What a great response. A really solid defensive performance from the whole team and still enough creativity to fashion 2 or 3 chances to win the match. As Sanchez said post match, if we can play like that every game we'll pick up points anywhere. I only really caught the second half, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and even then was trying to keep my boys amused and catch up with our mountain of washing, but what I saw looked very impressive.
Keller replaced Niemi in goal and, whilst not actually having much to do, looked more confident than Niemi has of late. He made a couple of decent saves from distance and reacted smartly to block a shot from, I think, Kalou which glanced the post before being cleared. I'm not sure that goalkeeper's react well to competition for the starting spot but it's pleasing to see Keller can do the job and for now I reckon the shirt is his.
I cannot say a thing about the defence without heaping credit on Chris Baird. He's taken a lot of stick over the last week, not least from me, but yesterday put in a top class performance that was a contender for man of the match. He dealt well with all that came at him on the right flank, and was involved in Drogba's second yellow card, getting a nasty boot in the head. From my view it seemed we didn't play such a high line, which I assume was a tactical decision, and this may have left Baird less exposed. Both Hughes and Smertin worked hard and Smertin in particular helped out at the back a lot, Konchesky was his usually effective self.
It wasn't just Smertin the midfield as a unit worked hard to win possession and made sure they did not leave the back four unprotected. Steven Davis had exceptional game, possibly his best performance in a white shirt. I saw Seol make one good little run, but reports on TFi suggest he maybe wasn't as good as the 20 minutes he played against City promised. Murphy replaced Smertin and Bouazza came on for Seol, both players showing the genuine depth we now appear to have. Bouazza looked sharp and had a decent chance which he fired well wide.
Dempsey did well again up front, working hard to win and retain ball and being very close to scoring at least twice. I didn't see the elbow on Terry so won't comment about that yet. Didn't really see much of Healy either but when Kamara came on we seemed to step up a gear in attack. Kamara's pace and ball retention are impressive and it's wonderful to have a player like him on the bench, a real handful for any defence to deal with. Our best two chances came in those frantic last 5 minutes. First Konchesky playing high up the field, latched onto a poor defensive back pass, burst pass the defender and with only Cech to beat tried to place his shot around the 'keeper. Cech did very well to close the angle and stretch out a foot to save, but in my head I had visions of Konch breaking the back of the net with a cannonball. Then Kamara wriggled through again, should have shot early but got pushed wide from where he played a tricky cross box ball that Dempsey was desperately unlucky not to connect with.
All in all a very good performance that can hopefully form the foundation for a decent run. We've got some games coming up that are very winnable and we need to put some points on the board. This game made me feel we good really start doing exactly that.
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