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.”
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “An unexpectedly riveting FA Cup final – the first between teams right at the top and bottom of the League – ended with blue flags flying all round the stadium. Chelsea’s followers were celebrating the club’s first Double and deservedly so, but Portsmouth’s legions were mightily proud of their men, who ended a horrendous season with a typically defiant performance and a huddle in the pitch between a squad who will never appear together again as the club’s administrator sets to work selling them off.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “The scoreline was close, but on the day the men from Stamford Bridge dominated our opponents, striking the woodwork five times in a goalless yet frantic first half, while at the other end Petr Cech produced a magnificent save to keep the scores level, before making a penalty save in the second period after sub Juliano Belletti had brought down Aruna Dindane. In a game that had everything, it fell to Drogba, the Chelsea Player of the Year, to wrap up the victory with a breathtaking 25-yard strike just before the hour.”
Some misty-eyed reminiscence and the fairly non-existent build-up
For the nostalgic amongst us, there is little to rival FA Cup final day. It recalls memories of Cup Final Grandstand’s day-long TV coverage, with cameras following the players’ day from cornflakes to coach journey with a spot of ‘It’s a Knockout’ and other such space-filling tomfoolery thrown in for good measure.
The mists of time may have fogged my memory somewhat (or it may be the epic amount of beer consumed yesterday), but Jimmy Tarbuck always seemed to be there too. He and various other celebs of the day waxed lyrical about the White Horse, the Matthews final and the magic of the Twin Towers. Hey, with about seven hours of airtime to fill, there was bound to be the odd flat spot.
Unsophisticated it may have been, but for anyone of what I now grudgingly have to call ‘middle age’, it was the perfect way to pass the time until the last game of the domestic season. A quintessentially English day for the world’s oldest (and frankly, best) cup competition.
Of course, if you were a Chelsea fan, for a couple of decades you simply had to make do with watching someone else have all the fun. The odd moment provided some light relief – Roger Osborne denying Arsenal, Keith Houchen’s header and Gary Mabbut’s knee, the Crazy Gang upsetting the Culture Club, but in general the FA Cup was a members only club for some time and we weren’t invited.
Our fortunes in the competition have thankfully improved somewhat in recent years. Since David Elleray ruined everyone’s rain-sodden day in 1994, we’ve appeared in six finals including yesterday, lifting the cup no less than four times before we faced our old pal Avram and potless Pompey.
Sadly, the game seems to be a footnote to the season these days, rather than the pinnacle. If you aren’t lucky enough to be under the Wembley arch in person, you have to make do with ITV and Sky – what a choice – and the days of Ian Rush eating his breakfast with Tarby providing endless bons mots are long gone.
Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing, on reflection; it gives us old farts something else to bore the youngsters with and let’s face it, could the nation really cope with seven or so hours of Richard Keys and Andy Gray without resorting to non-prescription narcotics and automatic weaponry?
Obviously bipolarity and the unpredictable nature of the FA Cup meant that memories of last week’s eight nil drubbing of Wigan were long gone by the time that strains of ‘Abide with Me’ drifted across the hallowed turf (the less said about the green stuff that was a pitch in name only, the better).
Pompey were loud, if rather predictable, running through their extensive Championship-ready songbook with great aplomb. I say extensive – the truth is that if they were a popular beat combo, they’d be Zager and Evans.
The first half shaped up very nicely indeed, albeit that somehow we became better acquainted with the woodwork than a carpenters convention. Drogba, Lampard, Terry and most spectacularly of all, Kalou peppered David James’s goal only to be denied by the afore-mentioned tree-derived goal furniture (OK, I think it is probably aluminium these days, but in the interests of keeping things romantic and nostalgia based let’s not mess with the generally accepted terminology, eh?).
Pompey had the odd moment of inspiration, only to find a largely redundant Cech in sparkling form – his ‘I need to see that again’ reaction save from Piquionne’s not entirely intentional shin shot being one of the key moments of the first forty five minutes.
