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.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “Even in triumph he was modest, dignified. Having climbed the 107 steps, Guus Hiddink seemed almost reluctant to lift the trophy, but ushered on by Ray Wilkins he took the adulation of the Chelsea support, a flourish that brought to a glorious end a whirlwind affair between the Dutchman and this club. Once he got going though, amid the champagne spray, the emotions poured out and the wise man of world football celebrated with childish enthusiasm. “He’s a great manager and a great man,” said Frank Lampard, who scored the spectacular winning goal. “It’s a great send-off for him and we’re delighted to give him a trophy.””
Sunday Times, Jonathan Northcroft: “[Hiddink’s] parting gift ensured he will forever be cherished by the club of which he has been temporary manager since February. Not only is the FA Cup football’s most holy hunk of silverware, this was Chelsea’s first trophy since Jose Mourinho and perhaps now they can finally move on from the Portuguese demagogue whose shadow was such his 2007 dismissal was still being picked over on newspaper back pages yesterday.”
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “Having fallen behind inside half a minute, it required goals in either half from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard to seal the club’s first silverware in two years. It was the perfect way to wave goodbye to Guus Hiddink, who has overseen such a fantastic turnaround since his arrival in February.”
I got myself into a tizzy again. These big matches play havoc with my emotions. By the time kick-off arrived I was a ball of nervous tension and feeling a bit sick. Normally, I would dose up on ice-cold lager to calm things down somewhat, particularly on a hot day like yesterday, but on this occasion I chose not to and watched the game stone cold sober.
My emotions were such that the London Community Gospel Choir’s rendition of ‘Abide With Me’ brought tears to my eyes and the singing of the national anthem made the hairs on my arms stand on end. Maybe pills are the answer. Kick-off was a blessed relief.
That relief lasted all of 24 seconds.
- The match and performance. Over half a billion people around the world watched the game live on television. They were served up quite a treat. In temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, both teams played their part in a splendid game of football. It started with the fastest goal in FA Cup final history, which eclipsed Di Matteo’s strike against Boro in 1997 by a full 17 seconds. Everton kicked off, the ball was pinged into our box, Mikel defended it reasonably well, but Alex was out-jumped by a giant with an afro wearing an Everton shirt. It fell nicely to Saha, who volleyed a fine left foot shot past a despairing Cech who could do little about it as the ball came from behind a couple of his own defenders and he didn’t see it until it was too late. There were 25 seconds on the clock. Our worst nightmare had come true: Everton had scored early. You can imagine what this did to my delicate constitution. I consoled myself with the thought that at least we have 89 minutes and 35 seconds to score an equalizer. We went on to dominate the first half with every Chelsea player putting in a fine performance. Just after the 20 minute mark our French contingent made their mark. Anelka swept a lovely cross-field pass to the player formerly known as Malouda out on the left, who, along with Cole, had the beating of Everton’s right throughout the opening 45 minutes. Malouda knocked in a pinpoint cross, four Everton defenders stood like statues as Drogba jogged into the box and powered a header past a helpless Howard. It was no more than we deserved. We continued to dominate but failed to make our dominance count. After the break, for around 20 minutes the match petered out somewhat, probably because of the heat. One player continued to impress though…
- Ashley Cole. The players’ Player of the Year bombed up and down the left wing for 94 minutes without seeming to tire. He spent as much time in Everton’s 18 yard box as he did in his own. Quite how he managed it in such testing conditions god only knows. It was literally a breathtaking performance. He picked up his fifth FA Cup winner’s medal, his second with Chelsea, a record in the modern era, and was rightly given the E.ON Man of the Match award. My Man of the Match too, just ahead of…
- Frank Lampard. What a player. As ever he was exceptional. Scored the winner from 22 yards with 20 minutes of the match to go, his 21st goal of the season. According to Soccerbase, it’s the sixth season in a row that he’s scored 20 or more goals. 2008/09: 21; 2007/08: 22; 2006/07: 22; 2005/06: 23; 2004/05: 22; 2003/04: 20. 130 goals in just six seasons. From midfield. What a player. Neville man-marked him for 94 minutes, but he hardly had an impact on Lampard’s all action performance. As the Telegraph match report says, “he has played with metronomic excellence in a season when Chelsea have often lacked stability”. His goal celebration mirrored that of his father’s, Frank Lampard Sr., who scored the winning goal for West Ham against Everton in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final. Definitely my Player of the Season.
