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Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea, 24 April

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BARCELONA – Valdes, Puyol, Pique (Dani Alves 26), Mascherano, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Cuenca (Tello 67), Messi, Sanchez, Fabregas (Keita 74). Subs not used: Pinto, Thiago, Pedro, Adriano.

CHELSEA – Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill (Bosingwa 12), Terry, Cole, Mikel, Meireles, Mata (Kalou 58), Lampard, Ramires, Drogba (Torres 80). Subs not used: Turnbull, Essien, Malouda, Sturridge.

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Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United, 5 February

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Chelsea Team
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bosingwa; Essien, Meireles, Malouda; Sturridge, Torres, Mata.
SUBS: Turnbull, Ferriera, Bertrand, Hutchinson, Romeu, Piazon, Lukaku.

Man Utd Team
De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young; Rooney, Welbeck
SUBS: Amos, Berbatov, Park, Hernandez, Fabio, Scholes, Pogba

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Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal, 29 October

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Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea, 18 September

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Stoke City 0-0 Chelsea, 14 August

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Chelsea 2-2 Newcastle, 15 May


Chelsea missed an opportunity to secure second place in the league with a 2-2 draw over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.

Steven Taylor equalised in injury-time to give the away side a deserved draw in what could turn out to be Carlo Ancelotti’s last game at Stamford Bridge for the hosts.

An early goal by Branislav Ivanovic from a corner had given Chelsea the lead, but it was cancelled out soon after by Jonas Gutierrez, who inadvertently deflected in a Ryan Taylor free-kick.

Alex looked to have wont eh game after scoring from a Lampard free-kick, until Taylor stepped up to equalise in front of his supporters

Both sides had pushed hard for a victory in the second-half, but there were few clear-cut chances created by two teams who had struggled to score goals all season.

After the disappointment of seeing their league trophy go to Manchester United, the Blues knew a victory over an injury-hit Newcastle would secure them second place thanks to their superior goal difference over Arsenal.

Newcastle will be disappointed having matched their opponents all match only to lose to a couple of poorly defended set-piece goals.

Chelsea used the match to try out a few fringe players in preparation for next season.

Fernando Torres was given a start at the head of a completely new front three which included Nicolas Anelka and Yossi Benayoun, who was making his first start for the club.

David Luiz was dropped for his poor performance at Old Trafford last week and replaced by Alex, whilst there were starts for Ramires and Josh McEachran alongside Frank Lampard in midfield.

The visitors made two changes, with top-scorer Kevin Nolan needing surgery on an injured ankle and Cheik Tiote one yellow card away from a three match ban next season. Alan Pardew replaced them with Ryan Taylor and Northern Irishman Shane Ferguson.

Chelsea were the victims of a 36 second goal last week, but it didn’t take them much longer to take the lead in this match.

After two minutes, a Lampard corner from the left was flicked on by Torres for an on-rushing Ivanovic to knee-in from a few yards out.

A first-time pass from Benayoun set Torres on his way, but after cutting in from the left he scuffed his shot miles wide and almost for a throw-in.

It has been a one-sided match so far, but the away side managed to pull themselves level in fortuitous circumstances.

A mis-placed pass by Alex to John Terry was stolen by Peter Lovenkrands, who was brought down by the Chelsea captain just over 25 yards from goal.

The free-kick was taken by Ryan Taylor from just left of centre and it deflected off Gutierrez to wrong-foot Petr Cech in goal and find the back of the net.

Cech was fortunate soon after when he spilled a cross under pressure from Shola Ameobi, but his defenders were able to knock the ball out from a corner.

Alex, looking to redeem himself, then volleyed wide from the edge of the Newcastle box after a free-kick wasn’t cleared.

The defender had to make a last ditch sliding tackle to prevent a Ferguson through-ball reaching Lovenkrands, before Danny Simpson shot wide from distance.

McEachran had made a solid start in midfield for the hosts and his pass down the left to Ashley Cole split the Newcastle defence, whose cross was kicked by Jose Enrique against Ryan Taylor, but fortunately for both players the ball went out for a corner.

After a lively half an hour, the half petered out without either side being able to create a clear opening, with the visitors more than holding their own.

Benayoun had a chance to reciprocate Ivanovic’s early strike of the first-half, but after drifting in from the left he chipped wide of Tim Krul’s goal.

