Out of our hands
Bitter sweet. A real mix of emotions in the aftermath of an exhilarating match at the Bridge. Premier League football at its best. Two teams chasing the Champions' League dream at the end of a long hard season. Both exhausted, both stretched to breaking point, both giving it everything.
We have much to be proud of. A fine result at the home of the in-form team in the Premiership. Yet another late goal. Steel and determination. And yet for all that, we no longer have control of our destiny. A great match for the neutrals. Painful for us who had emotion invested. A draw wasn't really enough. Pride mixed with impending disappointment. A heady mix.
Pre match, the team sheets showed the scale of the task ahead. Their midfield. It's so good. Unbelievably good. Pace, movement, overwhelming goal threat from the 'three amigos'. Driving runs, visionary passing and a cannonball shot from sideshow Bob. Boundless energy from Ramires. A true box-to-box midfielder. An awesome group, with quality on the bench as well. And they're all young. It hurts to say it but Chelsea's future is looking bright. All they lack is that defensive midfield brute. How could we stand up to that? Sandro out. Dembele out. Huddlestone and Parker were in for a torrid time. Which is possibly why the energetic Holtby was preferred to Sigurdsson.
Sadly, this was a match in which Huddlestone's limitations were exposed. With Mata, Oscar and Hazard bounding round him like a pack of hunting dogs round a St Bernard, his lack of mobility was laid bare. He conceded free kicks. With the ball he was given no time to execute his passes. His set pieces weren't coming off either. Not a good evening for big Tom. The haircut will have to wait. Holtby tried hard as always without being truly convincing. Parker, though, had one of his better matches. Not a pirouette in sight and his ventures forward were more effective than usual. At the end of the match, he looked like he was going to die. In terms of effort, you couldn't ask for more.
Bale and Lennon were quiet. Possibly still not fully fit, maybe just marked out of it, though the defensive side to Lennon's game was again in evidence and much appreciated, tracking back, helping out. Benny and Walker played well, though why Walker bothers standing over free kicks is beyond me. He's not fooling anyone. Vertonghen was imperious as ever. Dawson showed good honest Yorkshire grit, but was caught out several times, conceded several fouls. Made a crucial block with his face. Put it all on the line. Bruised and battered, but still standing, still determined. Giving his all. A metaphor for our whole evening. Our whole season.
With Bale shackled somebody needed to step up, and step up Ade did. He put in his best performance of the season. What a goal. What an assist. A huge effort. He was everywhere. You know what's coming. Why not every week? Confidence? Attitude? We've been over it before. Too many times. Man of the match this time, anyway. Will he show up on Sunday? Sig chipped in with another late goal. Quality finish. He's gradually gathered momentum. Hopes for him next season are high.
It was a courageous performance against a very good Chelsea team. They had better players than us. They had the better chances. In truth they probably deserved to win. Hazard's balloon shot and Ramires' slip saved us from being buried. But we had spirit. We fought. We had more possession, more shots. All of this with several key players missing and Bale unable to impose himself. It's a testament to AVB. They're playing for him.
We should be very proud, not just of this one match, but our whole season. A season of transition, under a new manager, new ideas and a complete overhaul of the first team, and we are still up there, our best ever premier league finish still very possible. Exceeding expectations. Souness and Hoddle's post match comments about Harry Redknapp were as infuriating as they were idiotic. Sacked 'not for football reasons'. Really? Losing a 10 point lead, leaving us out of the Champions' League with arguably the best midfield in the land and the best squad we've had in decades isn't a football reason? If AVB was in charge last season...
For all the positives, the cold facts are that this result leaves us needing others to slip up. Chelsea face Villa and Everton, with a European final in between. No easy task. Arsenal face Wigan and Newcastle, both fighting relegation. Hope is still burning. The draw wasn't enough, but a defeat would have left us needing Arsenal to lose a match. Now all we ask is that they draw one. Margin for error is gone. We MUST beat Stoke. We MUST beat Sunderland. The rest is up to others. COYS!!!!
Written by Yorkspur