Saturday 9th April 2011
Chelsea 1-0 Wigan Athletic
The Premier League
The following statement may sound crazy and make me look a tad foolish but this game could have resulted in a 6-0 hammering or a 1-1 draw! And the solitary goal of the game should not have stood as flop striker Fernando Torres actually fouled Latics goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi in the build up to the hosts’ sloppy goal.
The opening ten minutes of action at a sunny Stamford Bridge saw Carlo Ancelotti’s superstars dominate proceedings, as Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka set a rapid attacking tempo and both were unlucky not to have scored during that period. As early as the first minute Frank Lampard had also just missed connecting with a Drogba cross that sliced through the Latics defence like butter. These were worrying times for Roberto Martinez’s charges who looked as though they were in for a very long afternoon in the baking sun.
However, the black shirted visitors gradually began to get a grip, despite David Luiz’s constant fouling tactics, and it was during this period of pressure that Charles N’Zogbia was given offside when running with the ball with only Petr Cech to beat. He was almost certain to put the visitors 1-0 up had it not been for referee Howard Webb’s error of judgement.
The first half ended predictably with Chelsea being a dominant force and the visitors tactics of attempting to slow the tempo a little resulted in Emmerson Boyce being shown the first yellow card of the game despite Luiz’s previous four bookable fouls on Latics players.
The second half also saw the hosts start with pace and with Yossi Benayoun on for John Obi Mikel the visiting faithful feared the worst as he has a tremendous record of scoring against Latics going all the way back to his West Ham United days.
Frank Lampard forced a good save from Al-Habsi within five minutes and five minutes later Luiz’s crude attempts at tackling, this time fouling Rodallega, resulted in him being booked at about the eighth time of asking!
Following another Drogba effort that was tipped over the bar by Al-Habis, Martinez decided to make two changes, bringing on former Chelsea striker Franco di Santo and Conor Sammon in place of N’Zogbia and Rodallega. It was a bold decision by Martinez and it was one that didn’t pay off as both players failed to produce anything like a shot on target.
With half an hour remaining Torres was introduced to the field of play, at the expense of the hard working Anelka and the feeling among the home faithful was obvious. Surely he would score against Wigan?
This was not to be the case but from that 67th minute corner he did gave an elbow in Al-Habsi’s face which caused him to merely flap at a Branislav Ivanovic shot and the delighted Malouda squeezed the ball home in a packed visitors penalty area.
Torres did have three attempts at goal and in his pomp at Liverpool it is fair to say that he would have put two of those chances away. The third chance in the dying minutes was superbly saved by Al-Habsi, a save that had Torres and his desperate manager shaking their heads in dismay.
Chelsea must now travel to Old Trafford where they will surely be knocked out of the Champions League should they miss the kind of chances that they did against their visitors yesterday. Latics meanwhile travel to the Seaside next weekend for a relegation crunch game against Ian Holloway’s tangerine dream.
It is not unrealistic to state here and now that the season starts, or ends if Wigan Athletic do not make Blackpool rock during what is likely to be the most fiercely contested game that the Blues will have been involved in this season.
CHELSEA: Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira (Rodrigo da Costa Alex 74), Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Sanros Ramires, John Obi Mikel (Yossi Benayoun 45), Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka (Fernando Torres 59), Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda. Subs not used, Ross Turnbull, Michael Essien, Yuri Zhirkov, Salomon Kalou,
Goal scorer, Florent Malouda 67 mins
Booked, David Luiz 55 mins
WIGAN ATHLETIC, Ali Al Habsi, Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell,Antolin Alcaraz, Maynor Figueroa, Ben Watson, Mohamed Diame (Victor Moses 84) Charles N’Zogbia (Franco Di Santo 63), James McCarthy, Tom Cleverley, Hugo Rodallega (Conor Sammon 63). Subs not used, Mike Pollitt, Ronnie Stam, Steve Gohouri, Jordi Gomez
Booked, Emmerson Boyce 42 mins, Maynor Figueroa 90 mins
Referee, Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)
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