George Dearnaly

Mourinho who? Grant's the man

2007-12-04 09:26

George Dearnaley

I'll be the first to admit that when Chelsea appointed former Israeli national coach Avram Grant, I thought it was the slippery slide for the London Blues. I thought there would be in-fighting among players as Jose's favourites jostled with the unhappy bench-warmers for a place in Avram's heart.

I also thought that Avram would be a puppet, allowing Abramovich to pick the side and that Shevchenko would suddenly start every game. You might argue that it was wishful thinking on my part, but I remember writing a column titled 'Stamford Bridge is falling down' and at the time, I thought it was on the cards.

Well... quiet little decent man Avram Grant has now gone 14 matches unbeaten and very loud fans' favourite Jose Mourinho has quickly been forgotten. Chelsea have looked impressive and are still not at full force with stars like Carvalho only recently back from injury, and Ballack still to return to first team action. Shevchenko has also remained on the bench, but seems to have enjoyed coming on as a sub, scoring a few goals and creating a few as well.

Joe Cole is playing his best football. Drogba, who was one of the first to admit he wanted out, is back among the goals and looking as powerful as ever. They are mean in defence, resilient in midfield and lethal up front. They will still pose the biggest threat to Manchester United's title this season.

I actually felt sorry for Avram when he started. His first match was in charge at Old Trafford and a dismal defeat after an indifferent performance led me to believe that I was watching a drowning man - but full marks, and much respect to him. He has got on with the job without much hype and seems to be getting the best out of his squad.

Telkom Knockout final

I thought the recent Telkom Knockout final between Chiefs and Sundowns was a great match. End to end action, plenty of goalmouth incidents, extra-time, and finally a penalty shootout.

Both goalkeepers were in superb form and it is testament to their ability that the match remained goalless. It was one of the few occasions when you don't blame the strikers - you give credit to the goalkeepers and their defenders.

I thought Chiefs were tactically better on the night, they had more options going forward and had better organisation. Esrom Nyandoro, who is pivotal in the Sundowns midfield, had to drop too deep to keep track of the Chiefs attackers and was wasted. I also thought Lerato Chabangu was very unlucky with a few of his efforts. He has the potential to be our next star striker if he can keep his head on his shoulders.

A great result for the Phefeni Glamour boys and Sundowns must be asking themselves a lot of questions after their seventh Cup final defeat in a row against Chiefs.

  • George is the associate publisher of Kick Off magazine and represented South Africa during the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.

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