Here is Dale’s thoughts post Chelsea game.
As Roger Johnson rose above Drogba to power clear one of his 50 or more defensive headers during the second half of the game, it seemed to capture in essence how the match unveiled. Chelsea came with the Lampards, Terry’s and Drogba’s and were haulted by the most passionate, gritty and determined performance by 11 nasty little so and so’s. For all his quality, ability and unplayable traits, Drogba goes from the sublime to the ridicules more times than Benitez is flagged offside! He huffed and he puffed and apart from zipping a volley wide in the first half, there was no chance of him blowing our house down! He moaned to the ref about the Blues defenders but unfortunately for the Ivory Coast talisman, he met his nemesis.
Week after week, game after game, Roger Johnson overcomes all human capabilities to head, kick, scramble, tackle, block and clear everything within a 2 mile radius of the 18 yard box. If appearing on the 90’s game show “The Gladiators”, he would be that final man, waiting for the contestant at the end of the 5 man gauntlet. Then and again, if this became apparent, nobody would actually be able to run the gauntlet without being completely obliterated! Just when it looked like Blues were calved open by a rare piece of Chelsea’s fluid passing and movement, Roger Johnson launches himself into the oncoming Ashley Cole with the most last ditch of last ditch challenges. A volleyed clearance away from Drogba in his 6 yard box in the first half, a headed clearance near his goal line in the second, the examples are endless. As a fan, it has come to a point where you want to just grab him, shake his hand and thank him! It’s as if he is a lifelong fan of the club who has been put on the pitch to go and show the Premier league what all Blues fan’s would be like if they ever got the chance to grace the St.Andrews turf. If I was Fabio Capello watching the game and observed both Birmingham’s Roger Johnson and Chelsea’s John Terry, there would only be one winner based on their performances. Okay Johnson was the busier of the two and that was expected but even so he dwarfed the performance of Chelsea’s so called “Ironman”. Yet again, I find myself writing about Johnson’s performance, a man who is starting to steal the show at what has been for the last ten games, a very entertaining spectacle.
Another player who proved his worth against Chelsea with a string of acrobatic and rapid reaction saves was Joe Hart. Two stand out for me. Pushing Daniel Sturridge’s whipped effort past the post was unbelievable as it was destined to nestle in the bottom corner but this was outdone as he spurred Chelsea’s best chance of the game. Lampard was kept onside by Stephen Carr and was all of 10 yards out with only Joe Hart to beat. And yet, the young England keeper reacted to a vicious shot from the usually prolific Chelsea midfielder from the shortest of distances to palm the shot away. For all his troubles he even managed to look heroic after receiving the old “Terry Butcher” bandage treatment around the head as a result of getting caught by an onrushing Chelsea forward. Hart had been subject to come uncertainty amongst some Blues fans earlier in the season but based on Boxing Day’s performance he was nothing short of superb and has staked a very firm claim for a place on the plane to South Africa.
Fans left the ground yesterday, thoroughly entertained and all in all very happy with a point. Ok Benitez was onside but so was Louis Saha’s disallowed goal the previous week as McLeish correctly pointed out. The score will say a 0-0 draw, but the game was full of saves, last ditch tackles, disallowed goals and red cards. . .
Oh and it was also full to the brim with one very hard hitting Roger Johnson in top class form.