Bordeaux 1-1 Chelsea FC
Champions League, November 26th, 2008
It looks like Chelsea have to wait in football purgatory for another two weeks. Well, technically one more week, which is when Arsenal come to visit Stamford Bridge. But in the Champions League context, their match against CFR Cluj in a fortnight will decide if they get to go to football heaven or are consigned to football hell.
Hell, in the case of the club, is the UEFA Cup, the equivalent of bad sex in football terms: it’s still sex, but it’s ultimately drawn-out, overblown and boring. And it’s now a real possibility should they slip against the Romanians and Bordeaux somehow sack Rome. Hell for Luiz Felipe Scolari is Brazil, for that’s where he intends to go should his team fail to qualify for the last 16 and he presumably resigns.
In his article yesterday, Martin Samuel argued that Chelsea are potentially the next crisis club, especially if they were to suffer a reverse in France. They didn’t, but the image of the cartoon black cloud hovering over Stamford Bridge conjured by Samuel has yet to dissipate.
This contest between two former World Cup winners failed to produce any stand-out quality, except the occasionally dazzling Yoann Gourcuff who’s spin and left-shoot shot in the 26th minute was world class. In fact, it was Gourcuff who consistently made Bordeaux look interesting. Indeed, it was the playmaker’s dogged pursuit of Joe Cole that won his team a corner and, for the resultant kick, their equalizing goal through Alou Diarra. Expect English clubs to be sniffing around in the summer.
But for all Chelsea’s high-profile players, they made hard work of this and it told in the end. They held an industrious, and at times very clever, Bordeaux team at bay in the same way an older brother holds his younger sibling just far away enough to not get hit. But eventually they tired of it, they lost concetration, and they lost an important two points.
Nicolas Anelka gave Chelsea a lead that he could not have timed better if he himself has scripted it. The Frenchman chose the 60th minute to latch onto Frank Lampard’s pass and coolly slide the ball home, just as Didier Drogba was summoned to the touch line. With questions over the Ivorian’s future at the club looming, Anelka made his case for frontline hegemony, and forced his moody team-mate into a somewhat awkward celebration with his equally grumpy manager.
But eventually Bordeaux’s doggedness tired Chelsea out. With yellow cards mounting up for Ashley Cole, John Terry and Frank Lampard, the French side won a corner that was poorly marked, especially by Terry, from which Diarra capitalised. And the lack of discipline didn’t end there, as there was still time for Frank Lampard to throw a needless challenge at Gourcuff and earn a second yellow card. All of a sudden the home fixture against Cluj feels uncomfortable.