The very definition of a grind. It was professional. Workmanlike. Blue collar. Whatever you want to call it. It was, to be kind, hardly a display which will instill confidence ahead of a massive date at the San Siro. BUT, it's a win nonetheless. One that took us four points clear at the top of the Premier League. Can't really ask for more than that, can you? Well, you can but whatever.
Perhaps the real shock, for me at least, was not so much the performance but the fact that we actually capitalized on a chief rival's tumble. That was amazing, something we've seemingly not been able to do the entire season.
I guess we can view this win, preserved by the wonderful Petr Cech in goal, as karma for some of the egregious results we've been dealt despite playing well. Really, this is the kind of result that's been missing this season. Don't forget, we've struggled mightily away from Stamford Bridge. And we were missing several first-team regulars. These are the type of results that win championships. In short, we needed this.
Ancelotti may still have some critical decisions ahead (formation dilemma anyone?). The managerial performance on Saturday was excellent, however. His decision to withhold substituting the injured Zhirkov initially was brilliant; the fullback went on to set up our opening goal. Hopefully the Russian will be fit for midweek -- or else we're in trouble, if we're not already. Carlo also proved tactically aware when he reverted from the Christmas tree formation employed at the start to a narrower 4-4-2 during the second half. We were still less-than-convincing, but controlled play a tad better following the switch. Bruma's introduction for Zhirkov also played a role in that aspect.
Cech 9 (MOTM)
Two world class saves. A hand in both goals. Controlling. His recent form is suggesting he may be ready to assume the mantle of world's best once again.
Utility-wise, he was efficient. Started on the right, ended on the left.
Imperious in his preferred position. Fast becoming -- if he isn't already -- one of world's finest defenders.
Another uncharacteristic error from the captain, this time however we were not punished. Provided some vintage positioning on the goal-line clearance.
Thought he was excellent, particularly going forward, before being withdrawn due to injury. Still struggling with his defensive role. Here's to hoping he'll be fit for the trip to Milan.
Understated. Still looks, to me, a much-improved player from last season.
Der Kaiser 8
Really sharp. Incisive look helped set up the opener. Grew into the match; provided box-to-box effort. Seemed to relish the extra responsibility assumed in Lampard's absence.
Not what we've come to expect. Hardly noticeable for long periods.
J. Cole 6
Showed industry, and a desire to gain possession -- even if it meant dropping into midfield. His continued willingness to defer to Drogba is worrisome. Must regain his edge ahead of Internazionale.
The Drogs 8.8
The difference. Two chances = two goals.
Efficient. Little asked of him, but did what was with comfortableness. Not bad, at all.