To turn our attention to the referee for a moment; there is allowing a game to flow by leaving cards and whistle alone, and then there is unnecessary leniency that inevitably leads to what we’ll call the more ‘physical’ player taking the piss. Between Boateng, O’Hara and the utterly odious Brown, no less than five easily ‘cardable’ tackles flew in as Portsmouth tried to cope with a vastly superior Chelsea midfield.
In a more rational world, Chris Foy would be held to account for Ballack’s injury which ended his participation in the game and cast a doubt over his participation in next month’s South African shindig – Boateng’s challenge was eye-wateringly bad and he should have joined Messrs Moran and Reyes on the surprisingly short list of those sent from the field in an FA Cup final.
Half time came, inexplicably goalless and we all tried rather hard not to think about it being ‘one of those days’. But as sod’s law so often dictates, early promise led to, well, not much really. The second half didn’t match up to the potential of the first, despite the odd nerve-racking moment. Belletti’s clumsy challenge on Dindane gave Foy little option but to point at the spot; the best part of ninety thousand people held their breath as Boateng picked himself up, only to take one of the most disastrously poor penalties in living memory. Cech kept us alive with his legs, becoming one of the illustrious few that has saved a spot kick in a Wembley cup final.
The feeling amongst the Chelsea faithful that Boateng’s misfortune would be the turning point in the game proved accurate less than five minutes later. Mokoena felled Drogba just outside the area; our irrepressible Ivorian got to his feet and finally got the better of David James and his seemingly charmed goal frame with the resulting free kick. One nil, and thereafter it became apparent that Pompey’s fight and belief had drained quicker than their bank account; Avram Grant threw forwards at the problem, but our grip on the game tightened as more chances came (and went).
By way of a footnote to a fairly dramatic afternoon, Frank kept our fingernails short by dragging his late spot kick wide after being felled by Brown’s lazy challenge; the clock ticked down and eventually the final whistle went almost unnoticed amidst all the fun and games. Our third FA Cup win in the four year lifespan of the new Wembley; oh yes, I’d almost forgotten about the bigger picture.
Chelsea, 2009-10 Premiership and FA Cup ‘double’ winners. Need I say any more?
The odd below par performance (Kalou, Malouda) compared to the heights of recent weeks, but in a very understated Ray Wilkins sort of way in keeping with the prevailing mood, the lads were just smashing.
Man of the Match
Got a Wembley final to win? Didier Drogba is your man – there is simply no substitute. Just the thirty-seven goals this season; the man is irreplaceable.
A strange journey back from Wembley to our now traditional post Cup final watering hole in the leafy surroundings of Warwick Avenue; no singing, no frantic celebrations – an almost subdued atmosphere amongst the Blue faithful left me a little puzzled.
As the sun dipped over London and the pint glasses emptied, the smiles finally got a little broader. We’d become only the seventh club to complete the domestic double, having beaten all six members of this exclusive club on the way over the course of this rollercoaster of a season.
Carlo Ancelotti – a man that many of us doubted (me included) on his arrival, had quietly gone about his business with humility and good humour, and more importantly had kept the belief that this unbelievable feat was still possible, even when we’d all sunk into the depths of typically Chelsea-esque bipolar despair. The affable man from Milan delivered silverware, goals and great football – Roman’s holy grail (well, almost, but we don’t talk about that other cup, not on days like today anyway).
So, this double thing, then. Sunk in yet? No, me neither. As the victory parade winds through South West London this afternoon, it will surely nudge us closer towards the realisation of what the team has actually achieved over the course of the season.
But it’ll only become clear over the coming weeks and months. When you are trudging through your daily routines, something a little more vivid and powerful than every day life will occasionally flicker in the back of your mind. It’ll happen when you least expect it to and for a brief moment, you’ll be back at May 15, 2010. Then you’ll smile to yourself, maybe even with a lump in your throat as you stop for a second and remember the day that we finally did the double.
As memories go, it isn’t a bad one to have, is it?