The duck is broken! And so is the clean sheet streak. But it almost didn’t matter in the end, as the Chelsea players – all nine of them – lined up to take their respective spot kicks after 120 minutes ended with the score tied at 1-1. Amazingly, all five Chelsea penalties were scored while Caballero played his part to perfection by saving one Norwich penalty.
Here are the talking points from a hard-fought and, frankly, absurd game of football.
#1 The Drought Ends
It took around 340 minutes, but Chelsea’s historic run without scoring a goal finally came to an end against Norwich. The visitors’ defending made it almost impossible not to put the ball in the back of the net, although Chelsea did their best to return the favour just moments after scoring. The much-maligned Michy Batshuayi was at hand to tap in a Kenedy cross, but that was his only worthwhile contribution. Before that Batshuayi was, to put it mildly, useless. But he was far from being the only one. The first 45 minutes made us feel like both teams could play all night and be no closer to getting a goal. It was an absolutely horrible half of football.
#2 The Reds
If someone told me this was the second coming of Tom Henning Ovrebo, I would nod my head and completely agree with them. Once in a while you get to see a referee who is very obviously card-happy and very confident about the decisions they’re taking. But then, you also need to take a look at Pedro’s dive and shake your head in disgust at the obviousness of it. It was a blatant effort to con the referee which failed miserably. Then he slid in from behind to stop a counter attack, resulting in an early bath. Not to be outdone on the stupidity stakes, Morata lost his cool when he was unfairly booked for simulation. When a referee is dishing out yellows like they’re going out of fashion, a little more maturity is needed. Conte alluded to this in his post-match conference, calling for calmer heads. He also had a thing or two to say about the man with the monitor.
#3 VAR and (Taking The) Piss
“If we want to use a new system, I can’t accept a big mistake,” he said. “In this case, the Willian penalty was a big, big mistake. Not from the referee on the pitch, who took quickly a decision to book Willian and didn’t have any doubt, but from the person watching the game [Jones]. I hope the VAR wasn’t a referee because if you see that watching on television and don’t think that’s a penalty … he has to improve. It was very clear.
“At least to avoid a big mistake, [the VAR has] to call the referee and tell him: ‘Look, maybe this situation there is a doubt. For me it’s no penalty, but it’s better you go and watch it, and then take the final decision.’ We need to improve if we want to use this new system. We have to wait to check with the person who is watching the game and then, if this person is sure 100% that it is simulation, go and book Willian.” (via The Guardian).
Conte couldn’t have said it any better. VAR, on its own, is useless if the referee on the pitch does not even consider using it before making game-changing decisions. There are no excuses. Either use it or lose the pretence of using VAR to improve the game.
#4 Forever Young
Thanks to Chelsea’s woes in putting games to bed, only Kenedy and Ampadu started the game against Norwich. And with this game going the same way of so many before it, there was no opportunity for Sterling or Musonda to come out and play for a while. Instead, it was the big guns and Hazard, who made history by coming on as a fourth substitute. Chelsea Twitter was up in arms when Conte described Callum Hudson-Odoi as a work in progress and not ready for the step up to the first team, but could you blame them? While Chelsea laboured against Norwich, the 17 year old had another blinder for the U-18s, handing out assists and scoring two himself. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a run out against Newcastle in the next round, if the next best option is Andy Carroll, would it?
#5 Oh, Carroll
Yeah, so this one might be happening. I would love to see the names on the list where Andy Carroll comes out on top. By the time Chelsea take on the field to play in the fourth round of the FA Cup, The Equine Ponytail might be a Chelsea player or he might be injured. Or both. This begs the question, what are we trying to do here, exactly? Answers on a postcard, please.
Chelsea return to Premier League action with a trip to Brighton on Saturday, without the suspended Pedro and Morata. If Michy is still a Chelsea player by then, it would be nice to see him get a start instead of fiddling around with a false-nine.