Saturday, December 23, 2006

Arjen Robben Wins it for Chelsea -- With a stoppage time goal to break a 2-2 deadlock, the Dutch international broke the backs and dashed the upset hopes of Wigan Athletic. The goal was a terrific individual effort, as Robben deked the defender, Baines, with a feint down the right wing, and dribbled past him towards the middle of the field. With the defense all bottled in the middle, Robben cut back a step and then drove the ball wide of the defense and just inside the near post for the winning goal. It appeared that Chelsea was going to be denied their three points by a game Wigan side, and two terrible calls by the linesmen. However, Robben, playing the game of his life, won the day.

Robben assisted on both of Chelsea's first half goals, including a nice threading pass that set up Frank Lampard in front of the Wigan goal, and a beautifully delivered corner kick, headed home by Kalou. Wigan drew closer with Heskey header off a free kick, seconds before halftime. Early in the second half, Robben set up another goal, which was waved off for offsides, though the replays did not back up the call. Wigan knotted the score, when Heskey took the ball all alone by the post, and pushed it home. It's hard to understand how offsides was not called on this play, since Heskey was standing level with the goalie and behind every Chelsea defender still on the field of play. One Chelsea defender, Boulahrouz, was beyond the end line, as his momentum had carried him beyond the field of play. Boulahrouz had a rough match, and his misplay led to Heskey's chance, but the goal was scored from an offsides position and should not have been allowed.

Despite the poor refereeing that might have given the tie to Wigan, Chelsea earned the victory, with a fantastic game and timely final effort by Robben, and is really putting the pressure on Premier League-leading Manchester United. Chelsea came into today's matches trailing the Red Devils by only two points. I've been critical of Robben in the past for selfish play, but there's no denying his talent. He scored a memorable winner, but he also delivered with two (should have been three) fine assists that show his continuing growth as a team player.

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