|Pictured: The Devil's Smile|
So, let's talk turkey/Tottenham.
Chelsea came into this game hoping beyond hope that they wouldn't trip themselves up in the race for the top four. With United's twentieth title in the bag, the red Mancs fielded a much weaker team than in our last four matchups (that's right, we've played them FIVE TIMES. Ridiculous). Leading this season's series with two wins, one draw and one loss, and with the impetus clearly on the London side, Chelsea, on paper, should have annihilated United. But no-one accounts for Rafalucion - or for the panic-inducing disappearance of Eden Hazard from both the line-up and the bench. Such things aside, the first half was promising if not productive. Despite starting what is statistically our best centre-half pairing, our only non-broken striker and the god-emperor that is Juan Mata, Chelsea just could not find their opening goal. United weren't exactly a threat, but the weight of the game made the lack of goals worrisome.
The second half started with "second verse, same as the first" undertones - Howard Webb generally getting it wrong when it came to fouls, and neither team looking dangerous. Mid-way through, Alex Ferguson decided he'd had enough and threw on Wayne Rooney and Alexander Buttner to search for a goal. Fortunately for the Chels, Rafa threw Torres into the match, and the game became much more lively. Both teams pushed for the goal, Chelsea had a bunch of useless corners, and then...GOL DE MATA! Ramires robs Rooney with a tackle, boots it to Mata who shoots, sees it bounce off Phil Jones and in! Our little magician was withdrawn shortly thereafter for Nathan Ake as Chelsea sought to hang onto their slim lead, but a rash lashing out by Rafael against David Luiz earned United's Brazilian a deserved red card. Oddly enough, David Luiz's rather passive reaction to Rafael has seen him demonized by the media and by United fans, as he smiled when getting up - a perfectly normal response for the man who is known for his catchphrase #EnjoyTheLife. Nevertheless, Chelsea hung on, leap-frogged Arsenal and now have Spurs on the horizon.
The next few days on From A to Zola will be talking about The Most Important Game Of The Season against Spurs on Wednesday, as well as the importance of the Derby to Chelsea. More importantly, we'll be discussing the implications of missing out on Champions League football, looking at a certain Italian team who thrived without it.
As always, Up the Chels!