The Observer, Jamie Jackson: “[A]fter this penalty shoot-out defeat in their FA Cup fourth-round replay – following the 1-1 stalemate over 120 minutes – Carlo Ancelotti faces the prospect of taking his Chelsea project from claiming the Double in his debut year in English football to a trophyless second season and the possibility of competing only in the Europa League in 2011-12.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “This is supposed to be Chelsea’s favourite competition. They had not lost in the FA Cup since March 2008 and won it three times in the last four seasons. This was supposed to be the release valve on the pressure that has built up at the club in a frustrating second season for Carlo Ancelotti. This game was supposed to be won but, in a dramatic denouement to a fiercely contested game, Everton prevailed.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “The long reign as FA Cup holders is over after a late turnaround in extra-time was followed by yet more shoot-out pain for the Blues.”
It’s been a while since I did a match report and even today I write this having watched the game several hours after it’s finished, because I was playing golf. Now normally I would always schedule this around a game, but my disillusionment of late has meant that just for today I would ignore the rules and bash the living daylights out of a small white ball. As it turned out the result was not dissimilar to the match – an honourable draw. No bastard bloody penalties mind.
No Luiz nor Torres today with Nando being cup-tied and the Curly One being ineligible because of our pussyfooting about when sealing the deal. Three days earlier and he’d have been in. Well done Gourlay, great negotiating there.
So, we saw Ivan back in defence and faithful old carthorse Paulo Ferreira at right-back. Oh joy. Anelka was on the bench, Kalou for whatever obscure lunatic reason being given the nod. And also on the bench was the mythical creature known as Yuri Zhirkhov… yes he does actually exist folks.
Oh dear. Do I have to?
To describe the first half as dismal is an affront to the word dismal. Luckily I have a better word and that word is dire (shite was a strong contender here). Everton did what Everton do well. They were dogged and hungry into the tackle, and despite the swathes of Moyes naysayers, the man had his team set up like most others with a game plan to thwart our marauding full-backs. Not that Ferreira does much marauding these days, no he is more of a stroller now. Come to think of it, so are quite a few others. I watched part of the half at six times the normal playback speed, and yep, we started to look a bit closer to our old pacy selves then. A thriller the first half was not. We had a couple of half chances but Tim Howard, like many before him was wearing his pants outside his tights and a cape.
So, we have at last achieved consistency, but sadly it’s consistently dire more than anything. Teams we would have rolled through last season now look at us and mock us. They sneer and spit. They know the Chelsea House of Cards is crumbling. Everton may be limited, but they looked like Brazil at times compared to us.
Second half, and Carlo whipped off Mikel, a tad unfortunately in my view. Mikel Obi seemed to be having a decent game. On came Paul Essien, or whatever his name is. You know, the impostor parading himself as The Real Michael Essien. To be fair to him, this did seem to liven us up during the second half and we did pass better. Albeit exclusively through the middle. Why does Carlo not see the need for wingers? It must be an Italian thing, and when I think about it, the Book of Great Italian Wingers is even smaller than the Book of Great Scottish Goalkeepers. It’s not really part of their game is it? Of course the other thing is we must have a new kit deal whereby we have replaced our former rather popular line of shooting boots with a new range seeming designed for putting. Yes, our ability to unswervingly fail to beat the first man when putting in a cross is now legendary. It must be an art. Anyway, looking at the TV it seems the game was far more open second half, with the lion’s share of chances going our way, but as is our wont, nothing going in. Frank had some good chances but failed to convert and Ivan was unlucky to find Super Tim in the way of one effort.
Drogba and Kalou were pretty much hopeless again.
And I bet a few hearts were in mouths when Fellaini scored on the stroke of full time. It was disallowed, but that’s how teams play us these days. They know we can be mugged. Time up, 0-0 and the second half a big improvement on the first but still we looked ponderous, and still we looked lazy and lacking bite. Ramires, Ivan and Frank were the only real highlights; JT doesn’t look comfortable with everything and seems to find himself playing as an attacking centre-back more and more. Ashley Cole seems to be having a crisis, maybe he has the new People’s Princess Cheryl and an alleged reunion playing on his mind. That or he’s just shit at the moment. Malouda has regressed to the lazy layabout we saw during his first season.
