Jose Mourinho branded Arsene Wenger a “specialist in failure” on Friday, seated in the press room at Cobham. If Mourinho had managed a win here, he would have completed a hat-trick over Manuel Pellegrini, who could then have been branded a specialist in succumbing to Jose’s managerial prowess and mind games, having already been defeated on seven occasions. However, with the war of words in the press rooms heating up, Pellegrini, aided by a lethargic Chelsea performance, conducted his talking on the pitch to secure only his second career victory over Mourinho in nine attempts.
Chelsea one, Stoke nil is a score-line which refuses to tell the full story. You would be forgiven for assuming it was a close, tight encounter, but that was not the case. The narrow score-line came as a consequence of our profusion in front of goal as we squandered many promising openings. However, a touch of class from Oscar, who scored a spectacular free-kick and produced a commendable all-round display, was enough to book a fifth round tie with Manchester City as our love affair with the FA Cup continued.
We have been crowned FA Cup champions four times in the last seven editions of the world’s greatest cup competition. In total, we have lifted the planet’s oldest existing football competition eight times, two behind Arsenal with 10 triumphs and three behind Manchester United with 11, despite having absurdly not won the cup in the last 10 years, 11 now after their disappointing defeat to Swansea on Sunday. It is fair to say Wembley has become something of our second home as we always seem to go far in the cup. Another potential Wembley date began at the iPro Stadium with a convincing two goal victory over Premier League promotion hopefuls Derby County to progress into the fourth round.
It is perhaps only the TEFL teachers and students of language amongst us who could glean any scintilla of satisfaction from Sunday’s events.
I have little experience of teaching English as a foreign language. One college summer holiday teaching Spanish youths, having unwittingly stumbled into the employ of Opus Dei, (oh strange days indeed), followed by being on the cusp of heading to Turin as a TEFL teacher a few years later.
Last time we caught sight of Manchesterford United in the league, we were unbeaten and four points ahead of them. At the end of an ugly afternoon we still had a point in hand, but since then they’ve disappeared over the horizon with a turn of speed that suggests their collective arse was on fire.
The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “It will probably register as the most satisfying result of Rafael Benítez’s short and difficult time in office and not just because it was possibly the first time he was spared the condemnation of Chelsea’s supporters. His team can look forward to an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City and, after all the personal indignities Benítez has suffered, he will probably not care too much that it was such a scruffy game to get them to Wembley.”
A Sunday Soujourn in Salford, South Louisiana and err, Romford
There is a theme running through so many cinematic genres; the cop thriller, the horror movie, the spy movie, to quote just three examples, where the “baddie” finally has the hero within his grasp and ultimate victory beckons. And yet the evil genius, who in some cases has built whole empires of evil, who has meticulously planned some astonishing, evil feat of criminal activity or worse still a series of evil, horrifying, toe curling, sadistic murders, all of which are typified by an evil attention to the smallest detail and subtleties of timing, somehow feels the need to pause and soliloquise about their motives, their hatred for the hero, the reasons for their maladjusted behaviour, their dysfunctional relationship with their mother, you name it, you’ve all watched ‘em. They just have to ramble on. And in that pause, that hesitation, that unfathomable and uncharacteristic hiatus between opportunity and action, all is lost.
Disillusionment and apathy abound. There is a distinct lack of vision, plan or grand scheme at the club. We are simply going through the motions, and we are no longer doing it in style. This draining feeling of jadedness is, of course, nothing new. We’ve been here before. But when disillusionment has reached critical mass – a breaking point – fortunes usually changed for the better. Sure, back to back victories have papered over the cracks and carefully disguised mafia-like inner workings, but we should be putting four past Wigan at home and dispatching Sparta Prague in the round of 32 of Europe’s Coca-Cola league with relative ease.
I woke gently at 8:30am to a warm, sunny Sunday morning in Britain after the big freeze of the previous few weeks. A day when Britain decides to finally step out of the house en masse to descend upon shopping malls, supermarkets and Sunday markets to the collective sighs of relief from retail giants and minnows facing the ugly prospect of a triple-dip recession as a pre-cursor to the inevitable coalition government cries of it’s a quadruple/quintuple dip recession. All of course caused by the endlessly bleated excuse of ‘the previous mob left us with a huge deficit’ which we all contributed to by just trying to better ourselves.
The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall
It is difficult to credit now, but there was a time when Chelsea winning the FA Cup was deemed so unlikely, it provided the comic material for a popular song written circa 1933. “On the Day That Chelsea Went and Won the Cup” (sung by Norman Long) describes ever more unlikely scenarios coming true purely because the world has been stood on its head by Chelsea winning the FA Cup. The fact that Chelsea were a team who’d spent most of their life in the top division and should have been well capable of winning such an important trophy only made the song more pointed.
