I have an enduring memory from over two decades ago, watching those famous Olympique Marseille sides of the early '90s whose reign eventually culminated in wining the first ever Champions League (after being defeated in the final of the old European Cup two seasons prior) and of course the domestic match-fixing scandal that saw the team basically dismantled, and relegated to the second division just a few weeks later. That silly business aside, they were a wonderful team for several years, led by the amazing Jean-Pierre Papin and the lovely Abedi Pele, with the likes of Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamp, "We've Got a Feeling" duo Chris Waddle and Basile Boli, and many other famous names (Rudi Voller, coach Franz Beckenbauer, etc) stopping by for a season or two during the club's heyday.
Now I don't quite remember if it was said in reference to OM, or in reference to their opponents — such as the vanquished AC Milan juggernaut in the '93 finals — but I distinctly remember the TV commentators making a big deal out of the first 15 minutes of a match. The fast start, they said, is the key as the team will look come out of the gates on fire and settle the tie with an early score or two. Survive the first 15 minutes, and you might be in business. Obviously, this is not a new or a unique concept. Weathering the early storm, especially from the home team, is a crucial and classic tactical consideration. But that was the first time I heard it, so it's stuck with me (though not quite memorably enough that I'd remember the exact circumstances).
In any case, here are Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink, Chelsea Player of the Season Willian, and even Gary Cahill talking about this concept and how it propelled Chelsea to that wonderful 5-1 win on Saturday.
"We can be pleased with the performance of the guys. We tried to surprise them in the beginning. Happily it worked out."
-Guus Hiddink; source: BBC
Newcastle manager Steve McClaren also agreed, saying that they lost the match in the first 15 minutes.
"We killed them in 20 minutes and then it was more and more easy to play. Now we have more confidence to go there and to play. Paris have a great team, great players, but we go there to try to win the game."
-Willian; source: Chelsea TV
"We mustn't get too carried away, it is one result, but at the same time we have been waiting for this. Even the result we got away at Arsenal, it was a fantastic result but we crept over the line there with 1-0. We've been waiting to really create a lot of chances and in the first half against Newcastle we could have had two or three more. That tells you a lot about how we started the game and how we played throughout."
"It is very pleasing, we were waiting for that and it feels good to be a part of. I enjoyed it and now we get ready again for two massive games for us."
"We spoke before this game that although we were unbeaten and we've steadied things down, a lot of those results were draws and we need to turn them into wins to start progressing up the table, so that was in our heads when we first went out and the start we made was terrific."
-Gary Cahill; source: Chelsea FC
It was Hiddink's 33rd match in charge of Chelsea across his two stints; his only loss remains to Spurs back in 2009 (21-11-1). With the confidence of a 12-match unbeaten run and a five-star performance on the weekend, could we actually get something good out of the game on Tuesday?