Matches between Chelsea and Manchester City are generally close-run affairs nowadays, but that certainly wasn’t the case at Stamford Bridge in October 2007.
City visited West London in good form, having won seven of their opening 10 fixtures in the 2007-08 campaign under Sven-Goran Eriksson, while Chelsea had Avram Grant in the dugout after sacking Jose Mourinho the month before.
But the form book was thrown out of the window as the hosts romped to a 6-0 victory, their biggest win since August 1997, when Gianluca Vialli scored four times in another 6-0 win at newly-promoted Barnsley.
One of the criticisms of Mourinho’s Chelsea, and part of the reason he was sacked, was a perceived lack of flair and attacking intent; a sense that his players were often shackled by his tactics.
Grant, for better or worse, certainly offered his players more freedom, as evidenced by Michael Essien popping up inside the area.
But the goal belongs to Frank Lampard – imperious throughout – making his touch, vision and pass look incredibly easy, although Essien’s slight feint to send Micah Richards backpedalling is also lovely.
Yet again, this goal belongs to Lampard, who captained the side in the absence of John Terry.
When people talk about Lampard they remember his freakish goalscoring ability and the way he arrived late in the box. They rarely mention his passing range, which he displays to full effect with an absolute pearler off the outside of his right boot.
By this point Drogba is fully into the groove of English football, having scored 33 goals in all competitions the previous season, and he finishes with sumptuous ease.
Poor Joe Hart, making only his sixth appearance for City, watches on as the ball slips between his legs – an unhappy portent for the rest of the afternoon.
City, to their credit – well, sort of, manage to avoid completely collapsing until the second half, but Chelsea eventually break their resistance through a siege of bluster and sheer determination.
If Chelsea were to get the goal they deserved, Salomon Kalou would slam the ball home after collecting Drogba’s neat flick, but his dithering allows City to get a foot in.
Lampard, meanwhile, has his snap shot saved by the beleaguered Hart before appealing to the referee as if he knows his earlier efforts probably warrant a goal.
But finally it is left to Drogba to battle and batter everything in sight until the ball hits the back of the net. It’s very much, ‘Right, f*ck this lads, let’s get on with it.’
Ah, yes, don’t forget to note the ball flying through Hart’s legs again.
Joe Cole decides to get involved and now it’s a party. City boss Eriksson had once commented on the attacker: “Joe Cole has always been a special player, full of fantasy.”
But this is Cole after he had been moulded by Mourinho: direct, threatening and with an end product – although the finish with the outside of his foot still contains an element of cheek.
It’s probably unfair to suggest City’s Javier Garrido gives up defending, as that would presume the left-back was interested in solidity to begin with.
The goal which sums up the whole game.
City leave acres of space between their attack and defence for Chelsea’s midfield to amble into, the final pass is slid into the space between Richards and Garrido – which should possibly be name the Corridor of Certainty, given it always leads to a goal – and Kalou puts the ball through Hart’s legs.
If there was a sense under Mourinho that Chelsea would surge their way into a 2-0 lead and then ease their foot off the gas to see the game out, then this performance signalled a change in that mentality.
Claudio Pizarro is on the pitch now and winning tackles in midfield, so it’s perhaps no surprise City’s players are throwing their hands up in the air in exasperation.
Essien is now fully aware of the rules of the Corridor of Certainty, laying the ball on a plate for the much-maligned Shevchenko to – you guessed it – leave Hart wishing he was born with a third leg.
David Lacey in The Guardian commented how this was the icing on the cake for Grant: “Getting the owner’s pal, Andriy Shevchenko, off the bench to score Chelsea’s sixth goal in the last minute looked a shrewd move.”
The home fans, meanwhile, gleefully sang away to ‘boring, boring Chelsea’.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Carvalho, Alex, Ferreira, Joe Cole (Shevchenko 67), Essien, Lampard, Obi, Kalou, Drogba (Pizarro 80).
Man City: Hart, Corluka, Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Ireland (Vassell 63), Hamann (Ball 66), Johnson, Petrov, Elano (Bianchi 73), Samaras.
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