- Florent Malouda. What else is there left to say about the resurgence of a player who was derided by fans just three months ago? Scored a goal which was not unlike Di Matteo’s, only on this occasion it wasn’t given because the ball spun out of the goal after hitting the underside of the bar. TV replays confirmed that it was clearly over the line. Fortunately, the fact that it wasn’t given didn’t have an impact on the outcome of the match so there’s unlikely to be much said about goal line technology. But it is about time the windbags at FIFA and UEFA came up with a solution to a problem that will continue to cause controversy after controversy. One day it will decide a major final and cost a team silverware. Malouda would probably have edged out Cole and Lampard and been my Man of the Match if the goal had been given.
- Guus Hiddink. One of the best.
- I can think of only one bad point: this was Guus Hiddink’s final match in charge of Chelsea FC. He made quite an impression on me, so much so that I had tears in my eyes when he and Ray Wilkins lifted the Cup together. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I now hold him in the same esteem as Jose Mourinho. It’s typical of Chelsea that we find another special manager only to let him depart the club after just three short months. But it says so much about Hiddink that he’s unwilling to break his contract with the Russian national side. He’s a rare breed and will be a hard act to follow.
- Petr Cech – 6.5/10 – Had very little to do. Spilled a couple of high balls, as is his wont these days, but also showed bravery to come and claim at the feet of Everton players on more than one occasion. Had an up and down season to say the least, but I wouldn’t swap him for anyone. I’m with Tony when he says that Cech just needs a decent understudy to keep the pressure on him. We’ve been linked with a couple of promising up and coming keepers, but will they want to play second fiddle to Cech? One last word on keepers: you have to feel for Carlo Cudicini, who started the season as number two to Cech. He’s gone from a club where he was adored to a nobody at some second-rate outfit in north London, no doubt on the promise of first team football. Poor Carlo.
- Jose Bosingwa – 7/10 – Got forward well and put in several dangerous crosses. Plays with a nonchalance that gives me kittens – I can often be heard mumbling something derogatory after he’s played himself or a team-mate into trouble with a sloppy pass or dilly-dallied once too often. That said, he’s a fine attacking full-back (with the emphasis on attacking) and provides the width down the right. Had a pretty good season. Scored a couple of good goals too. The emergence of Ivanovic will ensure he won’t have everything his own way next season. It’ll be interesting to see what our new manager makes of him.
- John Terry – 8/10 – Another rock solid performance at the heart of the back four. Dealt with Everton’s long balls up to Fellaini and Cahill with relative ease. A pretty good campaign all said, and as Habs wrote in the Sunderland report, Terry played more games this season than any other since Mourinho’s first. I don’t think it matters what Makelele says in his new autobiography about Terry’s role in Mourinho’s departure, Terry is Chelsea to the core and will always be held in the highest esteem by fans.
- Alex – 7/10 – Looked nervous in the tunnel before kick-off, at one point yawning on camera. Was out-jumped by Fellaini in the opening moments which led to Everton’s goal. Other than that, pretty steady stuff. He’s had a fine season and scored a couple of fine goals. You could see the affection Hiddink has for him during the on-field celebrations when he was embraced numerous times by the Dutchman. Could well be a first choice centre-back next season if Carvalho continues to suffer from injuries. Did anyone see Carvalho during the celebrations?
- Ashley Cole – 9/10 – Awesome game, awesome season. The players recognised his contribution when they voted him their Player of the Season. Picked up his fifth FA Cup winner’s medal. Cole and Malouda on current form are a formidable pairing.
- John Obi Mikel – 8/10 – Got the nod ahead of Ballack and didn’t disappoint. On his day he’s one of the best in the holding midfield role. Ended the season as he started it. At one point he was being talked of as our Player of the Season, but the return of Essien from long-term injury and a brush with the law saw his form dip a bit and he was forced to sit out a few games. Came back strong though and has a bright future at the club. Some newspapers claim he’s wanted by several of Europe’s top clubs, while others have him close to signing a new contract. He’s one for the future and should be kept at all costs.
- Michael Essien – 6.5/10 – A tad disappointing by his high standards. Substituted after an hour. As for his season, he missed most of it with a serious knee injury but made an immediate impact on his return in March. Highlights must be his marking job on Steven Gerrard in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final at Anfield, and the wonder goal he scored against Barcelona in the second leg of the semi-final at the Bridge. Destined to become a Chelsea legend.
- Frank Lampard – 9/10 – Already a Chelsea legend. Made light of his man-marker and sprayed passes for fun. Tackled back, marshalled midfield, and scored a 20 yard screamer. Should have had a penalty but was instead booked for diving by Howard ‘Best Referee in England’ Webb (Webb isn’t even the best referee in the Premier League). Scored 20 goals from midfield for the sixth season in a row. Player of the Season. Player of the Decade. Soon to be the Best Player of All Time. Sorry, Franco.