I will start by saying that my views are invariably coloured by having grown up in Tottenham and being related to a number of Spurs fans as well as counting some among my closest friends. These days I rarely take the deep joy that is afforded most Chelsea fans when we discomfit them. Like an Aintree vet, destroying Spurs is something I see as necessary but unpalatable, so this report may be too restrained for some tastes. (And it’s interesting to note how the term “destroy”, which was once the standard way of referring to putting down injured race horses seems to be disappearing from the racing lexicon. Not good for the marketing I presume.)
I haven’t seen us play better this season than we did on Wednesday night against Napoli. Second half every single player did well – even Malouda and Bosingwa. For me, however, the match was really won by Drogba. He was back to his infuriating best: one moment monstering their central defenders, the next scoring with a diving header, and the next falling down clutching his face looking for free kicks. To win 4-1 against a very good Napoli side and to play for two hours with that intensity makes me proud to be a Chelsea fan.
chelseaoffside: Chelsea XI v. Birmingham: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand, Mikel, Ramires, Meireles, Kalou, Torres, Mata.
chelseaoffside: Chelsea bench v. Birmingham: Hilario, Terry, Essien, Lampard, Drogba, Lukaku, Sturridge.
ChelseaChadder: Surprised to see John Terry on the bench for today’s game. I thought he was out for a month.
(title borrowed from The Low Anthem)
Here at Chelsea FC Blog, with our ear ever pressed to the bedroom wall, the better to hear what the lusting youth of the zeitgeist may be getting up to with our rumbustious neighbour of fate, we have been poking around in those nether regions where our sense of the rational gives way to ridiculously inexplicable emotion, with a survey of fans’ particular rituals and superstitions. Our enquiry into whether statistics, strategy, diet, preparation can really be countered by wearing a pair of 15 year old “lucky blue pants” has mirrored the clash of science and religion that has erupted in the courts, media and legislature of this land.
Do you ever have that feeling of guilt even though you know you’ve done nothing wrong?
You know the sort of thing. You’re walking through the ‘Nothing to Declare’ channel at the airport and, even though you’ve got nothing incriminating in your suitcase aside from dirty underwear, a Sooty hand puppet and a copy of Jimmy, the autobiography of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, you can’t help looking furtive and making yourself a prime candidate for ‘Step this way, sir’. A guilty conscience is ingrained in our psyche I guess.
So even though I lay claim to not having a racist bone in my body and have for years lived and worked in harmony with a variety of creeds and cultures, I couldn’t help but feel on edge that today, of all days, I would suffer some mental aberration or seizure that would make me involuntarily utter some hideous racist outburst in the presence of police head-cams, TV cameras and thousands of fans who have been encouraged to spill the beans on their fellow man. Fortunately the day passed without incident and I remain a free man and in possession of my season ticket.
My last visit to Loftus Road was in 1970 when we won 4-2 on the route to Wembley. I was fortunate enough to go to every tie of that success, excluding the replays. Extrapolating forward my next visit to QPR is scheduled for 2054 and I’m hoping by then that a) the ground has been demolished because it was a dump 42 years ago and it’s got worse since and b) I’ve received a long service medal.
The first half
chelseafc: The game is underway. Portsmouth kick-off. Chelsea attacking the Shed End.
BluesChronicle: Early chance to Pompey: Kitson shoots across goal. Both ends of the ground on their feet and singing.
FA Cup: Chelsea 1-1 Everton (3-4 on penalties)
The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Chelsea may be hoping to sharpen their front line with Fernando Torres but they have Petr Cech to thank for keeping them in the FA Cup. The goalkeeper produced a save from Seamus Coleman to prevent Everton going two in front that proved a turning point when Chelsea mounted a swift counterattack to equalise, then denied Jermaine Beckford with a fingertip save in the final minutes to earn a replay. A draw was a fair result in a game that only got going at half -time, yet Everton did enough to win and could reasonably claim that only Cech prevented them inflicting the first Cup defeat on Chelsea since March 2008.”
Sunday Telegraph, Rory Smith: “Chelsea returned to London from their first visit to Merseyside this weekend mired in stalemate, aware that they will be given a second chance at success early next month. Roman Abramovich will be aware that his second, rather more expensive, foray north-west in the next 48 hours will not come with a do-over.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea had to come from a goal down to earn an FA Cup replay at Everton on Saturday afternoon. Substitute Salomon Kalou did the trick 16 minutes from time when he slotted home into the bottom corner at a time when it looked for all the world like the holders would be heading out at the fourth round stage.”
