Wednesday 16 September 2015 – Chelsea 4 Maccabi Tel Aviv 0
Always love a European night at The Bridge, and both sets of fans were in good voice. An expected changed side, new lad Baba Rahman starting at left back and Azpi moving across to the right, with a centre back pairing of Zouma and masked captain Cahill, Begovic between the sticks. Great to see the return of Oscar, aided by Willian, Hazard and Fabregas, and a welcome start for Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Loic Remy the man up top. The regular starters who missed out all dropped to the bench along with Bertrand Traore and keeper Jamal Blackman.
A flying start to the game, RLC receiving an early booking for a high, but pretty innocuous looking challenge. And just 5 minutes in, a typical tearing run by Willian was met by the Tel Aviv keeper who clearly went for his feet. The keeper lucky not to be sent off, up stepped Hazard for the nailed on formality penalty kick. But gasps all round as he skied it!
Undeterred, we continued to fight for the ball and really looked like we meant business. On the quarter hour the inevitable foul on Eden Hazard led to a free kick, when Willian nonchalantly dinked the ball over all the players, bounced once, past the keeper and into the back of the net. What a cheek! But unfortunately for the Brazilian, an injury saw him replaced by Diego Costa 5 minutes later.
With Remy moving over to the right to accommodate the change, the play continued with both teams creating chances. As the half wore on though we picked up the pace, taking advantage of Costa’s strength on the ball and Remy’s quick feet. And when Costa was bundled over in the box in stoppage time, it was Oscar who took the resulting penalty, deftly rolling the ball into the back of the net with the last kick of the half. HT 2-0.
We started the second half as we ended the first, some positive passages of play, with RLC linking up nicely and pushing the play forward. The visitors also had their moments but nothing that our defence didn’t have covered. As we approached the hour a perfectly weighted and lofted ball from Fabregas found Diego Costa in the box, where he turned and volleyed the ball into the top of the net via the crossbar. A superb strike, giving the home fans a buzz to the tune of You’re Not Singing Anymore aimed at the noisy, and very yellow, visitors.
And in a spine tingling moment the Chelsea fans rose to their feet in unison and sang Stand Up For The Special One, as Jose acknowledged our continuing and unwavering support. We certainly do know what we are!
In our second change Oscar was replaced by Ramires and it was as you were with some great attacking play, as we looked to take further advantage of a poor Tel Aviv side. A few minutes later our final substitution saw the impressive RLC replaced by Traore, and moments after a breakaway move saw a superb pass from Hazard find the advancing Remy whose shot was saved, but only as far as Fabregas who gratefully accepted the tap in. Ohhhhh….Fabregas is magic….
So, final score 4-0 and a comfortable and confident win, marked by super performances from the whole team. But, for me, there were some performances of note, RLC very capable in his role in the middle of the park, and I thought Baba made a positive contribution as well, his running and quick passing down the left a real bonus. And matched with Azpi’s probing runs down the right side and a solid captain’s performance by Gary Cahill, our defence, along with Begovic, earned a well deserved clean sheet.
But the real test will come at the weekend when we host Arsenal – let’s see who Jose chooses to start!
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