The much-maligned Batshuayi eventually bagged a late brace after a patchy performance. However, best of all, Bakayoko opened his goals account with a close range strike and debutant Davide Zappacosta scored a bizarre goal when he appeared to cross the ball from the right, but his cross (or shot?) looped into the net. Intentional or not, it was a memorable strike. Moses definitely has competition for his place on the right wing back berth. Personally, I think that Moses is far too wasteful in front of goal, so I would be happy to see Zappacosta get a run in the first team.
Champions Go Marching On
Ever since that horrendous first half at home to Burnley, Chelsea have not just found their feet, but are now going from strength to strength. In a contest between the last two English champions, the away team prevailed with a goal either side of the interval, thereby securing their fourth straight win over the Foxes in all competitions. First Azpilicueta again produced a sumptuous cross for Morata to expertly head home from close range, and then Kante drilled a low speculative drive beyond the despairing dive of Schmeichel, after the hosts had failed to close him down.
Champions Comfortably Dispose Of The Toffees
The big-spending wannabes of Evercrap were a distant second, as the English champions strolled to their second successive Sunday afternoon success. In mitigation, the Toffees were hampered by a ludicrous schedule that involved Manchester Mercenaries on Monday, then a match in Croatia on Thursday, followed by a trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Not even the great Wayne Looney could cope with that demanding workload.