Kinnear adds heart to revival
Chelsea 0 Newcastle United 0
Monday 24 November 2008
You might call it a case of nil-nil desperandum. For Chelsea, there would be the relief of discovering that Liverpool and Manchester United also endured a barren afternoon; for Newcastle this was a more substantial tonic, one that sowed new seeds of hope.
It was not pretty, with Michael Owen spending much of his afternoon foraging in midfield, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and few will still be placing the appointment of Joe Kinnear in that category, after the interim manager secured twin dividends from the league leaders on Saturday – a third away point of the season, and a precious infusion of belief.
Lampooned on his arrival, Kinnear has quickly got his players handing buckets up and down from the pump and the fires are gradually being doused. Here they blunted Chelsea's ornate midfield blades with an epic display of obduracy.
Kinnear has been told to stick around for another month at least, while Mike Ashley trawls the stagnant waters of the global economy. Until the owner finds someone prepared to pay the ransom he expects to release the club from its latest purgatory, Kinnear even anticipates supervising a few changes during the transfer window.
A curious state of affairs, given the perceived role of Dennis Wise in the disintegration of Kevin Keegan's authority, but Kinnear was adamant after the game that he has been authorised to identify potential targets for January. Ashley had promised him that he could spend any money received from sales, and might even find some extra funds. "I don't think he'd be putting his hand in his pocket if the club's going to be sold in a week's time," Kinnear admitted. But for now that seems unlikely – "certainly till after Christmas, or beyond that".
In fairness to Wise, the bedrock of Newcastle's resistance on Saturday comprised Fabricio Collocini and Sébastien Bassong, both imported during the summer, while Jonas Gutierrez again looked well equipped for the Premier League.
Wise himself will have been in his element, of course, back at the club he bestrode during the 1990s. Indeed, cynics on Tyneside may view this as pretty much a home fixture for the "Cockney mafia" – but London pride is better than no pride at all.
As it happens, that is exactly what will be at stake this weekend, when Arsenal come to Stamford Bridge. It would be churlish to read too much into Chelsea's failure to consummate the silky advances of Deco, Jose Bosingwa and Frank Lampard against Newcastle. Equally, it was not a bad afternoon for the suspended Didier Drogba, and it is certainly curious that Chelsea, inviolate for four years until the visit of Liverpool last month, have now dropped nine points at Stamford Bridge, while setting records on the road.
Luiz Felipe Scolari characteristically declined to disparage Kinnear's negative tactics. "Sometimes it is more easy to win away than at Stamford Bridge," the Chelsea manager shrugged. "When you are away, the home fans pressure their team to attack us, but when you are at home they don't want to attack us. I said congratulations to the coach and his team. They had a strategy to draw and it worked."
Needless to say, Kinnear hardly objects to being cast as the awkward pragmatist, and is relishing the grudging respect of those who greeted his appointment as the final affront of a discredited, carpetbagging regime. Reminded that Newcastle was hardly the ideal job for a man with a history of cardiac problems, he even feigned a collapse against the wall. Ironic, then, that the one thing he appears to be giving this team is a bit of heart.
"It wasn't a case of my ability, or what I've achieved in the game," he said, reflecting on his four years in the wilderness. "It's just I never got interviews because of my health. After the heart attack, it was nigh on impossible to get a case over to anybody. Every time I was interviewed, the first question was: 'How's you heart? How's your health?' I had to get back somehow, to prove I'm physically AOK. It's understandable, you're the forgotten man. But I kept banging on doors. Now this one's come out of the blue, and I'm going to do everything I possibly can for it to lead on to another."
Chelsea: (4-3-2-1) Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, A Cole; Lampard, Mikel, Deco; J Cole (Ballack, 81), Malouda (Kalou, 71); Anelka. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Sinclair, Bridge, Ferreira, Mineiro.
Newcastle (4-4-1-1): Given; Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Jose Enrique; Gutierrez (N'Zogbia, 76), Guthrie, Butt, Duff; Owen; Martins (Ameobi, 60). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Cacapa, Edgar, LuaLua, Carroll.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Guthrie, Gutierrez.
Man of the match: Coloccini
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