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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Can Chelsea capitalise on Man Utd's slip-up to inspired Sunderland?

If anyone predicted a draw between Man Utd and Sunderland at Old Trafford they have my admiration. Man Utd, on an impressive run of nine Premiership wins in a row and gunning for a Chelsea side that has been slightly inconsistent in the last two months, were massive favourites to beat the Premiership's bottom side who had accumulated only 11 points all season. If ever there was a 'lock-on' victory in the Premiership, this was it.

But football being football you know that anything's possible. And when Man Utd hadn't broken the deadlock after twenty minutes there were already signs of anxiousness as they implored the referee to ensure he added injury time for some perceived time-wasting by the Sunderland team.

The creeping pressure of getting a goal affected Man Utd's rhythm and attacking cohesion. This, combined with facing a resolute and energetic Sunderland team that visibly grew in confidence with every minute that passed by without a goal conceded, plus an inspired performance by the Sunderland keeper, Kelvin Davis, who looked unbeatable on the night, were the key elements that produced the most shocking scoreline of the season to date.

Chelsea were already in pole position to win the title before last night's match. But with Man Utd unable to pick up all three points last night, I imagine that the Blues can approach today's match with Bolton in a more relaxed and positive mood than expected.

My own prediction for this match is a significant away win for Chelsea. Travelling to the Reebok has been a very tough task for most Premiership teams this season- with only Everton and Man Utd gaining wins. That said, I like Chelsea's chances for three reasons.

First, I remember this time last season they went to the Reebok and comprehensively beat Allardyce's team. I'm sure Mourinho will be telling his players to recall this experience as evidence that they are well capable of a win today. Second, travelling to Bolton at midday in April is a better prospect than making the same trip to the elemental Reebok stadium in the wind and rain of dark mid-winter. Finally, Bolton have suffered four defeats in a row which means they are likely to enter the game with low morale, while Chelsea will be high-on-confidence after an excellent home performance last week against West Ham. Man Utd's unexpected failing last night can only help this confidence factor.

Predicted scoreline: Bolton 1 - 2 Chelsea


Blogger RedsMan said...

Manchester United had what can be perceived on paper a golden chance to make their game in hand over Liverpool count further in their pursuit of Chelsea, with Sunderland needing no less than a win to give hope of officially staying in the Premiership. But despite close chances through Wayne Rooney, Christiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Kelvin Davies earning the Man Of The Match award, Old Trafford were denied a major home win. I heard The Sky Sports News presenter state Sunderland were the first team to keep a clean sheet in the league thus far against Utd, but I believe he meant a clean sheet at Old Trafford since Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams so far to have kept out United, both times at their respective grounds.

The question is, of course, how this result, magnificent for Sunderland on the night yet comprehensive in its implication in league status, has made any effect on the chase? Man Utd play on Monday as Chelsea go away to Bolton today and host Everton on Monday. If Chelsea win today, it is effectively over for the title. If they lose, then with Man Utd coming to the Bridge on the 29th April, that is only one game Man Utd can influence, therefore Utd would need Chelsea to lose with another side out of Everton, Blackburn and Newcastle. Irony today is that Chelsea won the title last season with an away win at The Reebok. Their away record this season has brought something like 10 wins, 3 draws, 3 defeats.

Sunderland perhaps chose their ending game to produce a stifling display against one of the best in the league. They had their chances too, coming close through Justin Hoyte at one point, but to no avail. Good luck to the Black Cats, whose luck may have crucially rubbed off onto Man Utd in their wake.


4/15/2006 12:03 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, frankly speaking, even with all the hype about who's going to finish first this season, I think Chelsea sort of made enough to win it a long time ago already. Don;t get me wrong, I'm no chelsea fan and as many others, would love to see some other team win the title.
However, MU and Liverpool, which are the closest to chelsea, did not do themselves good in the beggining of the season to lose vital points by drawing too many and even losing some games. Although the've managed to cut down the gap to quite a respectable figure, chelsea's prior big cushion has allowed them to slack a little but still have room to win it. With so few games to play (even in Feb/March time), I really didn't see chelsea capable of losing enough games for them to lose their title as theve only lost 3 or 4 times the whole season.
However,I think and hope, that coming
next season, Mu and Liverpool, and maybe a team or 2 else give a good showing and fight with them right from the start to have a realistic chance.


4/15/2006 1:42 pm

Blogger SKG said...

T's prediction was spot on, a huge win for chelsea which now means they could wrap up the title on monday should utd fail to beat spurs.

i hate the word 'consistency' but it's what utd and liverpool must strive to achieve next season otherwise chelsea will run away with the league once again. i don't think chelsea have played the best football this season but they have kept on churning out win after win.

i know its frustrating for utd and liverpool fans but at the end of the day chelsea will fall off their pedalstool and someone must then capitalise. the sooner the better.

4/15/2006 7:14 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Good call, T. Anon and SKG, certainly agree. Liverpool were aiming to challenge for the title after the Euro win but faltered at the beginning as others took the stage in Chelsea, West Ham, Wigan Man City to mention four. When you see Arsenal drop out the top three, much less the top four, then the season clearly takes a different turn from the usual.

But it matters not who is up there, the challenge should be equal and therefore not so predictable. It's an insult when one bookmaker paid out on bets on chelsea winning the title before Xmas, but that was the climate of the league at that moment. If hoping for a dramatic turn of events may have seemed just too much to hope for before, it can be forgotten now.

Until it is official, I'll hold my applause, but when Man Utd failed to win against Sunderland, coming before Chelsea play, and then Chelsea go on to win, then the writing is high on the wall. Sir Alex just failed to keep up the pressure, which nearly worked. Right now, looking to two crucial games tomorrow.


4/15/2006 8:41 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks guys, nice to get a prediction right once in a while!

4/16/2006 1:27 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Well...looks like Chelsea have done enought against Bolton...2-0...and the Title is theirs for the taking on the same ground as last year apparently.....

Good for them...they've earned it...though in a different fashion to what the league is used to. I'm definitely still and Arsenal fan...and I can just hope for some better play (read football that entertains) and some less theatrical comments and gripes about other teams, refs etc. If they manage to become better winners...i.e. more magnanimous about wins...losses...then I believe we can start admiring them. At the moment...only if you are a Chelsea fan without thought...I'm not sure they are that LIKABLE...

Well done Chelsea...I can only hope for better next season.

4/16/2006 3:00 pm


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