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea have their light relief. Some two months of mounting frustration were taken out on Ipswich to offer the defending Premier League champions and FA Cup holders a reminder that their scintillating early‑season form can still be replicated. There was no manic celebration from Carlo Ancelotti on the sidelines but a playful wave to those in the Matthew Harding stand chanting his name. It was not one of farewell.”
Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “The depth of Chelsea’s squad had always reduced the possibility for significant rotation today but, in Josh McEachran and Daniel Sturridge, there is also hope that an ageing squad can be partially renewed. Sturridge’s two excellent finishes were what most caught the eye but the selfless industry of McEachran was arguably more impressive. At Just 17, McEachran was superb breaking up the play and recycling possession in John Obi-Mikel’s usual holding role in front of the defence.”
The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Didier Drogba’s 37th goal of the season, and sixth in seven Wembley appearances, earned Chelsea the FA Cup and their first Double – so no surprises there. This was not the boring final everyone had feared, however. Thanks in no small part to Portsmouth’s extraordinary competitive spirit, it was a good deal more enjoyable and entertaining than many of its predecessors. There were times – not very long times, admittedly – when it was almost tense.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “They could lay a swamp for a pitch at Wembley and not stop Didier Drogba scoring. The brave last stand of this motley group of Portsmouth players could not prevent the Ivory Coast international from scoring his third FA Cup final winner and his sixth in six competitive games at this stadium. His superb free-kick, struck just before the hour, was his 37th goal of the campaign, and brought Carlo Ancelotti the Double in his debut season.”
The Observer, Jamie Jackson: “Chelsea are still on course for a historic first Double. An often soporific FA Cup semi-final ended with Carlo Ancelotti’s team setting up a meeting with Tottenham or Portsmouth, who clash here tomorrow, in May’s showpiece. By then this team will hope to have bagged the Premier League, and be halfway to immortality in their west London manor.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “There is something about Didier Drogba in this competition at this venue. He scored in the semi-final and the final last year and he did it again, his instinctive finish the goal that effectively sent holders Chelsea into the final.”
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Chelsea entered the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a purposefulness that almost suggested the defence of the trophy was their priority. The victors were probably more intent on recovering confidence after consecutive defeats in other competitions. It was, in a sense, to their advantage that Stoke City should demand the best of them.”
The Times, Frank Praverman: “John Terry scored one and set up the other to send Chelsea through to the last four of the FA Cup. The deposed England captain has rarely been out of the spotlight over the past month due to alleagtions about his private life. But today he was hitting the headlines for all the right reasons.”
The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “Not so long ago, Didier Drogba was the cartoon villain of Stamford Bridge. For anyone not of a Chelsea persuasion, the Ivory Coast striker’s penchant for theatrics, for moaning, for sulking, made him difficult to warm to. Now, certainly in the context of some of his less wholesome team-mates, he is nothing but admirable.”
Sunday Telegraph, Gerry Cox: “Although it looked ultimately like a comfortable victory for Chelsea against a club who were almost bankrupted last week, Cardiff showed no paucity of grit or effort and for the best part of an hour threatened to upset the cup-holders.”
The Observer, Paul Wilson: “”Beast!” hissed the home crowd, respectfully, as the portly Jon Parkin was sent on to chase a two-goal deficit for the last half hour. “You fat bastard!” bellowed the Chelsea fans in the Bill Shankly end. Not particularly romantic, granted, but you cannot make a fairytale out of every FA Cup mismatch. At least Darren Ferguson’s second defeat in his short period in charge of Preston was nowhere near as grim as the DVD of Chelsea’s 7-2 thrashing of Sunderland with which he has been torturing himself all week, and after taking on a virtually full-strength Chelsea team in his first home game the new manager’s task can only get easier.”
Sunday Telegraph, Rory Smith: “Far from their imperious best, Carlo Ancelotti’s side simply did enough to swat Preston’s challenge aside, taking the lead in slightly fortuitous fashion through Nicolas Anelka before seeing Daniel Sturridge double it with the first attack of the second half. All hope extinguished and progression secure. The holders are on the march.”
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “If only life without Didier Drogba could always prove this comfortable. Chelsea’s first fixture since their African contingent departed for Angola was little more than a stroll through the third round, with Championship opponents hopelessly outclassed and the contest reduced early into a training exercise serving to pep the Londoners’ confidence.”
Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “Ancelotti began with a slight surprise by switching from the diamond formation that has generally served him so well this season, with Juliano Belletti playing the holding position in front of the defence while Florent Malouda and Joe Cole were the most advanced midfielders in support of Sturridge.”
The Observer, Paul Wilson: “This is the first trophy Chelsea have won since Jose Mourinho signed off his silverware account with victory against Manchester United here two years ago, and as the outstanding Florent Malouda was unlucky to be denied a third goal with a shot that bounced down from the crossbar and over the line, there was no case for arguing that they were not worthy winners.”
