Mickey Blue Eyes
I don't mean to be unkind, but the phrase "Chelsea European Champions" doesn't sound right. I don't know why. After all, they are as entitled to win it as any other club. Mentioned in the same breath is Russian owner Roman Abramovich, a DNA morph of Carlo Gambino and Harry Corbett. Roman, often quaintly referred to as "an oligarch," is as diffident as Greta Garbo and deadly as Joseph Stalin. But loads of money doesn't make him any more or less complicated or intelligent than any other human being. Or any less evil or benevolent. Only he knows his real motivation, or mix of motivations, though given the scale of his personal wealth I cannot see a relatively small profit as his only or even first purpose. Nevertheless, that grotesque grin is hard to take. But Chelsea managers can and do......and still suffer Rubashov's fate.
Which brings us nicely to their current "interim manager," ex analfielder Rafa Benitez, a title that draws a guffaw from veteran fans: these days aren't all managers "interim"? The appointment had Evertonians rolling in the aisles while kicking their heels in the air in front of our now-distraught neighbours. Equally funny, dahn sarf the stout Iberian seems to be as welcome as an irate tarantula inside a jumpsuit. Football fate can be cruel and mysterious. Meanwhile, our Royal Blues have had a cheery time at the expense of Chelsea's feeder club as it sinks in a swamp of Roy "Brendan" Rodgers statistics, wall charts and envelopes. Yet Benitez appears to have given the Cockney Rent Boys a much-needed punt in the derrière; this is also useful in our delight at the mess in Breck Road. You take your compensations where you can. You never know who is next. It could easily be us.
Actually, Chelsea is a convenient pantomime villain for everyone; John Terry is an imagined incubus, Frank Lampard derided as an over-rated over-the-hill tub of Lahndan jellied eels, Torres of uncertain gender. I doubt if this worries anyone other than their most neurotic fans. The hypocritical reality is that the same people who witter on about greed in the game are more or less the same people who would slay dragons to have the same Abramovich money and trophy haul, or drive "their" clubs into bankruptcy to get "more investment." Of course these are "remedies" with no cures, wrapped in a self-styled martyr's chemise. Such nincompoops eventually disappear up their own anus. Across the country the financial figures speak for themselves. Our fans are no different - nobody complained when John Moores guaranteed bank loans to fund our great years or when the Moores family sold the club for a large profit. The absurd assumption was that somehow all that patronage would continue automatically. It was the sort of madness that gives transubstantiation a bad name. The same applies at Blackburn Rovers with Jack Walker and his successor trustees. All of which demonstrates how culturally one-dimensional is a balance sheet with "creative accounting."
Footy problems run as deep as our socioeconomy, hence the lazy need for a suitable single villain. Rightly or wrongly a majority of fans just don't want to engage the fundamental issues; not really unexpected in a vicarious internet-based "society" with the "feelings" of a computer chip and a key board "friend." But, anyway, pelting Roman Abramovich with custard pies won't make the least difference. He will simply buy new suits, as did the Glazers. For the umpteenth time.......change the law and the rules and regulations, all the way up to and including European legislation. Anything else is Quixotic ale-house nonsense. At present there is simply no comparison between the resources of Everton and Chelsea. As we all know, financial advantage has been stolen at all levels in favour of our distant barbarous and corrupt capital. Clearly, we need a Potemkin moment; how likely do you think that is?
The Rent Boys (yes, I know: a custard pie) arrived at our civilised end of the country undefeated domestically since mid November, with seven straight wins and twenty six goals scored. This ensured nobody took the game lightly. We hoped too the message got through to our central defence which recently has the liquid security of a colander. In the same period we too were undefeated, but with four 1-1 draws and three 2-1 wins. Clearly impetus was with the enemy. I thought a draw at best. When the teams were announced I thought even that was stretching it. We were without Fellaini, Gibson, Mirallas, Neville and Coleman. Phil Jagielka was at right back. Heitinga and Distin were at centre back and we had a centre midfield of Hitzlsperger-Pienaar-Osman.
Well, we were going to get rogered weren't we?