The home side, as expected, were having more possession, but were creating very little. A Cole header from a tight angle and a long-range Ramires shot were all they were able to muster on a Newcastle defence who were proving resilient.

Gutierrez cut in from the left, but his curled shot was easily held by Cech then Ivanovic was booked for a mis-timed sliding tackle on Ferguson to give Newcastle a free-kick from a similar position to which they scored from. This time, Cech was able to save easily.

With the away side enjoying a good spell and having a number of dangerous free-kicks, Ancelotti brought on Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Michael Essien for Benayoun, McEachran and Ramires in a bold move to try and regain the initiative.

It almost worked, but Drogba wasn’t expecting a pass from Cole who was expected to shoot when in a good position, then Terry headed over an Ivanovic cross under heavy pressure.

Chelsea took the lead from another set-piece with seven minutes to go, as Alex headed home a Frank Lampard free-kick from the right after Krul had mis-judged the flight of the ball.

But with just one minute of three stoppage time minutes left, Taylor was left unmarked in the Chelsea box six yards out and scored after substitute Nile Ranger had headed back a Ryan Taylor corner to send their substitutes back home happy.

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Chelsea 3-0 West Ham


And so it finally came. After 734 minutes, Fernando Torres scored his first goal for Chelsea since his £50 million arrival from Liverpool in January, keeping Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the running with league leaders Manchester United.

Ancelotti had previously insisted Torres would score Chelsea’s important goals before the end of the current campaign, and in the context of this game, where West Ham threatened to spark a revival after going behind to a Frank Lampard strike before the interval, the Spaniard’s strike, eight minutes after coming on as a substitute, killed off any hopes of a comeback from Avram Grant’s charges.

The win, which was sealed by Florent Malouda in the closing stages, keeps Chelsea six points behind Manchester United, and extends their lead over third-placed Arsenal to three points, although Arsene Wenger’s side travel to Bolton on Sunday.

For West Ham, defeat leaves them bottom of the Premier League, two points adrift of safety, and in a month where Grant oversaw four straight defeats, his side now have four games remaining to secure their survival.

Both sides had big name players unavailable for the clash with Alex and Ramires out for Chelsea, West Ham were without the services of newly-crowned Football Writers’ Player of the Year, Scott Parker.

Chances, along with the torrential weather, rained down on both goals but neither side could find the accuracy required to open the scoring. Both Malouda and Salomon Kalou broke the West Ham defence open, but in the case of Malouda, when one-on-one with Robert Green, he should have chipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper instead of trying to place it low.

Much of the action in the first period was played in the visitors’ half and stout defending was the order of the day for Grant’s men. West Ham stuck to their plan, however, and threatened with a number of counter attacks. The best coming from Demba Ba’s strike which stung the palms of Petr Cech.

Moments later, West Ham had their best chance to open the scoring when a powerful and swift run from Freddie Sears down West Ham’s left opened an avenue which allowed him to cross deep to the far post where a diving Jonathan Spector couldn’t direct his header beyond Cech.

As the thunderstorm over west London settled directly above Stamford Bridge causing various floodlights and advertising boards to go out, pressure from the hosts finally told as Lampard opened the scoring. After excellent forward play and from Ashley Cole, the left-back’s squared pass across the box was met by the midfielder, who smashed the ball past Green.

As the weather continued to soak Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were looking more and more comfortable and in control but Ancelotti’s hand was forced when Michael Essien, who pulled up in the first half, left the field injured to be replaced by Yossi Benayoun.

The injuries continued as West Ham’s Mark Noble was stretchered from the field and replaced by Robbie Keane, who was welcomed with a round of boos from the Chelsea following.

After the restart, both sides continued to press for a goal and the chances were still not been taking, but in the case of David Luiz, who hammered a long-range effort off the crossbar, it wasn’t for the want of trying.

West Ham’s creativity was producing opportunities but the end product was a reminder as to why they have struggled this season. Ba and Keane both squandered chances which should have easily given Cech problems.

And then came Torres to kill off the tie. Entering the game once again as a substitute for the in-form Didier Drogba, the Spaniard showed a flash of his old self as he turned sharply in the box and lashed his left-footed effort past Green.

Malouda sealed the tie moments before the final whistle with a crashing drive to keep Chelsea in with a chance of retaining their Premier League crown. While West Ham suffer no respite, as they take on Manchester City in their next outing.

