For the 25th consecutive week of the 2013-14 club football season, at least one Chelsea loan player scored for his temporary club. Sure, superstition typically suggests not to talk about the streak whilst it’s ongoing, but it hasn’t done it any damage thus far and with strikes from Patrick Bamford, Christian Atsu and Patrick van Aanholt this weekend, it’s also in rude health.
We begin with Bamford, who has taken like a duck to water in stepping up to Championship football with promotion-chasing Derby and this week struck his first for the Rams and his 18th in all competitions this term. Coming off the bench again, as he did a week earlier on debut away to Leicester, he got about half an hour to show what he had to offer – albeit on the right wing – and provided the game’s only goal with a lovely finish from the edge of the box.
Speaking after the game, the England Under-21 international revealed that he’s experienced a few nerves and settling in issues surrounding his mid-season change of team, but moments like the above will have done wonders for his confidence. The next step is to prove to manager Steve McClaren that he can be a capable alternative to Chris Martin in the central striking position, and the case is now being made.
Over in the Netherlands, the Eredivisie resumed after a winter break and it did so in familiar fashion as a host of Blues prospects hauled Vitesse to a win which keeps them level atop the league with Ajax. The performance away to Zwolle was not particularly good, nor was it memorable, but a fine solo goal by Atsu inside two minutes and a late point-stealer by Van Aanholt – his fifth of the season – secure the three points.
Both goalscorers played well in their 90 minutes, whilst Lucas Piazon had a solid game marred by a missed penalty kick. Bertrand Traore, the other notable loanee at the Gelredome (as Cristian Cuevas isn’t threatening a first-team breakthrough), was absent through travelling back to Africa to complete work permit paperwork. He should be available for next weekend’s derby at home to NEC Nijmegen, all being well.
Romelu Lukaku, complete with new haircut, played 90 minutes for Everton away to former club West Brom and claimed an assist for Kevin Mirallas’ goal.
Victor Moses was an unused substitute for Liverpool in their 2-2 draw against an Aston Villa side featuring Ryan Bertrand. The left-back joined Paul Lambert’s side on loan until the end of the season on Friday and was thrown straight into action at Anfield, putting in a solid and dependable 81-minute display. He’ll get plenty of playing time between now and May at Villa Park, and Lambert has already spoken about the idea of keeping him beyond then.
In The Championship, Bamford turned out to be the only youngster in action, with the three other Chelsea players attached to clubs in the division absent for one reason or another. Blackburn’s Todd Kane is still out with a thigh injury being rehabbed back at Cobham, whilst neither Kenneth Omeruo nor new signing Nathaniel Chalobah featured for Middlesbrough at home to Charlton.
Chalobah only joined 48 hours before the match so was never likely to play, whilst manager Aitor Karanka has already revealed that Omeruo requires two to three weeks before he is in a position to contribute considering he has just 60 minutes of football to his name since July. Both will grow into major roles at the Riverside before long.
In League One, Milan Lalkovic and George Saville went head to head as playoff-chasing Walsall hosted promotion-hunting Brentford. Both players completed the 90 minutes, with Saville getting a yellow card, but Lalkovic edged the battle in terms of individual performance by providing the assist for his team’s goal (a header at the far post back for Craig Westcarr to slam home) and the sponsors’ Man of the Match award.
Up at Carlisle, Sam Walker played well in a 4-2 win for upwardly mobile Colchester United in what might well be his last match as a Chelsea loanee. With his contract due to expire in the summer, the Us offered him a permanent stay at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this week and in the words of manager Joe Dunne, they ‘think they are nearly there’.
Away from the Vitesse spotlight, Stipe Perica and NAC Breda were also back in action, but the Croatian only got half an hour from the bench in a 3-0 reverse away to AZ Alkmaar.
Thibaut Courtois kept a 13th clean sheet of the season in midweek Copa del Rey action as Atlético Madrid eliminated a Valencia side which left Oriol Romeu out for more important league action. Duly, he got 90 minutes and a booking in Friday’s forgettable goalless draw away to Málaga.
Courtois, meanwhile, did get a chance to face off against a fellow Blue on Sunday as Marko Marin and Sevilla came to town. The match offered a chance to take sole possession of top spot in La Liga following Barcelona’s draw at Levante, but Sevilla claimed a point to deny them that feat. Marin came off the bench midway through the second half and continues to be an impact sub after a long injury, whilst Courtois was Courtois.
In the second division, Uli Dávila and Córdoba travelled to Ponferradina but the Mexican only got a few seconds on the pitch as a stoppage time replacement in a 1-0 win.
In the third tier, Leganés draw 1-1 at Fuenlabrada with Jhon Pírez getting five minutes as a late substitute.
The Jupiler League returned this weekend and Thorgan Hazard played the full match as Zulte Waregem edged Genk 1-0 through a goal from Olafur Skulason, but the big story still surrounds the immediate future of the younger Hazard. On Friday night it was claimed that Anderlecht had found an agreement for his services until the end of the season, only for Zulte to pour scorn upon those reports on Saturday morning.
Hazard has been a quiet party in the messy affair, preferring to let his advisors get on with negotiations, whilst Jose Mourinho also weighed in by suggesting that he and the club are happy with his development at Essevee, and that if a change is to happen it would have to be closely examined. The smart money would be on a protracted change of scenery, and if it does expect Anderlecht to become overwhelming favourites to defend their title.
Also in Belgium this week was Billy Clifford, who trialled with KV Mechelen. However, the trial ended without the offer of a loan, so expect no further news on that fron.
Wallace doesn’t play for Inter and didn’t even make a shortened bench for their Sunday defeat at Genoa.