- Florent Malouda – 8.5/10 – Continued in the rich vein of form he’s been in since Hiddink’s arrival. Gave Everton’s right side a torrid time, particularly Hibbert who didn’t emerge for the second half such was Malouda’s dominance. Provided a pinpoint cross for Drogba to head the equalizer. Had a quiet opening to the second period but was soon back in the game. Scored with a blistering left foot shot from all of 30 yards but it wasn’t given even though the ball landed over the line. Started the season poorly and it wasn’t until the arrival of Hiddink in February that he began to show any sort of form. If he can maintain that form going into next season, he’ll be one of the best left-sided midfielders in the country. I’m glad we nicked him from under Liverpool’s noses now. We have Drogba to thank for that.
- Nicolas Anelka – 8.5/10 – Should have equalled Ronaldo’s tally of goals in all competitions this season. Had several opportunities to do so but didn’t have his shooting boots on. Other than that, he was magnificent. Played out wide, cut inside, held the ball up, went on explosive runs – all that was missing was a goal. Has had a fine season and ended up winning the Golden Boot despite a recent dry spell. One of the best finishers in the league and deserves a chance to play the main striker for an extended period next season.
- Didier Drogba – 7.5/10 – Great goal and fewer theatrics than usual. Let himself down in the first half when a nothing tackle saw him remain on the ground for an extended period, much to Hiddink’s annoyance. Soon perked up when Hiddink hollered at him from the sidelines – didn’t want to be substituted for a second time after feigning injury. His season has been typical Drogba: he didn’t try under Scolari but has been immense since Hiddink’s arrival. He’s been a better all round footballer since his outburst after the loss to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, there have been fewer dives and his behaviour has been close to exemplary. If only he would do this all the time, he’d be one of the greats.
Man of the Match
It was quite a tough decision, a straight fight between Cole and Lampard with Malouda a close third. I would normally give it to Lampard because of the impact a goal has on a game, especially one from 20 yards to win it. But on this occasion I’m giving it to Cole for what was an outstanding display of attacking full-back play and for winning his fifth FA Cup winner’s medal.
That’s it, another season over. It’s flown by. It seems like only yesterday that a sun-drenched Stamford Bridge was treated to a display of samba football as Luiz Felipe Scolari got his stint as Chelsea manager off to a stylish and promising start. Portsmouth were the victims that day, but little did we know that by the time of the return fixture at Frattan Park in March Big Phil would be all but a distant memory. A lot happened in the intervening six months or so, but it can be summed up thus: gradual decline. February, and we looked a shadow of the team that had started the season so brightly. Scolari had revealed himself to be a one-dimensional manager with little or no Plan B, and there were stirrings of discontent from within the changing room. There were even stories that the players had been requesting a harder training regime, which gave an indication of just how bad things had got. But despite this most fans seemed willing to give him more time to build his own team. It wasn’t to be: the club fired Scolari a few days into February. There was quite a lot of shock and disbelief amongst supporters on hearing the news, probably because of the timing. Many of us thought, myself included, that the lunatics had finally taken over the asylum. How wrong we were.
Just two days later the club appointed Guus Hiddink. Hiddink had an immediate impact and revitalised the club and the players, particularly Drogba and Malouda: both have been immense since his arrival, which says a lot for his man management skills. A little over three months and just one defeat later, Hiddink has delivered the club a trophy, its first since the departure of Mourinho two years ago. It could so easily have been two but for a certain Norwegian referee. In his brief spell at the club he has guided us to 16 wins, five draws, and just the one defeat. We scored seven goals against Liverpool over two legs in the Champions League quarter-final, put four past Arsenal at the Emirates, held Barcelona to two draws home and away in the Champions League semi-final, knocked Juventus out of the Champions League, and pushed Liverpool and Manchester United all the way in the Premier League. But his most important achievement has been to guide the club out of the shadow of Jose Mourinho. Now that we have the FA Cup in the trophy cabinet we can finally move on.
Hiddink’s already left the club. He’s on his way back to Russia to watch the Russian Cup Final before taking charge of the national team for a World Cup Qualifier in 10 days’ time. He’ll be missed.
Thank you, Guus. It’s been emotional.
Update Monday, 1 June 2009 at 10:15 AM: Ancelotti confirmed as manager
Carlo Ancelotti is the new Chelsea manager. He has signed a three-year contract and will start on July 1st.