That rapturous free kick from Alex during the second half of our 2-0 Champions League win against Olympique de Marseille deserves its own soundscape. Following several mental replays, only one production group can provide it:
Moving on to the match. A quick recap for those who missed the match because they were viewing fine art, playing craps, bailing hay, etc. You know, everyday shenanigans.
Another early goal. Another opponent swept aside. Business as usual, then?
Almost. Marseille started well before an expert finish from England's Brave John Terry - from a rather awful cross by the rapidly maturing Gael Kakuta - provided the hosts with a lead they would never really feel threatened to lose. Terry's goal stirred Chelsea from its slumber, a clinic in attacking play following over the next 20 or so minutes. Marseille would have done well to attend this clinic, for their profligacy in front of goal after the interval was infuriating, even for me.
Much of the thrust came down the left side, with Florent Malouda, Yuri Zhirkov and Ashley Cole combining for exquisite interchange after exquisite interchange. It was Malouda who swiftly became torchbearer for a side missing Didier Drogba, serving the second of his two-game CL suspension. The Frenchman displayed the full ensemble, and must now be considered one of the finest wingers in world football. Fellow countryman Nicolas Anelka was also among the standouts, his movement wreaking havoc as usual.
Michael Essien, a marauding force over the opening 45 minutes, won a penalty for Chelsea after 28 minutes - however dubious the handball from Stephane Mbia was. Anelka, ravaged by the traveling support, must've enjoyed being entrusted with the responsibility of extending the lead. He did so, too, with such utter skill, such cheekiness, it felt so nearly like arrogance. It might have been. The rest of the half was a breeze.
Not so much after. I'OM exited the dressing room with intent. Chelsea, meanwhile, were intent on doing just enough to see out the night. It was almost as if they couldn't be bothered. So, another half of choosing rather to remain in neutral than risk applying energy to a cause already wrapped. Of course, they were right - Marseille, for all their huffing and puffing, never forced a real strong save out of Cech. Even in this apathetic state, it was Chelsea who may well have extended their lead. In fact, we probably should have.
Michael Essien was denied by the post, unlucky not to provide the cap to a wonderful counter late on. Earlier, it was Alex, whose aforementioned free kick - I can't say enough about how hard this ball was traveling - was foiled by the upright.
"It wasn't even close between Chelsea and OM tonight, and even though we tried to change things in the second half, we could have conceded even more goals," former Chelsea player and current Marseille manager Didier Deschamps told Ligue1.com after the game.
Perhaps so. But, for a Chelsea supporter, it made for frustrating viewing.
The Rundown (formerly What you need to know)
• We won.
• It felt good.
• We did not get out of second gear. Again.
• That did not feel good (regardless of comfort level).
• The Marseille support is loud. Real loud. Like amazing loud. Sensational.
• Florent Malouda is the best winger in England.
The left side with Malouda, Zhirkov and Cole was a joy to watch for much of the first half. There was nothing overly technical about what they trio did; it was just simple, effective football. Neat passing coupled with seamless interchange and effective movement. More of this please.
Kakuta, viable option
Much better on the right wing than say, Sturridge, eh?
Understated is how I would describe Kakuta's performance Wednesday - which is exactly why I beileve the young Frenchman had a good game. Very composed, playing within himself and for the team. Tracked back consistently, while, in attack, kept it simple. Opted against wielding flashes of his supreme talent - which one would think is more his game. Almost as if he was deferring to senior teammates. Regardless, it's evident Gale is maturing even if he needs to learn how to combine responsibility with that explosive punch that the elite possess, and we know he has in the blender.
Flo in the center?
Malouda may represent the better choice for Ancelotti, rather than Zhirkov or Ramires, on the right of central midfield for Arsenal on the weekend.
Flo is our best left-winger. Hands down. He is, however, also much better than our current options with regard to ball retention. Malouda will also provide better balance alongside Mikel and Essien. He drifted inside continually on Wednesday, allowing Zhirkov to overlap into his more comfortable advanced left-sided position. The results, particularly during the first half, spoke for themselves.
It looks as if this group is going to be a breeze, barring an unforeseen collapse. A home (Oct. 19, Moscow) and home (Nov. 3, London) with Spartak, who also are on six points, follows. Three points from those two matches will be fine. Four, and we can likely begin resting players.
Rarely will he enjoy a quieter evening. A trio of stops, none of which required much work. 7
Always cool. Would have preferred to see the Serbian in the attack with more frequency, though. 7
Like much of the backline, comfortable, aside from a couple of mental errors in which he quickly atoned for. Oh, and that free kick, of Herculean quality. His place was reserved on Mount Olympus had that gone in. 7
What a finish from England's Brave to open the scoring. Responded with the usual at the back. Rarely under threat. 7
A return to form, somewhat, following his dip against City. Consistently involved. Played an integral part during the opening 30-minute blitzkrieg. 7
John Obi Mikel
This is becoming old. Not really. It's actually so very glorious to witness. Of course, I'm referring to another excellent night out for the Nigerian. Ball retention? Check. Composure, overall excellence? Check. 7.5
Pillaged in the first half, when he overwhelmed I'OM in the midfield. Not the case after the interval, when he struggled to close the visitors down. Still could have left with a couple goals. Word is his was limping afterward - please no. 7
Not sure I've seen a better performance from the Russian in a Chelsea shirt. Very disciplined, measured work as part of that left-side trio. As mentioned previously in this recap, it's becoming painfully clear that he's much more effective further up the field. With that being said, an encouraging night for Yuri. 7
See above. He's progressing so very well. 6.5
Florent Malouda (CO, Readers' MOTM)
Roared in the opening stages. The entire attacking package was on view: crossing, movement, threat, force. His influence waned, much like the team's, but nonetheless remained a consistent outlet. 7.5
Cool in the face of some vehement abuse from the French support - as evidenced by another sly penalty. It was his movement, not surprisingly, that shone, with his drifting to the flanks providing the most threat. 7.5
His introduction somewhat restored the thrust through midfield that had been lost during the second half. Not particularly accurate with his passing - yet - but did the job of restricting Marseille further up the field with real tenacity. Not sold he is comfortable on the left side of midfield; he'll have to get used to it, however, with Essien monopolizing the right. 6
Much better than at Eastlands. The so-called sitter he missed was a result of a combination of pace and eagerness; he simply got there too quickly. Still, it must be said that he has now fallen behind Kakuta in the right-side stakes. 6
Only received a couple of minutes. I'm glad he did. N/A