Bridging a gap of confidence before Chelsea away


At badminton the other night – I live on the wild side – a Chelsea fan accused me of gamesmanship. He wasn’t suggesting I’d tampered with the shuttle but that I was trying to lull him towards false feelings of security by expressing fears that Sunderland might be facing a cricket score away at Chelsea. I needn’t have worried, if one of these crystal ball gazers turns out to be correct …

Over at the Blackcats e-mail group that provides such wisdom and entertainment, Jeremy, in Ontario, was worried about the shortage of banter. Were we just going to fax Chelsea the points to save having to turn up?

If so, I replied, could someone please save me turning up, too, and let me know in advance what to say when The Observer comes on for the fan’s verdict at 5pm?

Back came two versions of the same game. Take your pick, though Sunderland fans will prefer the offering from the Scottish islands.

This, from far-off Stornoway, was Ted’s gem:

Disquiet on an e-mail group over the lack of postings were allayed today when Sunderland staged a smash and grab raid at Stamford Bridge. Stamford Bridge (a different one, I grant you) has long stood out as the the last time an English/Saxon King won against foreign invaders. However today, this Stamford Bridge saw the invaders come and depart with all the points.

The Blackcat fans (the loyalist away fans in the UK) singing from the start, broke into euphoric song in the fifth minute when Darren Bent broke away, went on an amazing solo run and ended up putting the ball into the upper left hand corner of the Chelsea goal., beyond the despairing fingers of the keeper.

Chelsea, despite mounting numerous counter attacks, but these were stopped by a Sunderland defence hanging on by their fingernails (and assisted by the woodwork) time after time.

Traditionally Sunderland have let one goal leads evaporate like water in a hot desert but this time they held onto it like a thirsty man holding onto his last bottle of water.

Being a Sunderland fan is not a job for the faint-hearted but this time they deserved their moment.

The silence on the e-mail group on Friday? If you’re going to launch a sneak attack you don’t tell the opposition that you are coming do you?

Whereas Jim, who could be anywhere in the world, took the more traditional view:

We played 4-5-1, Jones on the bench. No Cattermole stilll, but Reid returned to midfield to partner Henderson, Cana and Malbranque with Campbell wide. We started ok, and Bent had an early half chance. But on the half hour a mistake by McCartney let in Malouda who was tripped by Fulop. Lampard dispatched the penalty, and Fulop was dismissed.

Chelsea added one more before half time, Ballack crashing home a loose ball after a corner.

For most of the second half, Sunderland defended in numbers, and Chelsea slowed the pace, but still had enough about them to create chances as we tired. Another mistake, this time by Nosworthy, filling in at centre half for possibly the last time before his rumoured switch to Nottingham Forest, tried to play his way out of trouble near
the corner flag. Malouda robbed him and squared unselfishly for Sturridge to score.

There was still time for another sending off, this time for Cana, for a stamp on Ballack.

Bruce refused to speak to the press afterwards, fuelling unwarranted speculation about his position.

Final score: Chelsea 3 – 0 Sunderland.

And it rained all afternoon.

Jeremy was left wondering what he’d started. “Doesn’t sound like it was much of a game,” he exclaimed. “Not sure I’m even going to watch the full re-run of it on the telly.”

Colin Randall

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