Early Doors

Chelsea’s darkest day

Early Doors

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What disappointment for Chelsea. Yesterday they missed out on securing a trophy that while not one of sport's biggest prizes, certainly carries some prestige. It would have topped off a fantastic sporting year for the club in some style.

But it was not to be. Amid controversy, it was Team GB who won Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Oh, and about 10 hours before the big gala night there was that loss in the final of the Club World Cup too. Early Doors had almost forgotten about that.

If proof were needed that in England we just aren't all that bothered by FIFA's ever-changing, end-of-year continental royal rumble, it came after the end of a 1-0 loss to Copa Libertadores champs Corinthians.

While Frank Lampard looked only mildly irked in his post match interview, David Luiz was crying. Crying! About the Club World Cup! It's a glorified pre-season tournament, isn't it? The Emirates Cup relocated to Japan.

This borderline meaningless mini-competition even caused ructions in the Chelsea squad. Oscar was heard to question Benitez's decision to leave him on the bench while youngster Lucas Piazon claimed after the loss that the only players on the Chelsea team who bothered to try and win were the Brazilians.

"A lot of us were missing the desire to be champion," he said. "I think Ramires and David Luiz, the Brazilians were the ones who gave the most, and now they are sad. We lacked character. Nobody wanted to fight. We went into a final without the will to win, and that's unacceptable. David was upset. I'm not surprised. He was one of the few who cared and gave what he had in the match."

It is said that having grown up with the competition, South Americans treat it with more respect and admiration. In truth, they couldn't treat it with much less. English teams at least take a proper squad to these things, but before they have even set off there are complaints about how it will impact their league campaign, how the travelling (because of course Brazilian teams have the capacity to teleport directly into Yokohama) will be highly detrimental.

Chelsea certainly looked like they were suffering from jet lag of some kind with a limp display in a hugely unentertaining game, the highlight of which was Emerson's remarkable succession of rolls when brought to ground in the second half. The Brazilian is still spinning now and is currently believed to be rolling up and down the undulating foothills of Mount Fuji.

This was a largely forgettable occasion all round, though at least Benitez didn't throw his toys out of the pram and make an ultimatum to his owner, like the last time he competed in one of these finals. That backfired in 2010 when Inter sacked him on Christmas Eve. He should be spared a similar fate at Chelsea - much as many fans would probably be delighted to see him pull a P45 out of his stocking.

Still, this was at least the chance to win a trophy as Chelsea manager, and the failure to do so will hardly endear him to supporters, even if a victory wouldn't have had any appreciable impact on his terrible approval ratings.

In any case, Sunday's main event was clearly the jubilee of back-slapping and slo-mo video montages that is the Sports Personality of the Year awards, or SPOTY, as it has been renamed to assist sarcastic Twitter uses who want to spend the duration slagging it off, but secretly enjoy it all the same.

First off, ED has to say that football was under-represented. In what has been a horribly fallow year for British sport - ED was on holiday for most of August, nothing happened, right? - the inclusion of a captain, leader or perhaps even a legend would have brightened up the shortlist, while Alexander Kerzhakov's exclusion from the foreign award is entirely inexplicable given his stunning form at the Euros.

As it was, Chelsea got a mention for team of the year which was eventually won, in contravention of the BBC's own rules, by Team GB. You know, those guys and girls in the tracksuits who through their sparkling, generous, humble example made football look so utterly terrible by comparison, and forever changed the sporting dynamic in Britain. Well, for a week or so at least, until we began to forget the intricacies of equestrianism and the names of all the rowers.

Though overlooked for the big prizes, football was at least responsible for the most cringe-inducing moment of the night, and that is even factoring in Lennox Lewis's glassy-eyed bemusement when the lines of communication broke down as he was asked present the third-place award to Andy Murray via video link: the statuesque boxer looked like he should have been starring in 'Weekend At Bernie's'.

No, the crushingly embarrassing moment came when Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany emerged to present the Premier League trophy and the entire ExCel Centre started performing a mass Poznan. The Dutchess of Cambridge, suffering from acute morning sickness, was probably spewing her guts up backstage; ED certainly felt ill.

Still, Ben Ainslie, Charlotte Dujardin and the rest probably all thought it was great banter.

All joking aside, football didn't really have a place at this celebration of sporting excellence - not in a year that witnessed Olympic and Paralympic triumphs, Major victories in tennis and golf and a British Tour de France winner.

Though the SPOTY awards have apparently taken on great significance, they are ultimately meaningless anyway. Much like the Club World Cup, unless you are Brazilian of course.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I was very angry and it wasn't because I wasn't a free-kick or a red card for Lloris or a penalty or whatever but we always talk about people, there is a debate, should we kick the ball out. It is the same debate in every country - we have a referee and two linesmen so we just go on until the referee blows the whistle. But with possible head injuries, like this one, there is no doubt, you have all the linesmen and the referee and they are connected. I watched it afterward on the television and when it happened, when Michu is going down to the ground the referee is watching them, the linesman is watching them and still they let the game go on, it is such a poor decision and dangerous as well." - Michael Laudrup doesn't mince his words when criticising referee Mike Dean for failing to stop the game after Michu was knocked unconscious.

FOREIGN VIEW: Jose Mourinho wrote off Real Madrid's chances of overhauling Barcelona to retain their title after being held to a surprise 2-2 draw at home by struggling Espanyol. Unbeaten leaders Barca went on to hammer second-placed Atletico Madrid 4-1 with a double from Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp in the late game and moved 13 points clear of third-placed Real after 16 games. "It is practically impossible," Mourinho said about their title hopes. "That's too much (of a gap) at this stage. Last year we had a 10-point advantage in February or March and we were able to maintain it. But if we can improve in the league it will serve to help us in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League."

COMING UP: The latest instalment in the ongoing horror show that is Arsenal's season comes as Arsene Wenger takes a team unable to beat Bradford City to Reading in the Premier League. Kick-off comes at 8pm. As usual on a Monday, we also bring you our Premier League and European Teams of the Week as well as Jan Molby's latest column.

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