|photo by dalli58||via PhotoRee|
Chelsea's 3-3 draw with Villa at the Bridge on Sunday showcased everything we love about this game called football. Sure, the first half was a bit stop-and-startish, marred by referee Lee Mason's total loss of control of the game, but oh, the second half....
The second half was what makes it all worthwhile, as Villa surged to a stunning 2 -1 lead right after the interval that they then proceeded to defend with all their heart. The second half was when Chelsea looked to have just done enough to keep their title hopes alive by scoring two goals in the final seven minutes of the match and celebrated as if they had indeed won the Premiership. And the second half was when Villa scored a shocking third goal to tie the game in stoppage time, only a minute or two after Chelsea's massive pileup to celebrate what they must have surely thought was John Terry's game winner. Yes, the second half was one of those 45 minutes of football that are sure to stay with you for awhile, long after the season fades into oblivion -- it was that good.
The game didn't set up to be memorable; in fact, only six or seven short weeks ago, one could have gotten long odds on a struggling Villa team taking anything away from a game at fortress Stamford Bridge. As recently as last March, Villa got hammered 7-1 in the same fixture -- and this in a year in which they finished sixth in the league table. And Villa is a team that has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in the current season -- yesterday represented only their fifth away point of the current campaign.
But Chelsea's form has turned, too. No longer the dominant force they were to begin the year, Chelsea looked very average at times yesterday. Before he scored the equalizer in the 83rd minute, Didier Drogba spent large portions of the match completely anonymous, and was outplayed -- outplayed! -- by his opposite on Villa, Emile Heskey, who has spent large portions of his career imitating a bump on a log.
The worm appears to have turned on Chelsea's season, and not for the better. Their latest fate was perhaps best summarized by the look of smug satisfaction on the face of Captain and defender John Terry when he scored what he and his teammates clearly thought was the goal that would put their season back on track and right the cruel wrongs of the last two months. The mass pileup on the sideline, as the players surrounded Carlo Ancelloti in jubilation, showed how important the goal was to the hearts and minds of the Blue nation.
Which made young Ciaran Clark's equalizer all the more shocking, especially as it came on what most would determine to be a defendable cross. Chelsea, seemingly still dreaming about how this goal was going to bring them back into the title race, left Clark completely unmarked, and from as close as he was to Chelsea 'keeper Petr Cech, he could hardly miss. This time, it was Villa's turn to pile up in celebration, and a stunned John Terry could only sit and watch as the three points turned magically back into one. Even coach Carlo Ancelloti was left to scratch his head in wonderment after the game, admitting his team may need to bring in some new blood in the January transfer window if they want to stay in the race for the title.
Yes, the second half on Sunday was wonderful -- it wasn't a victory for either side, but the swings of emotion on both sides of the ball made this one of the season's best.
This is farlieonfootie for January 4th.