Seaman hands top spot back to Chelsea

Chelsea 1 - 0 Manchester City                        RETURN TO Manchester City            HOME PAGE

Amy Lawrence for Get Your Kits Out at Stamford Bridge
Saturday October 26, 2003

What do you buy the man who has everything? Chelsea's attempts to provide a memorable birthday present for their owner were, frankly, pretty measly. In the end, they were grateful for the generosity of David Seaman. What a gift.

The only man on the pitch older than Roman Abramovich, 37 on the eve of this game, literally handed the only goal to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Another one for his collection of blunders, it was a setback from which his team-mates could not recover, even though Chelsea were again less than convincing.

Remarkably, another west London team gave Abramovich another present, as Fulham's triumph at Old Trafford returned Chelsea to the top of the Premiership. The scoreline was greeted gleefully as the fans ambled into the Fulham Road.

City arrived emitting the spirit of adventure expected from a team fresh from scoring six. Such was their confidence their first chance came from an unorthodox source - the right foot of the classy left-back Michael Tarnat flicked a dangerous cross into the Chelsea box, met full on the volley by the right foot of the centre-half David Sommeil. He cursed as it fizzed over.

It took almost 20 minutes for Chelsea to penetrate a rearguard well commanded by Sylvain Distin. With four changes from the team who crafted such an important victory against Lazio in midweek, they were lacking in cohesion. Joe Cole was ill at ease on the left. Popping up on the right, though, he scooped a fine pass to Hasselbaink, but the Dutchman could not connect with any conviction.

Adrian Mutu saw his first piece of the action moments later, rifling Hasselbaink's crisp pass with venom. It would have been 1-0 had it not been straight at Seaman.

Chelsea thought they had conjured the lead shortly before the half-hour. Mutu whipped a cross right the way over the box to Jesper Gronkjaer, who lifted the ball expertly for Frank Lampard to nod in at the far post. Offside, though.

Ranieri looked miffed. Things were not going to plan, whatever that plan was. It did seem baffling to post Cole and Gronkjaer on the flanks when you have Damien Duff on the bench. A clutch of City fans goaded Ranieri with a recital of Joe Dolce's pseudo-Italian classic Shaddup You Face - 'Whassa matta you, eh? Why you looka so sad?' - the most inventive moment of the match.

Chelsea clearly needed help to make a more effective breakthrough. Seaman delivered. When Mutu bewildered Sommeil, carving room for himself to squeeze a cross in from the left, Seaman ought to have gathered, or got rid. Instead he gaffed, palming the ball gently to Hasselbaink inside the six-yard box. Thanks very much, said Jimmy Floyd.

Carlo Cudicini was in no mood to feel overly sympathetic. Called into action soon afterwards, he flung himself to divert Robbie Fowler's thunderous header on to the inside of a post.

City, who had started so brightly, were playing within themselves. Although they fought to win decent possession in the second half, the final ball was not threatening enough. Nicolas Anelka too often had to play with his back to goal, chasing half-chances.

Their late rally, once Fowler had been replaced by Paulo Wanchope, had Chelsea anxiously clinging on, however. Trevor Sinclair came closest when he battered a shot that Cudicini beat away.

Chelsea, meanwhile, chipped away. Gronkjaer ran half the length of the field only to send a drive straight at Seaman. Then Mutu and Cole played the sweetest of one-twos, but the danger was smuggled away by Claudio Reyna. Next Seaman inter vened again, spilling Wayne Bridge's cross - only this time the ball was hacked away.

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