Apart from a couple of headers by John Terry, City were keeping Chelsea at bay quite comfortably as they defended the early lead gifted them by David Luiz. Then came the moment for which this game will be remembered, when David Marshall allowed himself to be dispossessed by Samuel Eto’o to enable Eden Hazard to equalise and, from then on, the game took on the course that so many predicted it would beforehand.
I say “allowed himself to be dispossessed” because none of the was or wasn’t it a goal controversy which followed the game would have taken place if Marshall had just not bothered to bounce the ball with an opposing player about a yard away. That was my first reaction on seeing the goal – I certainly wasn’t crying foul. My memory goes back to the disallowed goal by George Best against England in 1971 - now, I’ve always thought that Best did nothing wrong with that “goal”, so, Eto’o’s, less obvious, alleged foul yesterday should, in my initial opinion, certainly have been ignored by the official.
The thing is however, I’m showing my ignorance of the current rules there because, apparently, when a goalkeeper bounces the ball it is still considered to be under his control. As is often the case though in such situations, the water is muddied by another section of the rule book which say that the ball is not considered to be under control by the keeper if they move the ball upwards (as they often do before kicking the ball upfield for example) – seemingly, referee Anthony Taylor believed this applied for Chelsea’s equaliser.
A further consideration is was Eto’o offside? Again, I’m sure some referee somewhere will point out why I’m wrong here, but doesn’t Marshall touching the ball, effectively, play the Chelsea player onside? So, my conclusion is that the goal should not have been allowed under the rules of the game because Marshall clearly bounces the ball – I don’t particularly agree with those rules mind and I go back to my original point that our keeper shouldn’t have given Chelsea the chance to score by deciding to bounce the ball with an opponent so close to him.
Unfortunately, that controversial moment seemed to be the catalyst for Marshall to slip from his previous high standards which, in my opinion, had made him our most consistent player of the season before yesterday’s game and he played a further part in helping the home side to a flattering 4-1 victory. Our keeper had no chance with Eto’o’s first ever Chelsea goal which made it 2-1 as the game went into it’s final quarter, but there are those who say he should have stopped the two which followed.
Speaking for myself, I’m reluctant to blame him for Oscar’s long range effort that ended the match as a contest with twelve minutes left. Granted, the ball went over Marshall’s head, but the modern football moves around so much when it is struck from distance that I feel there is always a chance that it can beat a goalkeeper even when they are quite close to it. However, the ball cannot be used as an excuse for what happened with the fourth goal, Marshall should have kept out Hazard’s shot – it’s as simple as that.
People will look at the result and the farcical events we saw during the international break and conclude that Cardiff are on the slide, but that would be harsh on a City side that were well in the game and causing Chelsea problems until the home side went two goals clear. While the final result was a correct one when looked at on the overall balance of play. the three goal winning margin was not a fair reflection of the difference between the two sides – I’m sure the City camp will wonder how things might have turned out if Mr Taylor (and our keeper) hadn’t come to Chelsea’s aid and they could have got to half time still a goal to the good.
Actually, in the third quarter of the game, City looked as comfortable as at any time during the ninety minutes. Whether, by accident or design, they spent the first half sitting back and seemed happy merely to soak up Chelsea pressure as they relied on their aerial supremacy at attacking set pieces to pose a further threat to the home goal once they had taken the lead. By contrast, while never committing too many men forward, City seemed more prepared to take the game to Chelsea and worked one or two threatening positions for themselves during this period.
When you look at the players we had on the bench, I suppose bringing any of them on (except for Lewis or Hudson) would be seen as an attacking move and the substitution of one player who had been playing thousands of miles away during the international break by someone who had done the same thing (Kimbo for Medel) makes sense, but I wonder if it was also made by our manager with a feeling that three points rather than one could be on for his team?
Certainly, when Kimbo came on he looked more like the player who had done so well in our opening games than the one who had been withdrawn early after failing to convince against Fulham and Newcastle. City’s South Korean came as close as anyone to scoring once we fell behind as Cech was forced into a good save from his angled drive. However, surely it’s significant that, without the services of even a slightly below par Gary Medel for the last half an hour or so, we conceded three goals?
There are supporters who cry out for a more open approach with two strikers and someone like Craig Noone on the wing, but I still believe we would be asking for trouble if we adopted an approach like that in this league. We’ve played eight games so far and I’d say that in only three of those could we realistically have “had a go” at our opponents from the start. One of those was at Hull where we didn’t seem too keen on taking the game to them when it was 0-0, another was Fulham where we kept on attacking after scoring first and the other was Newcastle where I still maintain that, for whatever reason, our attitude wasn’t right – we were so outplayed in that first half that it was impossible to tell whether the side had been sent out to attack or whether we were just happy to soak up pressure.
One good thing about yesterday’s game was that I saw few signs of the team having been influenced by the Iain Moody row or the bonuses issue – I thought it wasn’t a Malky Mackay type City team we saw in the first half of our previous match, but it was one for the whole ninety minutes yesterday.
As for the players within that team who took my eye, Jordon Mutch, again, looked completely at home at this level, took his goal well and showed that ability to burst past opponents which I think could be such a great attacking weapon for us, while Ben Turner continues to develop as a Premier league player – his defensive play has always been good enough, but there are a few signs that his passing out from the back is improving as well.
* pictures courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/