Premiership Roundup: Confessions of a Chelsea striker

Last updated : 26 March 2006 By Aidan O'Byrne
...though if you're interested I could tell you a fair bit about the car dealerships on the Hampshire shorefront just short of Portsmouth, where I sat for a little while in drizzly traffic on Saturday afternoon on my way (I naively thought) to watch Arsenal's final remaining away game in the south of the country this season.

By the time I had managed to inch my way round to park up at a conveniently located self-storage facility and car park neighbouring Fratton Park's main stand, Radio 5 were just announcing that there was going to be a pitch inspection shortly and the whole thing might well be off. Queuing just thereafter to get some coffee in a packed out KFC (the neighbouring retail park not offering that wide a selection of catering outlets), I'm afraid I was a small droplet of despair in the Pompey-dominated restaurant, since my phone call back to London to check what the outcome of the pitch inspection had been got overheard by the people ahead, behind and to either side of me (but who had obviously not been listening to the radio quite as recently). The droplet spread out across the humid restaurant in a metaphorical yet quite visible cloud, as other people in turn started phoning up their stay-at-home-with-Sky mates while glancing towards the windows through which you could see the rain still coming down. However, none of us were any the wiser, since the news on offer was simply that they were going to have another inspection after another half an hour. I've never seen so many people look so glum while asking for party buckets; it was really quite surreal.

The abandonment of the game was confirmed after a further twenty minutes, the news coming to me via the shoulder radio of a policeman I was asking for directions to the away fans pub, at which point the rain, which had been slacking off a bit, decided to redouble in force as if to confirm the referee's judgement. Without the prospect of a couple of hours' football-watching during which I could metabolise the alcohol from the pre-match pint I was en route to having prior to the schlep back up the A3 to London, I decided to cut my losses and headed straight back to the car. This game will now no doubt get rescheduled for some obscure midweek slot in the congested fixture list which I'll find it difficult to make, but at least I made the trip back to London in relative comfort, unlike those travelling fans who were having to make do with a replacement bus service for part of the change-many-times train journey. A quirk of the weather is thus that Arsenal are unexpectedly well-rested in advance of the visit of Juventus and former captain Vieira on Tuesday night – I will assume that Highbury's groundstaff will be up to the challenge of keeping the fixture on whatever the level of precipitation, and if I'm honest that match was never as well submerged behind the Portsmouth game in my mind as the classic "one game at a time" mentality we're supposed to adopt in congested fixture times would have dictated!

Even if I didn't get to see it in person, there was plenty of tasty action elsewhere in this weekend's Premiership, opening with the battling derby at Anfield, which was a stupidly over-officiated match ending with a total of ten yellow and two red cards, the ten men of iconic-captain-less Liverpool gaining a lead they'd never relinquish over the then numerically, but in no other way, superior Toffees through the delight that always accompanies a Phil Neville own goal, and a beautifully chipped Garcia effort. Although Tim Cahill briefly gave the Bluenoses hope with a through the crowd effort at a rare Everton corner, Kewell nailed the coffin on Moyes' men's chances of a point with a rocket of a shot after the visitor's defenders all decided to give him all the room he needed and then some – oh, and this after Van der Mayde's brief contribution to the game was ended with a rather harsh red card, and fellow sub Duncan Ferguson had gotten away with a lucky yellow (you'd never have known he was just returning from a seven match suspension, would you, given the nasty nibble he decided to have after the ball had gone?).

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea produced the result against a somewhat bare bones Man City that had been widely expected, and at any rate would have been confirmed by the Pools Panel had the newly laid pitch there fared as badly as the Fratton Park one in the rain. However, the manner of the win was such that some sections of the home crowd left early while booing the home side's seeming reluctance to attack the ludicrously under-strength second half City side, and the game was not without other controversy.

