Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chelsea @ Reading: The Return of Petr Cech

Being a soccer(called football from here on out) fan is hard in America, especially when you follow a team that has just become a world power. My best friend's Aunt and Uncle used to live in the Chelsea district of London, and he started supporting them when he was about 10. Through my friendship with him and love for football (we played together on our high school team), I became a rabid Chelsea FC supporter during the season right before Russian oil baron Roman Abramovich bought the team, and before Jose Mourinho was hired from Portugal side FC Porto as manager.

What ensued was Chelsea's meteoric rise to power in the EPL and on the European stage, competing for the first time in years with the big powers of the league and actually winning. Now, I get called a fair weather fan, or told that I'm simply jumping on the bandwagon of a team that now has a high profile, and that is certainly not the case. I'm proud of supporting Chelsea, but even more proud that I came to them when they weren't viewed in America as just another team like Manchester United.

My history of being a fan aside, last night was Chelsea @ Reading. It was Chelsea keeper Petr Cech's return to the stadium where last season he was hit so hard by a knee to the skull from Stephen Hunt that the bone actually got depressed and there was doubt over whether or not he would ever play again.

In perfect Chelsea stud form though, Cech shook off the skull fracture to come back a few months later and finish out the season.

In last night's game, however, he had one of the worst moments I've ever seen in his career, completely whiffing a punch out on a ball coming into the box and allowing Reading to take a 1-0 on what was essentially an open net touch-in for a substitute. Now, it's not that Petr Cech isn't a fantastic goalie, he is, but that was a terrible mishap, and he's lucky it didn't cost Chelsea the game.

Luckily, within a five minute span early in the second half, Lampard and Drogba scored successive goals to take a 2-1 lead, and Chelsea held on for the win. I'm glad to see Drogba get his first goal of the seaon, and I hope it's the first of even more than last year's campaign, lord known he'll need it to beat that world class diver in C. Ronaldo.

Just as a little side note, let's look at the goal scorers in the first two games for Chelsea: Pizarro, Malouda, Essien, Lampard, Drogba. Now, we've gotten some support from new signings, and the other new players are fitting in well, but Chelsea didn't spend nearly as much this past summer as they did before last year on Ballack and Sheva, but where the hell are they? Both have picked up injuries, so they are essentially the 2nd and 3rd most expensive bench warmers in the world, after David Beckham here in the U.S. I love my Blues, but those two players really need to get fit and get on the field. Ballack can play, and Sheva can feed the ball to Drogba better than anyone else in a Center Forward position with Drogba playing Striker. I just want to see the players come through on their transfer fees, that's all.

Next game is over the weekend at Liverpool. Barring a huge defensive meltdown at Anfield, I figure Lamps and Drogba will combine for something special, and we'll get at least a tie out of the fixture. Let's just see if Man U can get themselves out of their funk or not in their derby with City this weekend. Hopefully not.

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