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Jose Falls off the Bridge

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Chelsea got no romance in Rome midweek! The Blues were bruised, shattered and lacerated by Italian side Roma in the UCL; so Antonio Conte found himself in desperate situation — even more desperate than a sumo wrestler struggling to swim out of shark-infested waters. The uneasy calm within the Stamford Bridge hierarchy vis-a-vis perceived poor activities in the transfer market has not helped the Italian paddle his canoe in recent times. His decision to drop key defender David Luiz for this one — a huge gamble — may put another hole in his parachute if things go awry against the tormentors from Manchester.

Jose Mourinho, on the other hand, had a score to settle with his former employers (he always does). So, this had the mien of an all-seat-sold-out fiesta.

Manchester United began the game rather strongly — no one was parking anything early on, not in the least a bus. Ashley Young’s invasion of the left side of attack was causing a few problems for the boys in blue, with Marcus Rashford wasting a couple of headers in the first 10 minutes. Chelsea’s first major raid was from Tiemoue Bakayoko, who should have done better in the 11th minute. Manchester United were really competing, knocking the ball around real good within the Chelsea half — to the bewilderment of neutrals who, hitherto, felt Mourinho was coming to the Bridge to erect another ‘Berlin Wall’. But Chelsea got into the groove and Eden Hazard’s thunderous effort in the 11th minute saw David de Gea earning his wages.

Half an hour on the clock, and both teams having a reasonable share of the possession. Andreas Christensen’s header in the 39th minute from a Cesc Fabregas’ corner-kick could have been the opener, but it was slightly shouldered over the bar.

Both teams went into the break with no harvest from their sojourn, albeit Chelsea had the more inviting chances.

The second half kicked off with both line-ups intact. But Chelsea came out more determined and better organized. Returning midfield composer, N’Golo Kante and Hazard were pulling their weight, with the likes of Nemanja Matic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan gasping for breath like dying rats in pool of water. An hour gone, and Conte’s boys fully in control. The Blues finally got their reward for persistent probing of the United’s defense system when Alvaro Morata headed home Azpilicueta’s ‘take-me-home’ cross in the 54th minute. Morata was unmarked, in acres of space in the United vital area — big enough for a United Nations’ conference, and the Spaniard rose high up like Michael Jordan in his heydays and nodded home sumptuously to leave compatriot de Gea’s feet glued to the spot. Only his eyes moved, as he gazed at the round-leather object fly into his net. Pain for United from Spain!

Manchester United, all of a sudden, out of gas! Out of steam! Young appeared consumed, Romelu Lukaku no different from an average spectator in the stand, and Mkhitaryan a mere passenger. The Red Devils were being tormented. In response, Mourinho substituted Mhiktaryan and Phil Jones for Maroune Fellaini and Anthony Martial. But their pain just wouldn’t go away. Bluntly said, Fellaini introduced some clumsiness into an already agonized United, picking up a yellow card in his first few minutes. The Belgian almost gifted Chelsea a 2nd goal when he lost possession, luckily to the wrong player — Bakoyoko.

Hazard again, was denied by de Gea in the 75th minute. United were now caught up in a ping-pong affair, as Chelsea continued to dominate. Mourinho had no arrow in the quiver as his last substitution clearly showed — Jesse Lingard thrown into a tensed battle field. Oops!

Conte responded with the substitution of Fabregas for Danny Drinkwater in the 76th minute and Willian for Hazard in the 83rd minute. Fellaini’s close range effort in the dying minutes was saved by Thibaut Courtois, who was summoned from vacation all day if you ask me.

Mourinho beaten again in another big duel; just couldn’t cross the bridge. His City rivals now opening an 8-point gap. Quite a task really for the Portuguese. Lukaku was really exposed here. The Belgian has shown he’s not up for the big games. Methinks he’s definitely not the man to take United to dreamland. Ibraaaaaaa!!!

 

 

Chelsea Vs Manchester United (5:30pm) : Sunday, November 5, 2017

By Uche Atuma

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1 Comment

  1. Uche

    November 15, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    I think Mourinho is gradually losing his mojo!!