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Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea

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Manchester United progressed to the semi-finals of the Champions League after beating a disappointing Chelsea side 2-1 at Old Trafford.

Goals from Chicharito and Ji-Sung Park were enough to secure a 3-1 aggregate victory for United over Carlo Ancelotti’s side who are almost certain to end the season without silverware.
In an opening 45 minutes high in both intensity and action, Javier Hernandez saw a goal disallowed for offside on the 27th minute mark before giving the hosts the lead, having latched on to a sublime Ryan Giggs ball on the stroke of half time.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side then sealed their qualification for a semi-final match up with either Schalke or Inter with a confident second half performance as Park cancelled out Didier Drogba’s equaliser only seconds after the Ivorian had struck on the 77th minute.

Having managed two AC Milan sides to Champions League success, the selection of Fernando Torres ahead of Drogba by Ancelotti certainly reflected a man with a firm trust in former glories. The Spaniard’s history against the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership is laced with triumph, though his form alongside the Ivorian has belied the £50 million spent to secure a move to Stamford Bridge in January. An all or nothing move, the selection of the former Liverpool man held a fitting symmetry to Chelsea’s last shot of glory this season.

The hosts, in comparison, started with a line-up deep in experience and short in talking points. The dynamism of Park down the left-hand side is a much-used weapon in the significant battles of United’s recent history, though it was Nani who graced the right-hand flank as opposed to Antonio Valencia, who had started in West London only 6 days ago. With both Rooney and Hernandez up front, Sir Alex Ferguson had typically set up a team with no intention of sitting on their away goal lead.

United’s refusal to rest on their laurels was apparent from the off, as the hosts looked to build upon a rampant atmosphere within the Theatre of Dreams. Rooney, looking ever more dictatorial in the halves of opponents this season was dropping in behind the Chelsea midfield, forcing both Alex and John Terry to commit to positions in which they looked wholly uncomfortable, straying from there lines of duty.

The impressive start of the hosts so nearly paid dividends on the 12th minute as Hernandez, having collected a low, fizzed ball from Rooney, rapidly made his way down the right-hand side of the Blues’ box. The Mexican whipped a threatening looking effort across the six-yard box to Giggs, only for the Welshman to see his effort deflected wide.

A response was required from the Premier League champions and it came in the form of Florent Malouda, a man whose form has failed to match its dizzying heights of last season. Jinking his way past John O’Shea, the Frenchman slid a fine ball into the path of Frank Lampard but the former West Ham man lashed his stinging effort into the arms of Edwin van der Sar. With the 20-minute mark approaching, neither manager would have had cause for complaint.

The selection of Torres, or possibly more so, Ancelotti’s decision to bench Drogba had indeed raised eyebrows but as the Spaniard linked neatly with Anelka just outside the United box on the 23rd minute, the Italian’s decision was growing in justification as the visitors began to take control of a clash in which they certainly felt that they had more than a supporting role.

However, less than five minutes later, Hernandez had looked to give the home side a seemingly unassailable advantage. Meeting a sublime Rooney ball from the right, the man that announced himself in England against Chelsea in August’s Community Shield headed past Petr Cech only to be denied by an offside decision from the linesman. A correct but resonant wake-up call for the visiting Blues.

Chelsea’s way back into it was then nearly handed to them on a plate in the usually unaccommodating surroundings of Old Trafford as Vidic limply knocked the ball back to Van der Sar and allowed Anelka in, only for the 40-year-old veteran to deliver a sliding tackle that the Serbian himself would have been proud of. Once again, nerves were jangling both on and off the pitch for the hosts.

The endeavour of both sides was hardly befitting a tie of such intensity and as half time approached, the hosts secured the advantage. Collecting a magnificent ball from Rooney, O’Shea slid the ball down the right to an advancing Giggs and the Welshman, without even a thought of breaking stride, fizzed the ball onto the boot of Hernandez, who finished, as is his wont, with consummate ease. Not quite a parallel of Rooney’s goal at Stamford Bridge, but the wizardry of United’s most decorated player had once again proved decisive as United took a half-time lead.

The drama was to continue before a second-half ball had been kicked in anger as Torres’ Chelsea nightmare continued at the Theatre of Dreams. Subbed off for the more physically imposing Drogba, it was a move laced with desperate overtones. The Ivorian had 45 minutes to save his side’s season, and quite possibly, his manager’s job.

