League Cup Final review: Chelsea 1 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur (AET)

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Match reports

The Times, Martin Samuel: “If this was a triumph for Jonathan Woodgate, Tottenham and Juande Ramos – who has been at White Hart Lane less than four months – it was a catastrophe for Chelsea’s regime under Avram Grant. There was nothing to suggest that Grant has advanced the club one iota since the departure of Jose Mourinho, who, Chelsea fans will recall, never lost a final in three seasons. Grant’s team bore more than a passing resemblance to the one that got Mourinho the sack in September. They played dull, direct football, with their most inventive player, Joe Cole, stranded on the sidelines. And they lost. This is what happens when an owner phones a friend instead of a manager with vision, which is what Tottenham sought once it had been decided that Martin Jol was not the man for the job.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “To Woodgate the spoils, to Grant the brickbats. Like a profligate heir, Grant has now squandered half the family silver he inherited from Jose Mourinho. Like a startled fawn, Chelsea’s manager failed to react when the team cried out for guidance, for inspiration. Steve Clarke delivered the rallying cry before extra-time. Grant listened.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Grant deferred to Steve Clarke for the team talk after full-time and scratched his head while John Terry did the same 15 minutes later – this was not the Israeli’s finest hour.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Grant now has to start all over again to vindicate his appointment. Don’t tell him the Carling Cup is an irrelevance.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “For the first time since 2002, the Blues failed to triumph when making the final of a knockout competition as they failed to take control of a London derby in which set-pieces decided the day.”

The good

In time honoured form I got the job of reviewing a game in which it’s going to be hard to find anything good to write about the whole experience. Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I’m the Jonah here? I must have been a right bastard in a previous life…

I could have written one word for this review. Fuck. Or maybe two to describe the team. Those two words rhyme with cucking funts, such was the paucity of entertaining and passionate football on display from us. Here goes…

  1. Spurs. Yep, put all your hatred and in-built despising of them to one side, take a deep breath and try to remove the emotion and view the game logically. Spurs were all over us from the start, and by the time we scored with our first shot on target after 37… yes count them… 37 minutes we could have been three down. They fought for and deserved this victory.
  2. John Terry. Played like a captain should and did very little wrong, apart from being dragged away for Spurs’ second goal, a crime all the team were guilty of. Should have told Didier Drogba to shut up near the end of the game (see Ballack below).
  3. Petr Cech. Another player in both sections. Made some fantastic saves to keep the score down to something almost acceptable including a full on stinger in the face from Didier Zakora. Then completely loused everything up.
  4. Michael Ballack and Joe Cole. Both must have been bloody mystified why they were on the bench and if anyone doubts Ballack, then watch the game again to see what “big game” mentality is. When Drogba was drama queening it and sulking at Teemu Tainio for time-wasting at the end, it was Ballack who had the balls to run over and push him away, no doubt telling him to shut up and get on with things. That’s a captain’s behaviour. Joe Cole showed why he should have started, as in his 25 minutes or so he showed more wit, invention, verve, passing ability and ball control than Shaun Wright-Phillips did all game.
  5. Mark Halsey. His first major final and a performance of common sense and genuine interactivity with the players. I don’t often have the chance to commend a referee for a good performance, but on this occasion he deserves a mention.
  6. The last 20 minutes after Spurs scored their second goal – but why did it take this to put a firework up our collective arses?

The bad

  1. The performance. As bad as the Liverpool and Olympiakos games? No, but not far off. Our last two outings have been downright pathetic and lacking in invention, skill, flair, passion and team spirit. Avram Grant can say what he likes, and so can the players, but since the return of Terry, Frank Lampard and our African contingent, the dogged spirit and performances of the team formed from the adversity of necessity has gone into hiding. Miserable, boring, lazy, sloppy, lacking in effort and utterly passionless.
  2. The football. How does this differ from the performance? Because one can play poorly and still try hard, and maybe lack skill and flair but through effort and heart, win. Our time under the maestro Jose Mourinho delivered so much in the way of victories against big teams or in big competitions. Those days seem a very long time ago now. Today, until the second half we barely completed a pass, were full of unforced errors and… well even in the second half when we were getting a grip I counted a good half dozen times when we had possession in Spurs’ half in an attacking move, and then had a collective episode of Ray Wilkins syndrome and passed it back to Cech, for his inevitable hoof back to a big Spurs centre-half. Absolute fucking garbage.
  3. Petr Cech. The world’s best goalkeeper? Only for three-quarters of the time. The big guy has had a season of howlers and today was no exception. Having made some great saves he then conspired to try a bit of fisting in the style of Larry Grayson. In fact I’m not so sure Grayson would have been as limp wristed as this pathetic little pat-a-cake push onto Jonathan Woodgate’s ugly mug. Okay… I’ll forgive the odd error, but now these are getting too regular for comfort. Paul Robinson must have been laughing his todger off.
  4. Petr Cech. Yes… again! I’m frankly sick to the back teeth of his incessant and mindless hoofing up the park. Think Peter Schmeichel, think David James on current form, think Peter Shilton, think Gianluigi Buffon, think Oliver Kahn, think Gordon Banks, think David Seaman, think Peter Bonetti and any number of great keepers who would play the ball out to the back four to build the move, or via the quick incisive throw to start a counter-attack and then tell me the last time Cech ever took this option. Nah… didn’t think so.
  5. How this result might affect us. Yes, theoretically it could do us good and remove the complacency and incompetence of late, but I fear the other route. Our recent years of wearing a cloak of near invincibility are rapidly disappearing and the cloak is lying in tatters being fought over by Manchester United and Arsenal. I mean did you watch Manchester United destroy Newcastle yesterday? Does anyone really think we’re even capable of getting close to that these days? I think we’ll have to swallow the bitter pill of a trophy-less season and start using the words “transitional season” when talking with other fans down the pub.

