Chelsea’s resilience and quality shone through as they stood up to, and then disposed, a spirited West Ham side at Stamford Bridge today.
However, this isn’t about the match but a particular incident in the game, in context of how the first half went in terms of petty fouls and late challenges. As the image at the top of the article indicates, the Boa Morte / Terry / Alex incident was the highlight of the physical aspect of the Chelsea-West Ham game, and one that needs to ushered out of football.
First, here’s the video: Boa Morte v Chelsea defence.
Here’s how it plays out – Cudicini fumbles an easy collect, for a second really, and then he secures the ball again. In that second, Boa Morte, running in towards the ball, aims a kick at it. Overzealous, perhaps, but not dangerous to the keeper (no sliding two-footed challenged aimed at Cudicini’s family jewels or a knee aimed at his head). LBM misses the ball, hits the keeper in the thigh and as Cudicini stands up to remonstrate, LBM has his hands up and is immediately apologising.
I find that instant the most poignant – in recent incidents where players have gone in hard against the keeper, they have hardly turned around for a second look. Despite connecting with Petr Cech’s skull with his knee, did Stephen Hunt stop and check on the Chelsea keeper? Every weekend we see players deliberately knocking goalkeepers to one side either with carefully timed jumps or innocent nudges in the back. Compared to that, and keeping in mind that LBM was immediately remorseful, you’d think that this was harmless.
Terry and Alex certainly didn’t think so. A shove in the back and then thuggish manhandling of the West Ham player, as if he had aimed a kick at Cudicini’s head. I can sympathise with the rush of emotion that accompanies such a situation and I have nothing but admiration for the team spirit that Terry embodies at Chelsea (made all the more poignant by the fact that he cannot replicate it at national level), but perhaps some intelligence and restraint is in order as well?
As Chelsea captain, Terry set a bad example. I’m sure that Avram Grant would have had little to say, and every Chelsea player (and many fans) would have supported his actions because he’s looking after his own. It’s one thing to protect your teammates, it’s quite another to be ready to beat the opposition up for a mistake.
Howard Webb did a good job refereeing the game and I think that he did the right thing in not dishing out yellow cards for such a petty squabble. Having said that, it’s a shame that such behavior goes unchecked, because this does nothing but give license to fans and players to trash the opposition and somehow makes assault acceptable, just because the person on the receiving end is one of the others.