Grant obviously felt he could get away with a bit of tinkering today, making five changes to the side who’d enjoyed a midweek victory over Liverpool. Obviously they’ve had a couple of pretty hard games and he’ll be mindful of keeping players injury-free for the Champions League final, but risk aside, I’m not sure these are players who really need resting. After all, it’s not as if they’ve all been slogging it out week in week out in the league. Whereas last season they were still playing on their knees, this season their games total must be somewhat more conservative.
So, with Lampard, Makelele, Kalou and both Cole’s left out of the starting line-up, the first half was pretty much as expected. A hangover from our Champions League celebrations would certainly explain a very lethargic start which saw Martins running rings around us and us offering very little in return against a pretty organised Newcastle defence. With very little between the two sides, Newcastle unsurprisingly had the better chances whilst Chelsea were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Fortunately John Terry managed to open his wide enough to clear an Owen shot off the line around the half hour mark. Nothing too remarkable then, and we went in all square at 0-0.
Either a rousing team talk or the consumption of vast quantities of E numbers seemed to do the trick at half-time, with us coming out ready for a game after the break. A goal started to look inevitable with Terry heading a Malouda corner off the bar, and a Drogba free-kick on the hour mark from the edge of the area saw Ballack head it in. Having taken some lessons in consolidating wins late on this season, we wrapped it up on 81 mins with Malouda – yes I did say Malouda! – slotting a Ballack through ball past Harper.
So, all square on points again at the top and somehow we’ve managed to drag it out til the last day – and make sure Arsenal finish below us into the bargain!