Didier Drogba opened the scoring for Chelsea with a fine turn and dribble round the too committed Sommeil and a well struck shot under David James. To accentuate the difference between this goal and that which he had quite right had chalked off at Craven Cottage the week before for handball, the Ivorian ran to the crowd tugging at the Premiership fair play badge on his sleeve. Two minutes later, with the most supreme of ironies only available to duplicitous cheats at the top level of sporting competition, he'd used the same hand that been doing the tugging to stop a cross from the left wing and then lashed the ball into the net for a second which this time was not ruled out, despite the fact that every player on the pitch had seen it – two of the City ones receiving bookings for protesting, and Drogba merely smirking at having gotten away with it this time round. At half time, when the City captain went to query the decision again with the referee, in the absence of the much-bemoaned crowd of threatening players, he received a red card, seemingly because Rob Styles wanted to hold the ball more than answer the question. Madness.

Drogba went on to do a few theatrical dives and delayed-action "I've been poleaxed" routines throughout the rest of the game, which again showed that he'd have been a great member of the Commonwealth Games diving team, were the Ivory Coast not a former French colony rather than a British one. It's quite clear that he really does train to do this sort of thing, but if you think I might be being a bit harsh, you can hear Didier's own words on both his handball-led goal and the issue of diving by clicking here for a clip of his post-match interview. See if you can spot his eyes flicking behind the interviewer just after his admission that yes, he sometimes dives, doesn't everyone? – could there perhaps be a frantically waving Chelsea assistant coach stood there gesturing for him to retract that statement?

Time to charge him, I would think, and this wouldn't be too onerous on Chelsea as they're already due to attend two separate hearings for thuggish on-pitch behaviour at Soho Square in the near future anyway. Is this really the image Abramovic wants to generate as a return on his hundreds of millions of investment? I don't think so, so watch this space for a quick payoff for Mourinho and his style of play should the visiting scousers cause Chelsea's elimination from their sole remaining cup competition in a few weeks' time.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Sunderland lost again, and with only three home fixtures to come (against Fulham, Arsenal and deadly derby rivals Newcastle), look set to beat a 150-year-old record for failing to win a single home game in a top flight season. Blackburn profited by the resulting three points to climb above the rained-off Gunners. Villa and Fulham ended in a goalless stalemate, while West Ham came from behind to beat Wigan in what had at the outset of the season seemed like a relegation territory scrap, but which in the current context is more of a possible springboard for a late European-placing challenge.

In Sunday's action, there was a bottle of presumably non-vintage champagne as a man-of-the-match award for a recognisably vintage Ryan Giggs performance as Manchester United were unkind enough to throttle former club captain Steve Bruce's diminishing hopes of Premiership survival. The final 3-0 scoreline was somewhat flattering on the visitors ability if not their admirable workrate – albeit the phrase I happened to catch was "lucky to get nil" – although I suppose the og that opened scoring for Man U counts as some sort of goal by Birmingham.

Everyone's favourite cheeky player Lee Bowyer mad a similar contribution for Newcastle in scoring what turned out to be the winner for Charlton at the Valley, who'd seen their earlier Bent penalty pegged back by Scott Parker, while at the Riverside it was the battle of the wannabe England managers, this round won at the death by Steve McLaren in a see-saw match that was one of Sam Allardyce's alleged games in hand to grab a Champions League place, and which ended 4-3.

The fact that as we go into the final phase of the league campaign, the supposed yo-yo clubs of Wigan and West Ham are sitting on the fringes of European qualification, while the drop zone battle is being contested between three clubs of longer established Premiership status, in addition to the doomed Sunderland, makes it very interesting to theorise as to how Reading, who've this weekend become the earliest club in any season to win promotion to the top flight from the second level of English football, will actually fare next term. God knows they've waited long enough for the elevation, but will their rise be truly majestik, so to speak, or will they flounder in the same fashion as last seasons runaway Championship winners, who were, err, Sunderland?

For myself, I'll park consideration of that question for after the resumption of the Champions League campaign...