Drogba’s introduction certainly had an impact and it was made evident only 10 minutes into the second period as the former Marseille man picked up the ball 25-yards out, flicked and turned to last a superb volley wide of Van der Sar’s goal. The Dutchman may well have had it covered but the Ivorian’s threat was clear for all to see.

Signs of resurgence from the visitors were met by equally alarming counter attacks from United, who weren’t sitting on what was looking like an increasingly comfortable lead. Urgency was waning however and most worryingly for the visitors, it was looking all too easy for the hosts’ defence as the hour mark passed.

The remaining 20 minutes were nearly confirmed as a formality when Nani hit a sweet right-footed effort towards Petr Cech’s bottom corner but the the Czech keeper, who had been left fighting a solitary battle on a number of occasions, got down well to keep the Portuguese winger out.

However, Cech’s save was to prove a small mercy only two minutes later as Ramires, having been booked on the 32nd minute for chopping down Nani, was sent off for a foolhardy challenge into the back of the former Sporting Lisbon man. A perilous task for the Blues was looking more and more likely to slip out of their control.

Or so it would have appeared, until Drogba gave Ancelotti a lifeline, whilst at the same time outlining the question as to why he hadn’t started in the first place. Beating the offiside trap having picked up a fine ball from Essien down the middle, a swivelling effort from effort from Chelsea’s towering striker had looked to have made it game on.

Yet once again, as has become a trademark of United, the host’s unwavering mental strength was to shine with agonising clarity for Ancelotti only seconds later as Park, so often labelled as a player of industry and little else, controlled Giggs’ ball from the right beautifully before striking it home with an unerring cool. Ferguson could not have asked for a better response from his charges, who with ten minutes remaining has all but sealed their path into the Champions League last four.

Chelsea looked very much a team defeated and there was little coming in way of a fightback as the game played out. Game and most probably season over for Ancelotti’s side. For United, their treble adventure is still very much on.

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Chelsea 1-0 Wigan Athletic

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Chelsea warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester United with a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.

Chelsea should have opened the scoring in the first minute as Didier Drogba powered down the right flank. As he approached the byline he cut the ball back towards the edge of the box where Frank Lampard was arriving unmarked. Lampard struck it first time but scuffed his shot and it limped past the left hand post, Ramires tried to keep it alive but couldn’t get it under control and the ball went out for a goal kick.

Drogba was involved in Chelsea’s next opportunity, he collected the ball facing his own goal high in the Wigan half before turning and playing the ball forward for Florent Malouda. The Frenchman had made a run in between the Wigan central defenders and Drogba’s pass was good, releasing Malouda and allowing him to progress into the penalty area. He advanced into a shooting position but his attempt on goal was poor, as he tried to shoot across Ali Al-Hamsi but sent his strike straight at the Wigan goal keeper who made a routine stop.

Wigan got their first chance of the game through a set piece as Ashley Cole brought down his man high in his own half. The visitors packed the penalty area as Ben Watson stood over the dead ball but his delivery was poor as he sent his cross beyond the men lining up at the back post and straight out for a Chelsea goal kick.

Despite this mishap, Wigan grew in confidence as the game went on and enjoyed a good spell of possession in the Chelsea half with 23 minutes played. They worked the ball across the pitch before feeding the ball forwards for Hugo Rodallega. David Luiz took a risk and tried to intercept the pass but Rodallega shielded the ball well and got goal side of the Brazilian defender. Luiz did well to recover, and forced Rodallega to check back onto his left foot before the Columbian forward went for goal. His strike was blocked by Luiz and the ball ballooned over the crossbar.

Chelsea struggled to replicate their early fluency but unlocked the Wigan defense with a long ball launched forward by Petr Cech. His clearance sailed deep into the opposition half and was flicked on by Drogba towards Malouda who was darting into the right hand side of the box. He went for goal with a first time effort and Al-Hamsi made a decent stop from close range to deny the winger.

Before the half was up Drogba engineered a great chance with a brilliant piece of individual skill. Receiving the ball on the edge of the Wigan penalty area, he skipped past his marker and into the left hand side of the penalty area. He went for goal with a left footed strike, but it flashed wide at the near post.
The second half started with Chelsea pressing forward in search of a goal to break the deadlock. Lampard, captaining the side in John Terry’s absence, came close with a long range effort, turning to find space; the Englishman tried to pick his spot and went for the far corner with a curling effort. Al-Hamsi looked to be struggling to reach it, but the ball curled just wide of his left-hand post.