So of course we go and score in the first minute, a cracking piece of opportunism springing from a misplaced Chelsea pass from Hazard on our right. Earlier we had won a free kick half way centre left mid which Distin punted up to the centre of their penalty area. Luiz - wasted dosh if you ask me - cleared it to our right touchline where Hazard tried and failed to trick Jags and then hit it straight to Osman ten metres in. From there it went quickly forward to Peanuts and he kebabed a pass through Cole and Hazard to leave Jags running clear down the right, time to look up, time to measure a cross to the far post. Vic headed it against their right hand post and it came back out to said Peanuts near the penalty spot, who promptly smacked it back into the goal. Bloody hell.
I had to rub my eyes during the next twenty minutes because the Rent Boys scarcely got a look in. Particularly outstanding on our left was the triangle of Bainsey, Pienaar and Osman. As usual, Peanuts ran at them at every available opportunity and equally as usual got treated to a plethora of elbows, knees and trips - anything to bruise him and slow him down. Eventually it worked because he limped off worn out with ten minutes left, his tiny body unable to take any more pounding. But none of it stopped him trying. You can't help wondering what it might do to his joints in later life.
His non-stop effort was typified by a run he made from the left to left of the D, where he got a free kick after Cahill came in studs up. Nik Jelavić took it right footed and swerved it over the wall and against their 'keeper's right hand post and back out and it narrowly avoided an incoming Osman. A few minutes later another brilliant interchange from a throw in down the right saw Peanuts backheel Jags clear again. This time his cross hit a defender and ricocheted to the centre edge of the penalty area where Osman cracked a near-perfect half volley that was too close to their 'keeper's right hand and it went out for a corner. By this time Chelsea were in grave danger of being swamped. They were harassed all over the park, and it showed.
It couldn't go on of course. Gradually the expensive Rent Boys began to work their way back into the game and we had a couple of hairy moments. The first came when their man was allowed to run virtually free on the right, nearly got through, but was crowded out at the last moment, the ball went loose and Tim Howard had to make an instinctive close-in save. Later, the ball somehow stayed out after they got to the right of the goal area at the goal line and it zoomed across the goal at ground level no more than half a metre out and nobody got a touch on it. At that stage it would have been a travesty, yet it served to demonstrate nothing could be taken for granted. Straight from that we broke out at speed through centre right via, who else, Pienaar, Jelavić wide left and closing, Chelsea's defence stretched. A perfect pass angled right-to-left and Nik got it into the penalty area left side and smacked it instantly left footed inside the far post. Cech clawed it wide with what was left of his finger nails.
However, the last ten minutes of the half were Chelsea's and it began to look ominous. Sure enough, an equaliser came with five minutes to go when Fat Frank headed home from dead centre, unmarked. Our Achilles Heel. By then we looked as though we had just run ourselves into the ground. I was glad to get to half time without leaking another one. Moreover, I couldn't see our centre mids lasting the pace unless we got another quick goal after the restart; we all know by now there is a tendency for our midfield to melt in the second half.
So it was a pleasant surprise to see it didn't happen immediately, even though Ladyboy had three early chances and missed them all, two of them fine saves by Tim. It wasn't all one way, though. Osman made a superb left to right run and hit an excellent ground shot their 'keeper had to save splendidly low on his left. Then a quite brilliant left side move had Bainsey kid their defence and hit a low trajectory cross to the near centre goal area, where Nik got in with his head first and deflected it onto the centre underside of the bar and out. Still, you knew we were tottering and vulnerable, stretched by improved passing at a high tempo. No real surprise when Fat Frank got a second with twenty minutes left. It was a smart move that ended in a goal mouth scramble we should have cleared, but didn't, and even the obese one couldn't miss after Tim made another great save.
With just over ten minute left Moyesy made his last throw of the dice and sent on Tolos for Naismith, Ross Barkley for Hitzlsperger and Oviedo for Peanuts. They all did well in the circumstances, though what can you tell in ten minutes? Most of us hoped Barkley would make his mark, wouldn't screw up and let his head go down; actually, he got a bit cocky on a couple of occasions and nearly let them in, but it turned out well. Maybe he has learned his lesson. Tolos was a tall distraction for the enemy, and while they were watching him Nik nearly got an equaliser but couldn't dig it out from his feet. Oviedo has excellent close control but to me looks like he needs to be a little tougher. That's a lot of "buts" and "nearlys" as you would expect.
Overall, given our situation, it was a near run thing and you couldn't fault Our Boys for effort and heart. A little more luck and we might even have won it. Chelsea certainly knew they had been danced with, which was gratifying.
Now for 2013 and whatever it holds. May it be a good one for all of us.