Player ratings

  • Petr Cech: Would have got higher but for yet another howler, the mindless hoofed clearances and his pathetic penalty record – 4/10.
  • Juliano Belletti: Set the tone within twenty seconds with a horror cross field ball to… a Spurs player! Robbie Keane was unlucky not to have buried the shot but for John Terry – 5/10.
  • John Terry: Did well considering the amount of time he’s had back in the front line – 7/10.
  • Wayne Bridge: A bright light in today’s debacle. Unlucky with the handball so shouldn’t be too down – 7/10.
  • Ricardo Carvalho: Solid performance but guilty like all the others of complacency and his understanding with Terry went walkabout – 6/10.
  • John Mikel Obi: Obviously playing the Claude Makelele role and was booked for not understanding the rules of the Dosy-Doe – 7/10.
  • Frank Lampard: Did nothing wrong, but did little right until he, like the rest, suddenly realised we might lose – 6/10.
  • Michael Essien: Has he had a brain transplant with Florent Malouda? Dire – 2/10.
  • Didier Drogba: Scored a lovely goal but I got the impression he doesn’t want a strike partner because he ignored Nicolas Anelka. Player seniority syndrome methinks – 7/10.
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips: Piss-poor ball control and passing skills that would have had him hooked off by Mourinho within 25 minutes of the game starting. Aaron Lennon showed just how much better than Wright-Phillips he is. Marginally better than Essien – 2/10.
  • Nicolas Anelka: Why buy a player and then play him out of position? A dunderheaded choice by Grant and Anelka struggled until Joe Cole and Salomon Kalou came on and he could play alongside Drogba. A bloody waste of his talent – 6/10.
  • Salomon Kalou (sub): I’ve been a critic in the past, but not for his skill, but his intelligence. We needed his skill and things looked better when he came on – 7/10.
  • Michael Ballack (sub): Straight away he took control of midfield and made surging runs trying to get things to happen. Should have started and a place on the bench is a shoddy way to treat someone with his experience and ability, not forgetting his recent form – 7/10.
  • Joe Cole (sub): Another who can feel a bit pissed off with a place on the bench for despite his recent re-introduction of Fancy Dan foibles, still possesses the guile, desire, flair and skill to transform a game – 7/10.
  • Overall team performance: No real signs of improvement in entertainment, flair or effort. One thing has returned though… losing games that count. The good old days? Not for me – 5/10.

Man of the Match

Didier Drogba because he scored. Other than that no-one would have deserved anything.

Final thoughts

We all know the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes don’t we? Well, I’m the little boy standing by the road shouting to everybody that the Emperor, Grant, is metaphorically wearing nothing that resembles tactical nous, team selection or sufficient experience to be our man, despite his constant telling everyone that he is. As Hitler once said, “The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.” In this case, of course, it’s not quite ringing true as most experienced, long term fans will know that the lie is failing here and that his record against bigger teams and in bigger games for us is now officially as bad as Tim Henman’s at Wimbledon. In fact didn’t Henman spout the same level of deluded bollocks as Grant?

So, what has gone wrong then? Maybe that’s not the question here… maybe we should be asking how we got away with it for so long after Mourinho left? Whilst I don’t disagree for one minute that Mourinho was losing faith with the dour brand of football we played, I for one would have settled for that for another couple of years if the trophies kept coming and then replaced him with someone prepared to sacrifice the odd trophy for style. That didn’t happen today, we played rubbish and lost. What we saw was a performance as dour as anything Mourinho could inspire but with the twist that we never looked like winning after Spurs equalized and until they went ahead. Be honest people we could have been three down by the time we scored against the run of play.

What now? Well in a day or two you’ll be able to switch your phones back on and delete the texts from Spurs fans and other Chelsea haters. Unfortunately, working for the big red mobile company means that I can’t and no doubt I’ll be running the gamut tomorrow. Make the most of now? I do hope not! Life can be shit can’t it? All we can hope for now is for something to be resurrected in the players’ hearts to push on for the remaining three competitions, but frankly after the recent games I am not confident on any count. In fact I can see either Arsenal or Manchester United ending the home games run this year, such is the now apparent opening gulf in power between us and those two teams. We set the bar, they’ve jumped over it, in some style and now we lag behind them. Maybe the bitter after-taste will inspire the players to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but be honest if Spurs had beaten Arsenal today we’d be hoping that would derail them, and I fear this seems the most likely route for us. Grant, nice chap that he probably is, now looks like our Gérard Houllier.

I may be a dyed in the wool Blue, but credit to Spurs… they deserved this in the end because they were hungry and we looked a casual, bloated shadow of our former relentless victory seeking selves. Sorry I couldn’t make this very funny, but I’m not in the mood for laughing these days.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

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