Both managers decided to freshen things up with 30 minutes left to play, Roberto Martinez opted to make a double substitution, withdrawing Charles N’Zogbia and the unhappy Rodallega in favor of Franco Di Santo and Conor Sammon. Carlo Ancelotti took off Nicolas Anelka and replaced him with Fernando Torres.

Chelsea opened the scoring within a few minutes of these changes and it was a scrappy goal for the champions. Drogba took a corner from the right flank and Torres challenged Al-Hamsi and the keeper spilled the ball. Branislav Ivanovic reacted quickest and hooked the ball goal wards, this attempt was blocked but it fell to Malouda who managed to make a full connection with the ball and it zipped through a host of bodies and squirmed into the back of the net.

Chelsea nearly doubled their advantage soon after as they burst free on the counter. Drogba poked the ball past the oncoming defender and the space opened up ahead of him. He raced down the left flank and spotted Torres free at the back post, he slid the ball across the box for the Spaniard but Torres couldn’t find the finish to open his account for Chelsea, sending the ball wide of the target.

Torres spurned a few more opportunities in the dying moments of the game, but Chelsea held on to keep a clean sheet and earn three points that will put Wigan further adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table.

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Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United

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A first half goal from Wayne Rooney gave Manchester United the edge in the all-English Champions League tie with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and ensured that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will only need a draw in the return leg at Old Trafford to advance to the semi-finals of Europe’s elite competition.

Rooney has once again been the center of attention for the back pages since his foul-mouthed rant during the game against West Ham at the weekend and the glare of the media’s eye was trained firmly on the striker again.

So much so that the milestone reached by Frank Lampard in this game – 500 appearances for the club – were barely mentioned in the build up.

Lampard was keen to force his way center stage and on 18 minutes he almost did this in the best possible fashion when a slick and incisive passage of play involving Lampard and Ramires resulted in Didier Drogba smashing at shot high at Edwin Van der Sar, with the Dutchman proving equal to the challenge.

In the corresponding league fixture in March, it was Wayne Rooney who broke the deadlock and once again that pattern emerged. A fantastically long cross field pass initiated by Michael Carrick was deftly controlled by Ryan Giggs who sniffed an opening and headed for the byline. What makes Giggs a great player is his vision in seeing the weak spots in any defense, and with this he spotted Rooney and fed the ball into his path for the striker to beat Petr Cech low to his left with the lightest of touches.

With the furor of Wayne Rooney’s broadcast verbal tirade at the weekend still bubbling along, the scrutiny on Rooney would be more intense than usual. If Rooney were to score, the beady eye of the cameras would be ready to pounce to examine every gesture he would make.
This time however, Rooney maintained enough self-control to celebrate the goal in a manner more palatable for the TV audience. No contorted face, no turning the air blue, only sheer elation and joy as he gave his side a valuable away goal.

With this, United were in a desirable position, and they calmly went to seeing out the half with minimum fuss, this was tested to the maximum when just before the half, a cross from Drogba was lightly back-heeled by Fernando Torres only to come back off the post. Frank Lampard’s tap on the rebound looked a sure goal but an excellent display of defensive awareness from Patrice Evra kept Chelsea at bay.

The second period didn’t start well for the visitors as Rafael felt the full force of Didier Drogba who clattered into the fullback. He was taken off the field for treatment and his return to the action was short lived. Only moments later he dropped to the ground in pain and was taken from the field on a stretcher. Sir Alex Ferguson was forced into moving his pieces around, Valencia dropped in the right back slot and Nani entered the fray onto the right wing.

As the game continued Chelsea became clearly frustrated. The chances were not coming for the Blues and this was due in no small part to the rigidity of the United back four. With Rio Ferdinand making his first appearance since February, he resumed his partnership with Nemanja Vidic and that showed.

Carlo Ancelotti was forced into make changes in search of a way back. Yuri Zhirkov and Drogba were replaced with Flourent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka. But still United held back the tide. Chelsea began to throw men forward and this tactic almost paid off when Ramires’ run in to the box was halted by Evra who may have been lucky in not conceding a late penalty shout.

That wasn’t the last of the penalty box action as Torres was booked for diving whilst looking for the call in his favor.

United may have been lucky not to concede one of those calls, but they will be satisfied with their night’s work.

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