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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TNP On Chelsea Win Over Manchester United And Chelsea Good Sportsmanship

Source -,4136,163441-1209506340,00.html


By Ernest Luis
Monday Edition Of The New Paper

HERE'S a poser for admirers of attacking and exciting football

Manchester United? Distinction.
Arsenal? Distinction.
Liverpool? Merit.
Chelsea? Fail.

On the basis of the overall season so far, there wouldn't be much argument with those marks, would there?But let's rewind to Chelsea's last two big matches against Manchester United (on Saturday in the English Premiership) and Liverpool (in their first-leg Champions League semi-final last week).
Be honest with yourself, even if you're a Man United or a Liverpool fan.
Now ask yourself: Who was the more exciting football team in those matches?
Which team actually tried to play the football from the start?
Which team got you hooked with their determination, spirit...and even their smooth inter-passing from flank to flank for most periods?
The answer is Chelsea.

What happened to 'Boring Chelsea' in both games?
Let's credit the 'Boring Blues' when they deserve it.
I myself have, on occasion, found myself suddenly channel surfing while watching Chelsea in one of their English Premiership matches against lesser opposition.
Were they always like that under former manager Jose Mourinho, or did we stay hooked because we expected to see his histrionics?

Whatever the reputation Chelsea had, built up over the course of the season, they seem to know how to shatter it against the big boys.
And the results are proof.
Late last month, Chelsea pushed Arsenal out of the way in the sprint to the Premiership's finish, when they dramatically came from behind to win 2-1.
It was a contrast from when they drew 0-0 with Liverpool in early February.
On Saturday - in the 2-1 win over Manchester United - the Red Devils were almost like...pussycats.

Sure, they lost Nemanja Vidic, which forced them to suddenly reshuffle, but did they really need to go back to their Champions League mindset against Barcelona?
Perhaps that semi-final had a tactical reason in mind, given its two-legged format.
But on Saturday, it seemed as if Man United - who had the points advantage - were almost afraid of losing.
Yes, they were playing away, but that hasn't exactly been their style this season. Even when they fielded reserves, they never lost that swashbuckling trademark.
If they appear cagey again, at home to Barcelona in midweek, they could well be kicked out of the Champions League.

But back in the Premiership, let's see if either Chelsea or Man United, can finish their season on an exciting and adventurous note.
Exciting Chelsea?
Frightened Man United?
Will it stay that way as they finish off their Premiership season with two games left?

Source -,4136,163439-1209506340,00.html

By David Lee
Monday Edition Of The New Paper

YOU'D be forgiven for expecting a highly combustible Battle at the Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United on Saturday.

Fittingly enough, throughout the game, the tables were turned back and forth, plenty of drama unfolding, and even blood was spilled on the turf.
And at the end of an enthralling 100 minutes (including added time) which ended 2-1 in the Blues' favour, United and Chelsea are now neck-and-neck at the summit of the Premier League.
But as billions of dollars worth of egos clashed on the pitch for bragging rights and a much-coveted domestic trophy, could there still be room to squeeze in the trivial topic of sportsmanship?


I never thought I would say this, but thanks to Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole, sportsmanship is still very much alive in the Beautiful Game.
It would be perverse to consider the eighth-minute Nemanja Vidic injury a match highlight and I still cringe as I review the incident as the Serb was left bloodied after his face bounced off Drogba's knee, Muay-Thai style.
It was a routine robust challenge by the Ivorian, but it most definitely wasn't a premeditated assault.
To add to the drama quotient, Drogba appeared to be appealing for a foul before he saw Vidic hitting the deck.
However, rather than bull-dozing on with the win-at-all-cost mentality he has often been associated with, Drogba realised the damage done to Vidic and immediately alerted the officials to attend to the fallen Serb.

Mind you, with a central defender out of the way, Drogba and company could very well have played on and taken the early lead.
But at that moment, the big Chelsea forward clearly wasn't thinking of how he could score the match-winner to help heap more pressure on league leaders United. The end result simply took a backseat, and for good reason.
When a fellow professional is bleeding profusely, nothing else matters except for the well-being of that player.
In fact, Drogba's act of concern after hurting Vidic belongs to the sort of gentlemanly behaviour coaches all around the world should drill into their charges.
Sportsmanship leads one-nil.


With Chelsea dominating possession and looking more likely to make something happen, frustration began to show in the United players.
As Ashley Cole received a pass from John Obi Mikel, Luis Nani lunged in with a tackle that was late and awkward.
Cole jumped to protect himself, and went down convincingly enough for most referees to book the offender.
But as Nani pleaded his case with referee Alan Wiley, Cole surprisingly sprang up to his defence, waving his hands frantically to indicate his Portuguese opponent's innocence.
Surprising, and how often have we seen players clutching their face/chest/groin/shin/foot in order to get the tackler red-carded and thereby gaining an advantage unfairly?
But for all of our misgivings about Cole, he did the right thing by explaining the truth to Wiley and Nani escaped with a verbal warning.

At the end of the day, it brings a smile to my face seeing that common sense and ethics do prevail in football.
Just like when former Hammer Paolo Di Canio picked up the ball when it was easier to score after Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying injured.
Or when Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler unsuccessfully tried to convince the referee that Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman had not fouled him in the box to give away a penalty.
Di Canio, Fowler, Drogba and Cole may have been or may continue to be some of the game's more colourful characters.

There may have been scuffles breaking out during and after Saturday's game. But those can be attributed to passions running high rather than malice or a propensity to cheat.
So Chelsea may or may not win the title come 11 May but I reckon they could have already won more fans through Drogba's and Cole's sporting behaviour.
The Blues may also be slammed for their dour playing style, but football will be a poorer game, and the title chase a lesser spectacle if not for their little acts of honesty and sportsmanship on Saturday.