20 April 2014

We all ♥ Mike Dean—well, maybe Mourinho doesn't...

I know we haven't always liked Mike Dean. Some of us, to be honest, have struggled to appreciate the deeper insights into the game that surely he possesses. There have been times when, to put it mildly, we have had our differences in opinion, when we struggled to understand just what match he was watching when he made this call or overlooked that one. Now, finally, the esteemed Mr. Dean has redeemed himself in our eyes, setting aside those differences of opinion and rising above the distrust, and showing himself to be worthy of our respect, our admiration, our love. Heck, I might even go so far as to suggest that he's now our favorite referee in the Prem. Don't take my word for it, though. Take it straight from the 'little horse's' mouth—Jose Mourinho's mouth, that is.

Speaking after the match, Jose had nothing but kind words to say:
Congratulations to Mike Dean because he made a fantastic performance. And congratulations to Mike Riley because what they did during the season was fantastic for the way the championship is going. "So congratulations to all of them and I have nothing more to say.
Listen to the guy. He's never been so effusive in his praise. I don't think I've ever seen him or any manager use the word 'fantastic' so sincerely, so honestly, so—wait. He's being sarcastic? Jose? Well, knock me down with a feather.

It turns out that Jose was furious—furious, I tell you—at Dean and Riley for the officiating, specifically the call that led to Sunderland's go-ahead goal. I've watched the clip a few times and, even with my anti-Chelsea, pro-Altidore bias (I am American, after all), I feel pretty objective in pointing out that there was enough contact to justify the call. Azpilicueta went for a slide tackle in the box, which is reckless is not brainless, and it does look like he hooked Altidore's foot. There was probably more contact there than there was between Mertesacker and McManaman in the Wigan match. At any rate, the side-judge raised his flag immediately and Dean pointed to the spot.  Sunderland took the lead with ten minutes to go and held on to win, thus ending Mourinho's streak at Stamford Bridge and all but ending any hopes of Chelsea winning the Premiership. For a squad like Chelsea to look to the referee for help or as a scapegoat against the likes of Sunderland boggles my mind, to be honest. How can a squad that is contending for the Prem title and  going into the Champions League semifinal need help? They were facing Sunderland, a team so woebegone as to still occupy the bottom-spot despite taking four points in one week. So it goes.

The call might have been soft, and I'm sure we'd be as furious as Mourinho was, but it stands as a lesson that cuts all the deeper when you carry yourself with the smugness and imperiosity that Mourinho does (note: I understand that 'imperisoty' is not a real word, but I like it better than 'imperiousness'. Better rhythm. Better overlap with related words liked 'pomposity' and 'grandiosity.'). Chelsea were +32 at home; Sunderland were -14 away. For the match to come down to a dubious penalty is just-desserts, in my opinion, and if it denies Mourinho any silverware this season, so much the better. I've suggested in previous posts that Chelsea's Champions League progress might be just the ticket to distract from or interfere with their Prem priorities. If this result is any indication, that's fine with me. It does look as if Chelsea's squad-selection was made with one eye on their Tuesday clash with Atletico.

However, sad as it may sound, this may come as too little, too late as far as we're concerned. Should we win against Hull on Sunday, we'll still trail Chelsea by five points with just three matches to play. That's a bridge too far (see what I did there? A little play on Stamford Bridge and the old saying "a bridge too far"? Eh? Eh?" Sigh. Let's move on). Still, we can raise our glasses to Mr. Dean, the man who tweaked Mourinho and Chelsea on this day. It's not enough to change the title-chase, but it might be just enough to warm the cockles or our hearts must a little towards a man against whom we've felt nothing but scorn and rage. That would be Dean, by the way, not Mourinho. Man. Talk about a tough choice for the question "if you were stranded on a desert island, would you spend it with _______ or _________?" At the moment, Dean has edged ahead.

Even if Saturday's result does nothing to change our prospects vis-à-vis the Prem, it still gives us something to warm our hands over, much like holding a nice, piping-hot cup of tea on a cold winter's morn. You know, the simple pleasures.