The second derby of the day of this significant Sunday of football will no doubt go down as the lesser talked about. However, this is not to say it was a game that lacked talking points… Where do you start with a game in which Chelsea finished with Nicolas Anelka being the only outfield player to end the game without receiving some sort of card? This of course excludes Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge who had to be sacrificed prematurely due to the red cards in the first half. It seems fitting to start at the beginning - with David Luiz. It was only a few weeks ago that I was singing the praises of the Brazilian – but in the same breath I spoke with foreboding of his rash side. Unfortunately today his reckless streak outweighed his exciting prowess and as the game finished 1 – 0 it ultimately cost Chelsea three points. There’s no debate around the issue – a needless challenge inside the box – it was a penalty no question.
However, I cannot speak about this game without at least some criticism of the refereeing decisions. Before I get crucified for being biased with that last statement I hasten to add that I have little argument with most of the cards that the referee presented. Jose Boswinga’s sending off was a little contentious and I’m quick to side with Sky Sports commentator Ray Wilkins on this one and argue that it was a fair contest for the ball – six of one and half a dozen of the other. However, if he gives the decision QPR’s way then it has to be a red card.
No, my main criticism of the refereeing comes with the failure to award Chelsea with a penalty in the second half. OK – a lot of shirt pulling on David Luiz, we see that every week in the Premier League – sometimes you get the decision and sometimes you do not. But when Frank Lampard when down on the six yard line earlier on the second half it was an exceptionally weak piece of refereeing by Chris Foy. He had clearly made a conscious and categorical decision that he was not going to give Chelsea a penalty. Frank Lampard as the furthest man forward and a born goal scorer is surging onto a nice delivery coming in from Ashley Cole – why would he go down? Either he was indeed shoved or he dived. Maybe I don’t understand the letter of the law here but surely this can only go one way or the other – a Chelsea penalty or Frank Lampard gets booked for simulation. I realise that a second yellow for Frank would have resulted in a third Chelsea red card – but at least a decision would have been made. Instead, no – the referee waved play on. We see this far too often from referees and there’s no explanation other than weak refereeing. In this case not wanting to upset the home crowd and at the same time not having the bottle to send off three men from the same team in one match. I’ll say it again – weak.
With Torres’ return to the starting 11 a certainty in the wake of Drogba’s suspension I think Didier may find it hard to fight his way back into contention for a place in this team.
Let’s move on to another refereeing decision, which was inarguably spot on – the Drogba sending off. Perhaps in terms of looking forward, this was the biggest moment of the game. Pure petulance and unnecessary, it was actually very similar to the challenge that saw his fellow striker Fernando Torres dismissed a few weeks ago against Swansea. With Torres’ return to the starting 11 a certainty in the wake of Drogba’s suspension I think Didier may find it hard to fight his way back into contention for a place in this team. Even before the sending off he wasn’t getting into the game. He didn’t look bothered and his altercation with Mikel as he left the pitch was very displeasing to see. Perhaps signs that his heart is straying from the Bridge? He is a player who relishes the limelight and he hasn’t looked like he’s enjoying his football at all this season when he has appeared. And if Torres’ return to form continues to flourish then it will no doubt keep Drogba out of the team. A move away from Chelsea in January will not be at all shocking given the depth of our attacking force. Perhaps seeing out his career with a season or so under Mourinho at Real Madrid?
Many people expected him to leave at the end of last season and given that we signed Juan Mata in the summer transfer window it was surprising that no one out of Anelka, Malouda, Kalou or Drogba left. Come January something with have to give – even with the AVB rotation policy it is impossible to keep that many attacking players happy with the amount of game time. The sending off aside I think Drogba’s attitude accentuates his lack of interest and he may well be the one to lighten the number of attackers at Chelsea.
In spite of Drogba’s dismissal, the Blues battled on very well with only nine men. Throughout the second half we more than made our chances and a lot of the time it was difficult to notice that we were at a two man disadvantage. It has to be said that QPR did make it hard work for themselves – needlessly lumping the ball long and handing possession over to Chelsea when they should have been playing keep ball to wear down the depleted opposition. Chelsea came very close to equalising and had Anelka’s header gone anywhere but straight into the hands of Paddy Kenny then this article would have been celebrating a triumphant point snatched back.
With all of the praise for Chelsea’s second half spirit it makes Drogba’s frustrated lunge all the more irritating. If we performed that well in the second half with nine men, then had we still had Drogba on the pitch and on top form then you would think we would have grabbed at worst a draw. This with the Lampard penalty shout makes this very much a game of what ifs and maybe for Chelsea fans. As much as I can stamp my feet about that refereeing decision and praise the spirit of the team – not capitalising on the result from Old Trafford is ultimately unforgivable in a title race which, if Chelsea don’t get back to winning ways, could become a two-way contest by Christmas.
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