It’s been another productive seven days for Chelsea’s young loanees, with two players finding the back of the net in addition to impressive displays and debuts for a trio of Blues.
In the top flight, it’s Daniel Sturridge who is making the headlines. Fresh off the back of two goals in his first two outings for Bolton Wanderers, he stepped his game up once again in front of the live Sky cameras on Sunday, scoring again in a 2-0 victory over Everton at the Reebok Stadium.
His outstanding all-round display was capped by a 67th minute goal which secured the three points Wanderers, finished in impeccable fashion. Taking a knockdown from Lee Chung-Yong, he needed just one touch to send a rasping effort fizzing past Tim Howard and into the corner of the net.
If not for a poor decision by the linesman later in the game, ‘Studge’ would have added an assist to his afternoon as well. Displaying fantastic awareness, he backheeled the ball from the touchline into the path of Stuart Holden, who slammed home, but the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play. Replays showed that the ball had not entirely crossed the line.
Whilst Sturridge is lighting up the league, Michael Mancienne continues to be sidelined with a long-term injury, and Gael Kakuta is unavailable for action this weekend as loan regulations preclude him from playing against his parent club. Fulham take on Chelsea at Craven Cottage on Monday night.
The goals continue in The Championship, however, with Jacob Mellis. The 19 year-old midfielder is quickly becoming a fan favourite at Barnsley and did himself no harm in scoring a stoppage time equaliser at home to Ipswich on Saturday.
Deep into stoppage time, the ball broke to him on the edge of the area, and he steered a low shot towards goal without breaking stride. The shot was accurate and heading towards the corner, but was diverted over the line by a visiting defender.
The goal will undoubtedly be credited to Mellis, for the deflection actually took it closer to the goalkeeper, meaning that he has goals in successive matches for the Tykes.
It was a busy weekend in England’s second tier, which now features no fewer than five Chelsea players. Leicester City have two of them, and Dutch Under-21 international Jeffrey Bruma this week joined compatriot Patrick van Aanholt at the Walkers Stadium until the end of the season.
He made his debut late in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Derby as a substitute, having only joined the Foxes on Friday, but Van Aanholt was superb throughout and showed that at this level, he is a force to be reckoned with.
In a first half display in keeping with his team’s attacking dominance, he played almost as a winger, providing one glorious early cross which evaded Yakubu by inches, and remaining involved in everything good about Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team’s play.
He faded a little in the second half, as did the whole team, but he has already made himself a fixture in the starting eleven.
Bruma faces a tough challenge to achieve the same status. Incumbent pair Ben Mee and Sol Bamba have impressed for much of the season, whilst Portuguese Under-21 international Miguel Vitor provides stiff competition as backup. Nonetheless, the fact Chelsea have been comfortable enough to allow him to join Leicester indicates that they intend to use him.
At Scunthorpe, Ben Gordon made his long-awaited debut for the Iron after spending January sidelined with a hamstring problem.
He was thrown straight in at the deep end as the basement-dwellers travelled to promotion-chasing Cardiff, where Gordon would face Arsenal loanee Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
The much bigger and more versatile Cardiff forward had his fair share of success in the first half against Gordon, but as the game went on it was the former Kilmarnock player who grew stronger, and he went close to a goal to savour, dragging a finish just wide of the far post after a marauding run taking in the length of the pitch (picking up possession just inside the opposition half).
There was heartbreak late in the game as Seyi Olofinjana stole the points for the hosts, but Gordon showed that on his return to English football that he has developed nicely from the player who went to Tranmere last season.
Completing the action in The Championship is Jack Cork, who this week made noises that he would be comfortable staying at Burnley on a permanent basis. One of the first names on Eddie Howe’s team sheet, he was his usual effective and impressive self against former club Watford, as the Clarets won 3-1 to continue their promotion push.
Continuing down the ladder, League One is once again represented in the form of Conor Clifford, who has joined Notts County after a return to Plymouth was ruled out due to their ongoing financial difficulties.
Another who joined too late in the week to start, Conor made a second half debut from the bench, but it was in a losing effort as Paul Ince’s side fell to a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Exeter.
Despite the circumstances making it hard for the Irishman to impress, he did just that, playing his usual box-to-box game and giving the team a little more impetus in the middle of the park than they had before his arrival.
Initial reaction to his cameo was positive and County fans are largely keen to see him start in midweek at home to Colchester.
Completing the set domestically is Rhys Taylor, who after shipping nine goals in two games for Crewe was back in form, keeping a clean sheet for Wales Under-21s in midweek and playing well in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Gillingham.
Alex’s defence has been one of the division’s weakest all season, leaving Rhys exposed more than manager Dario Gradi has been happy with, but there was no preventing the equalising goal on this occasion, a stunning effort from outside the box by Curtis Weston.
Taylor made a crucial stop later in the game to earn a share of the spoilers, but despite his largely positives displays, there is still a vocal group of dissenting supporters who believe Steve Phillips should play instead.
Quite why they feel that or where the justification for criticism in Rhys’ displays has come from is a mystery, but the most important thing for Blues followers is that Gradi is happy to continue with things as they are.
In Holland, Vitesse went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat against second-placed FC Twente on Saturday evening, suffering defeat for the first time in three matches.
Captain Slobodan Rajkovic was booked, whilst Matej Delac remains backup to Eloy Room with no change of goalkeeper in sight.
Finishing up with a trip to Uruguay to check up on Jhon Pirez, the forward remained as an unused substitute for Defensor Sporting’s second game of the Clausura season, a 2-1 win at Liverpool.