Clinical Anelka gives Chelsea relief from drama of Drogba
West Bromwich Albion 0 Chelsea 3
Sunday 16 November 2008
Back in their sanctuary of the Premier League the blue machine rolled ever ominously on last night, threatening to crush rivals and legends in its wake. Chelsea duly equalled the League record of 10 consecutive away victories held on their own for more than four decades by the double-winning Tottenham side. Only Bolton can now save the mark of Greaves, Mackay, Blanchflower and Co when they host Phil Scolari's joyous travellers in three weeks' time. And with the season's leading marksman Nicolas Anelka in this scoring form the history assault could take on an inevitable feel. "Nicolas has all the confidence in the world," said his team-mate John Obi Mikel. "I think he will score many more."
After these two goals from his only two shots, Anelka already has 12, and eight of these have come from the last four games. Scolari gave a simple reason why the £12 million striker's shooting boots suddenly fit so well. "The players believe in him more and because of that are keen to give him more chances," he said. "And maybe the system we play suits as well."
Which all adds up to not very good news for Didier Drogba, particularly as the system of one target man plus two wide men would not allow Drogba and Anelka to play together. The word is that the Ivorian will not contest the Football Association charge for throwing the coin back into the Burnley section of the crowd last week and that means he will doubtless soon be starting a three-match ban. It is likely Drogba would only be warming the bench, anyhow.
He eventually got on here but by then the match was over and Anelka had guaranteed the positive headlines. In fact, it was over at half-time with three on the scoreboard and so many more in the bank. That they failed to cash in any further was as much down to Chelsea's profligacy as any sterling West Bromwich fightback.
Just like last weekend, Chelsea were able to bounce back – this time from the Carling Cup setback against Burnley on Wednesday – with an emphatic performance that returned them to the top after Liverpool's afternoon win. In contrast, poor West Bromwich seem doomed for a fight down the other end. Not too much should be read into this reversal but plenty will, naturally. At least they have got half their fixtures against the Big Four out of the way. A small mercy for Tony Mowbray, who didn't have many to cling to. He tried to be positive and played two up front, which was commendable to some, suicidal to others.
"A team like West Brom cannot shut up shop against Chelsea," reasoned Mowbray. "They have too much quality." That was evident from the 34th minute onwards when the visitors embarked on their rampage and West Bromwich imploded. "Up until then I thought it was even," said Mowbray. Scolari concurred. "For the first 15 minutes they were the better side," he said, clearly reflecting on one Ishmael Miller chance that should at the very least have hit the target.
As for the Chelsea goals, Scott Carson will come in for criticism for letting two in at his near post, the first a curling strike from Jose Bosingwa in the 34th minute, the last on the brink of the whistle when Anelka skidded in a low one for his second. His first had come with a clinical dink over Carson when put through by an opportunistic Salomon Kalou header.
That was that, although it really shouldn't have been. "There were three or four goals to be taken," said Scolari and he was not exaggerating. It took on the guise of a training match.
But even in practice injuries occur and Fabio Capello will be anxious to discover the results of a scan on John Terry's foot injury that forced his withdrawal in the latter stages and could see the central defender miss Wednesday's friendly in Berlin. "It is underneath the foot," explained Scolari, looking perplexed. "It is one of those new football injuries."
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