Date:Monday February 1 2010
Saturday 30th January 2010 @5:30pm Kick-Off
What can you say? Ickle Burnley, a club proud to be debt-free but third from bottom against megabucks League leaders Chelsea, millions of pounds in debt and every player an international at the highest level.
We should have been slaughtered on paper with Chelsea flying high at the top of the league and looking likely Champions this season. They have been scoring for fun recently so to come within 8 minutes of earning a well-earned point says a lot for our effort. Fortress Turf Moor was buzzing again but it was not enough this time to secure any points and so we came away proud but empty handed and worryingly still in the relegation zone. These games though are not the ones we need to win, if you get anything against Top 3 (or even these days Top 10) sides, you are getting a bonus! Our next match is against fellow strugglers West Ham at home next Saturday, now that truly is a must win, six pointer!
Anyway back to the Chelsea match. I guess one of the main differences between the two sides was all about the relative defensive qualities.
Poor old Christian Kalvenes at left back struggled and Chelsea certainly knew where our main weakness was pounding that wing like the clappers! It was perhaps a blessing in disguise when he picked up an injury and had to be replaced by David Edgar with just ten minutes of the first half remaining. Edgar is more renowned for playing in the centre of defence and I have no idea if he has ever played at left back before and if so how many times. I do know though that the threat down that wing was stifled to a great degree in the second half which just exposed Kalvenes problems even more.
We just can`t afford at this level though to have any lapses in the back four and to be honest we did and paid the price for both their goals. It looked far too easy peasy for Chelsea after 27 minutes play when Peter Cech threw the ball out to Joe Cole and his cross was then pulled back by Florent Malouda for Anelka to slot home. Our defence was caught napping and we can`t afford to do that against the big boys, you will always be punished and we were.
All credit to our lads though we contained them and stopped them going further ahead and then in the second half got back into it after a stunning individual solo goal from Steven Fletcher in the 50th minute. Robbie Blake got in a long ball over the top which was pulled down by Fletcher. His determination to keep going allowed him to get the better of Alex and he let leash a fantastic low drive that whizzed past a stunned Cech. Now we would be in for it and for the next 30 minutes or so it seemed to be all Chelsea with our defence being pounded left, right and centre. It is all credit to our back four that we held on for so long but with eight minutes to go it was a case of 'Terry`s All Gold`. The maligned England captain had the last laugh. Lampard swung in a corner and there was Terry to rise the highest and head home. If only we had marked him a lot better, we might have held out for a vital and remarkable point but it was not to be. I guess we lost this game because we could not come up with anything more original to sing about the Terry situation than 'Same old Terry. Always cheating` I bet that really put the fear of god into him as he headed home the Chelsea winner!
Brian Laws got a loud cheer from Clarets fans as he walked onto the pitch before the match started in a bit of fanfare. This of course was his first home game in charge as our new manager. Considering whom we were up against and the fact we had a number of injuries, I thought the tactics were about right for this one and we ran Chelsea close in the end. It does remain a sad fact though that Laws has still to win a game with four matches and four defeats so far. Admittedly two of those were against Top 3 sides (Man U at Old Trafford, Chelsea at home) where we looked strong but the other two were woeful performances against lesser sides (Reading away in FA Cup, Bolton at Reebok). Coyle`s gung-ho attitude may have cost us dear on the road so we are looking to Laws to keep the attractive passing to feet game but tighten up our naive defence. We need to see more games to decide if there are any tactical changes for the better.
We can be proud though of our performance against the Blues and take many positives from this match. If we continue to play like this against the other sides struggling to survive we should pick up the points necessary for survival.
The Clarets Team Sheet
Laws had a number of injury concerns ahead of this game and had to make quite a few changes compared to the line-up in our last game away to Bolton in midweek. Some would have said that might not have been too bad a thing after that woeful performance at the Reebok.
Steven Caldwell was still sidelined with a persistent groin injury that has kept him out out of the side since the game at Molineux against Wolves last month. Both McCann and Alexander had to be replaced within the first fifteen minutes of the Bolton game on Tuesday night and they had not recovered from their injuries in time to play against Chelsea. Duff also picked up a knock in that game at the Reebok but soldiered on for the whole 90 minutes. He too was missing from the eighteen against Chelsea allowing new signing Leon Cort to make his debut in the centre of defence playing alongside Carlisle. Edgar again found himself on the bench. Kalvenes also retained the left back spot with Jordan still suffering from a hamstring injury picked up in training before the FA Cup game at the Madejski a couple of weeks ago.
With Alexander injured, this was an opportune moment for Laws to see Bikey in action for the first time with the Cameroon international having just returned from the African Nations Cup in Angola. He slotted into a midfield role.
