Chelsea toil but Kinnear senses fresh start after stalemate
Chelsea 0 Newcastle United 0
Sunday 23 November 2008
So Joe Kinnear would welcome Alan Shearer at the Newcastle United training ground, for a couple of mornings a week – to "see for himself what football is all about". Perhaps, while he is about it, he can tell Luiz Felipe Scolari as well.
The Chelsea manager watched the Premier League leaders run rings round their guests for much of the afternoon, only to leave the pitch themselves dazed by the futility of their endeavours. Immaculate all season away from home, they have now dropped nine points at Stamford Bridge. But this startling scoreline can only be partly explained by their own ineptitude in front of goal. Credit is also becoming due – overdue, perhaps – to the growing resilience of a team now beaten only twice in eight starts under Kinnear.
Though he remains on a month-to-month contract, he is performing something akin to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. With Mike Ashley yet to find someone discerning enough to take the club off his hands, Shearer's interest in the job, or otherwise, remains academic. In the immediate term, certainly, the interim manager is going nowhere – and that may no longer be quite so true of his team.
"The deal was to be in charge until the club was sold, and nothing has changed, to be honest," Kinnear said. "But I have been informed that I am here for another month, and that will bring us up to the transfer window. So if I can twist [Ashley's] arm and get a few quid out of him, I can buy a couple of players.
"The club has not got a buyer yet, but people are talking to them. So far, nobody has come up with the cash. Mike said they were Americans, but the offer they made was well below his estimation of what the club was worth."
Kinnear declined to apologise for the extreme pragmatism of his strategy here, and in fairness nor did Scolari condemn him. Exasperated as he was by Newcastle's lack of ambition, he said afterwards: "They played for a draw, and we are thinking only of a win. So they were better than us."
At first, it promised to be a stroll for Chelsea. The lissom Jose Bosingwa repeatedly cantered past Damien Duff at his leisure, while his interplay with Deco left Jose Enrique as Canute before a tide of crosses from the right.
But Newcastle survived to half-time, exorbitant advantages in territory and possession having properly stretched Shay Given only the once – when he somehow got a glove to Frank Lampard's early header. The margins would get tighter in the second half. Given only just landed on the right side of the line after claiming a lofted free kick, while the referee detected an infringement when Joe Cole bundled Malouda's parried shot over the line.
Chelsea increasingly resorted to impatient punts outside the box. Anxiety gnawed the crowd, as they adjusted to the surreal possibility that Newcastle might hold out. Michael Owen, finally granted a start by Kinnear, was contained by Ashley Cole. And Duff's torments at the hands of Bosingwa made it seem a very long time since he arrived here as a record signing in 2003, an early token of Roman Abramovich's intentions.
Instead this had been a job for the bricklayers, for Fabrizio Coloccini in particular, and Sebastien Bassong alongside, with Nicky Butt setting an aggressive tone in midfield. "It's probably the best team performance we have had," Kinnear said. "It feels like a win in the dressing room. We drew a week ago and it felt like a loss, when they equalised in the 89th minute. But this feels like a victory."
Having lost their air of impregnability here last month, when beaten by Liverpool, Chelsea must now add this indignity to their Carling Cup exit against Burnley. Their fans managed to find some cheer as the results came in from Anfield and Eastlands, but these were only the coldest of home comforts.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: Coloccini
Match rating: 5/10
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