And so to the tension and drama of extra time. We looked the stronger side and although I can’t retrospectively comment I suspect the ‘live’ watchers probably felt we could still do this. And on the stroke of the 13th minute of the first half of extra time, a piece of magic from Anelka (who subbed the anonymous Malouda) saw him nip delightfully between two Everton players, put in a perfect flighted ball for Drogba to chest down to Lamps to rifle in. Cue much celebration, including the delightful Christine Bleakley and Frank Lampard Senior. Surely now we were home and hosed?
The old Chelsea would have been. The ruthless Mourinho crushing machine would have strangled the life from the second half of extra time and we’d be looking to a day out in Reading. Yes I miss The Special One, even more in the light of the crumbling, stumbling displays of recent times. I look back with fondness at our ruthless power game that crushed nearly everything in its path.
Nowadays, we get a goal up and then we fall apart. Before it would have sealed a win or been a springboard to crank up a gear. Nowadays it’s a white flag being waved from a blue trench. A silly last minute free kick conceded and up steps the increasingly impressive Leighton Baines to curl one in, in a way we haven’t done for months. Baines will surely end up at United or Arsenal in the summer. Penalties then, and in a kind twist of fate, the scheduled recording on the V+ box ended on the final whistle. So I haven’t watched them, and nor will I now. Anelka has taken some stick for his apparent unorthodox run up, but without him we’d never have got the goal, and there’s every likelihood the mugging would have taken place.
It doesn’t matter that I won’t describe the penalties. The cruel fact is we’re out of probably the best chance of silverware this season. Yes, the Champions League is still there but be realistic, a team that can’t beat the likes of Birmingham, Newcastle, Fulham, that got its arse kicked by Arsenal and capitulated to a shockingly poor Liverpool team at home is never going to get past Real Madrid, Barcelona or come to think of it Spurs. Yeah hurts that doesn’t it? Get used to it. It’s where we live now.
- Ramires. Kuyt-like work rate.
- Frank Lampard coming back to life.
- Ivanovic. Puts in a good shift all the time.
- Leighton Baines. Off to bigger and better in the summer I suspect.
- Everton. Credit where it’s due, they like others had us worked out and stuck to it. Their combined effort put ours to shame.
- Drogba and Kalou.
- Florent Malouda. Utter rubbish of late.
- The whole damn display.
Player ratings – subjective and very probably illogical and unreasonable
- Cech – 7/10. No problems to report here.
- Ferreira – 5/10. Would make a good dog walker these days.
- Terry – 7/10. Looks confused.
- Ivanovic – 7.5/10. One of the few constant things we can rely on.
- Cole – 5/10. Disturbingly out of form.
- Obi – 6/10. Unluckily subbed.
- Lampard – 8/10. Tried to carry the team almost single-handedly at times.
- Malouda – 2/10. Awful. Slow and way off beam in every aspect.
- Kalou – 5/10. The blind alley king.
- Drogba – 4/10. Didier who? A nobody again today apart from the chest down for Frank.
- Ramires – 7.5/10. One of the very few bright things we have.
- Essien (sub) – 5/10. A huge worry.
- Anelka (sub) – 6/10. Why we kept him back until extra time is yet another example of Ancelotti’s intransigence and confusion.
- Zhirkhov (sub) – Err… who he? Not on long enough to get rated.
- Manager rating – 2/10. The walls are closing in.
- Overall team performance – 4/10. Dire, dismal, slow, lazy, passionless, spineless, gutless, demotivated, demoralized, confused.
Man of the Match
Leighton Baines overall. But Lamps for us.
So, yet another trophy chance slips away. Now we face a battle for fourth place or else it’s Europa League. Famous European nights against the likes of Aris Salonika, Tromso, Stavanger and Anderlecht beckon. Whoopy-fucking-do. If we win the Champions League I’m pretty sure the right to defend that was rescinded the minute Liverpool’s wishes were granted in 2005. But that’s pie in the sky anyway. We won’t win that on this form. In fact I don’t see us beating Copenhagen at the moment. Yes things are that bleak. Spurs will play fearless football when they visit, and Manchester City and United will relish meeting us on this form. Be under no illusions folks, this run in will be hard, and frankly I think fourth is a big ask now. How the mighty are fallen huh?
That’ll do for now. Nothing to say about Carlo that I haven’t already said, but the man who failed to refresh AC Milan, leaving a team of crocks will probably not get the chance to rebuild here. All he needed was a decent number two and things might have been so different.
Keep the Rather Limp and Listless Blue Flag Flying High!