With the Nugent saga still being sorted out with Portsmouth and the on-loan striker now back at Fratton Park, Laws decided to play Fletcher alone up front. He was supported by Blake who was making a welcome return to the starting eleven for the first time since the FA Cup game against MK Dons.
The full line up was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Kalvenes, Bikey, Eagles, McDonald, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher
Subs: Weaver, Edgar, Duff, Blake, Thompson, Nimani, Paterson
Carlisle was given the captaincy for this match in the absence of both Caldwell and Alexander
The Full Match Report
With the match underway, it was Chelsea who did most of the early attacking as you might have expected from a side wanting a win to finish four points clear at the top of the Premier League and not have to worry about the Arsenal v Manchester United game the day after. The Clarets though held firm and snuffed out this early pressure with debutant Leon Cort and captain-for-the-day, Clarke Carlisle looking solid in the centre of defence.
It was now the Clarets who began to turn the screw and show Chelsea they were not going to let them have everything all their own way. A series of attacks involving Blake, Eagles and Fletcher followed testing the Chelsea back four but just as we started to get some possession and start to put the Blues under pressure we fell to a quick break and found ourselves 1-0 down. The Clarets had been attacking which lead to a free-kick. It came to nothing though. Chelsea`s keeper Cech now had the ball and saw Joe Cole on the half-way line. He rapidly threw the ball to him setting up a Chelsea counter-attack. With the Clarets chasing back, Cole charged forward getting in a delightful cross ball to find Malouda. With typical Chelsea fluidity, Malouda tapped the ball inside to find Anelka to power home in clinical fashion. If you analyse the goal, it is clear we should have done better defensively with Bikey backing off and not keeping tabs in Anelka. That passing move by the Blues involving just four players and our defensive frailties just highlighted the difference in quality between the two sides and after that goal Clarets fans feared a tonking.
To our credit though we battled away and Bikey soon after had a chance to make up for his defensive blunder. The Chelsea defence had cleared a dangerous-looking low cross from Elliott but the ball fell to Bikey who let rip with a shot. Cech though had the situation covered. Blake looked to have been put through by a Fletcher flick before Terry had other ideas and earned himself a yellow card by blocking Blake. A lively looking Eagles also tested the Chelsea defence a few times on the edge of the penalty area but the attacks came to nothing.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining, Kalvenes who had been given a torrid time went off injured to be replaced by David Edgar who found himself in the unusual position of left back. The threat down that flank seemed to be less after the substitution and the first half came to a close with Chelsea leading 1-0.
No changes were made by Laws for the start of the second half and on fifty minutes the Clarets found themselves level after a stunning individual goal from Steven Fletcher. Blake had found the Scot with a nicely flighted ball. Alex was man-marking him but Fletcher`s first touch confused him and he could only hook the ball against the striker. Determination prevailed and Fletcher let rip with a left-footed shot that flew past the stunned Cech.
The goal though seemed to fire up Chelsea and a nervy 30 minute spell followed for the Clarets with the Blues looking strong on the attack with play now mostly in our half. Our defence held firm and shots by Lampard and Ballack were blocked by Cort and McDonald before Chelsea thought they had retaken the lead after Joe Cole got a header in the back of the net. Thankfully though a flag for offside had been raised and the score remained 1-1. A Lampard free-kick then brought the best out of Jensen saving low to his right as the Chelsea pressure mounted. We were now on the back foot but defensively Chelsea could not break us down. Ashley Cole charging towards goal was thwarted by an excellent block from Carlisle and then Jensen saved to deny Sturridge giving Chelsea back the lead. That save though led to a corner and as the ball came over from Lampard, Terry in acres of space powerfully headed the ball down into the bottom corner of the net to score and break all Clarets fans hearts with just eight minutes left to play.
All the Clarets hard-work had in the end not been rewarded but a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the League leaders could have been much worse and we can all take a certain amount of pride and positivity from this match despite coming away pointless.
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Kalvenes (Edgar 35), Bikey, Eagles, McDonald (Paterson 60), Elliott, Blake (Thompson 72), Fletcher
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Duff, Gudjonsson, Nimani
Goal: Fletcher (50 mins)
Booked: Yellow card for Bikey
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, A Cole (Deco 76), Terry, Alex, Lampard, J Cole (Sturridge 71), Ballack, Malouda, Zhirkov, Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Carvalho, Ferreira, Matic, Borini.
Goals: Anelka (27 mins), Terry (82 mins)
Booked: Yellow card for Terry
Possession: 47% Burnley, 53% Chelsea (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
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Date:Monday February 1 2010
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