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Three games and a second chance

Rewind just 9 days and Chelsea were on the brink of heading out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stages and being out of the running for qualification for next seasons UEFA Champions League as a consequence of being miles away from the top four positions in the English Premier League. As of Monday night, however, Chelsea are comfortably in the top four of the English Premier League and in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

It started with a 3-0 victory at St James Park against Newcastle. Chelsea headed there nervously. The Blues had just lost to Liverpool twice in the space of a fortnight, thus being knocked out of the Carling Cup at the quarter final stage and losing ground in the English Premier League. Newcastle had just drawn with Manchester United at Old Trafford and were sitting comfortably towards the good end of the league table. What’s more, Newcastle had a very impressive home record. Little did it matter. Chelsea came and conquered. They scored three, might have scored several more, and left as 3-0 winners. What the statistics fail to mention is that Newcastle hit the woodwork three times and ought to have been playing against a ten man Chelsea – David Luiz should have been sent off, had the correct refereeing decision been made, in the opening five minutes. Anyhow, Chelsea left St James Park with a clean sheet, three goals and three points. The first part of the three stage adventure was complete.

The second part was against Valencia. The same Valencia that had held the mighty Barcelona 2-2, when they might even had actually won, and were comfortably third in La Liga. Valencia arrived at Stamford Bridge knowing a score draw or a win would see them through to the next stage of the Champions League. It was a genuine knock out match. Roberto Soldado, the Valencia striker, was in great form. Valencia, as a team, were in awesome shape, having won several of their last ten matches. Chelsea were on the ropes in the Champions League group stages after stumbling to a draw in Genk and a late loss in Leverkusen. At the end of the match Chelsea were comfortable winners. Again they won 3-0, thanks in large part to a wonderful Didier Drogba performance, and the Blues were in the last 16 of the Champions League. Stage 2 of the three game mission was also complete.

Then, finally, on Monday night, Chelsea faced the as yet unbeaten, in England, Manchester City. Chelsea knew if they won they would close the gap at the top of the table to 7 points and be within 5 points of second place Manchester United. Yet it all started so badly. Within a couple of minutes Mario Balotelli had given the Sky Blues, Manchester City, the lead and Chelsea were all over the place. Fortune again shined on Chelsea a little later, just as it did at St James Park against Newcastle, as Manchester City were denied what seemed a clear cut penalty when David Silva was tripped in the penalty area by Jose Bosingwa. It turned out to be the turning point in the match. By half time Chelsea were equal, by the final third of the match Manchester City had seen Gael Clichy sent off, and in the final ten minutes Chelsea had a penalty. Raul Meireles, chosen ahead of Frank Lampard, had justified his inclusion from the start by scoring the equaliser, and yet Frank Lampard also justified the managers decision to bring him on to replace the original goalscorer. The substitute replaced the goalscorer and scored himself. Chelsea won 2-1, breaking Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the season, and Chelsea had completed the three game plan of rescuing their season. Part one, Part two, Part three, all completed successfully and in style. Chelsea started the season poorly, inconsistently,but now they have the second chance they deserve.

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