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Yellow was the colour at a brilliantly sunny Wembley yesterday as Chelsea, in their second strip, deservedly won the FA Cup after the shock of conceding the fastest goal in the 137-year history of the final. Louis Saha’s stunning effort after 25 seconds was the high point of the afternoon for Everton by a long way, one that they rarely threatened to approach. Chelsea were level within 20 minutes through Didier Drogba’s header, and Frank Lampard, second only to Florent Malouda as their leading performer, won an enjoyable game that would almost certainly have touched headier heights were it not for the debilitating heat.”
The Observer, Paul Wilson: "Arsenal’s supposed resurgence was put into perspective when they were faced down by more determined opponents and clobbered by a late strike from Didier Drogba that took Chelsea to the FA Cup final. This was the first time in more than 60 years that Chelsea had prevailed against Arsenal in the Cup, but Arsène Wenger’s players only had themselves to blame."
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: "The winner, coming just six minutes from the end was vintage Drogba. Frank Lampard’s volleyed ball over the top looked harmless enough until Drogba started pounding across the turf. Mikael Silvestre was shrugged off with ease en route, as the Chelsea striker shifted the ball around the on-rushing Lukasz Fabianski with his right foot before steering it into the empty net with his left."
Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: "Chelsea hardly had to change out of second gear to dispose of disappointingly poor opposition, whose performance reflected their status in the bottom half of the Championship. Coleman’s post-match complaint that the referee, Steve Bennett, had been “too smug and friendly” with the Chelsea players and had “talked down” to the home team had the sour-grapes taste of a bad loser."
Independent on Sunday, James Corrigan: "Five out of five and at least one visit to Wembley booked in for the fans. Guus Hiddink’s first four weeks in charge must now be credited as being the start of dreams. Of a billionaire’s dream at that. In truth, though, anything but advancement from this rather dull FA Cup quarter-final would have been disappointing for Guy the Gorilla, never mind Guus the Genius; particularly as Hiddink fielded his strongest XI. With the Champions’ League return leg at Juventus looming on Tuesday, it was, as the Coventry manager, Chris Coleman, called it, "the greatest compliment"."
The Observer, Paul Wilson: "There was no St Valentine’s Day massacre, either of Watford’s Cup hopes or of Chelsea’s attempts to reinvent themselves under the gaze of a new manager, though there was a Sapphic proposal of marriage at half time: To Linda from Jackie. Far more interesting than anything that happened in the game, but the manager sent from Russia with love will get used to that."
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: "It’s going to be a tough week at Chelsea’ Cobham training ground and Hiddink must draw deep on his well of football wisdom if he is to turn this Chelsea side into a team capable of securing silverware. Nicolas Anelka scored twice within a minute to save Chelsea an embarrassing elimination in front of their new coach."
Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wilson: "Perhaps in the Cup all that matters is progress, and Chelsea did achieve that, but if they were hoping mid-table Championship opponents would give them an opportunity to rediscover their swagger, they were disappointed. Home is still an uncomfortable place for Chelsea."
Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: "Amidst all these swirling rumours about Chelsea’s corporate future, the team stuttered then succeeded against a resolute Ipswich Town. For a while when Ipswich had equalised it had looked as though the 3-0 thrashing at Old Trafford and the humiliating home draw in the previous FA Cup round against Southend would have a sad sequel."
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "If hardship was good for the soul then Chelsea will be revived by a victory they would once have viewed as a chore. Having conceded an opener fecklessly, they were not at peace until their two late goals, taken by Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard from Salomon Kalou’s service. Kalou had given Chelsea a 2-1 lead after Southend had been ahead. The bad news was limited to a knee injury for Joe Cole, who had been most effective. This was the second win for his side in seven games."
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "Fog briefly put this tie in doubt, just as clouds of uncertainty had hung to Scolari’s reign. When Adam Barrett gave Steve Tilson’s gutsy side the lead, the pressure mounted on Scolari but goals from Michael Ballack, Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard showed Chelsea’s character and set up a fourth-round date with Ipswich Town."
The Observer, Paul Doyle: "Chelsea began powerfully and seemed determined to impose their class on a side that had needed a replay to squeeze past non-League Telford in the first round. But they were thwarted by Southend’s diligent defending and their own wretched shooting."
Sunday Telegraph, Steve Thompson: "Chelsea may indeed be in second place in the Premier League and also in the last 16 of the Champions League, but their vulnerability at home, where they have mustered only four league victories, is an increasing cause for alarm, especially when they fail to dispose of opponents 55 places below them in football’s pyramid."