The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “The road to the final against Manchester United in Moscow on May 21 was as long and hard as Chelsea expected. In their third Champions League semi-final against Liverpool since 2005 the Stamford Bridge team have vanquished Rafael Benítez’s side at last.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Frank Lampard last night struck the most poignant and significant goal of his fine career, driving home an extra-time penalty to take the Blues to Red Square. As he wheeled away in celebration, Lampard sought out his father, sharing an emotional moment a week after the midfielder’s mother passed away.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “If you could just tear yourself away for a second from the extraordinary game that was unfolding it was worth considering the poignancy of Lampard’s personal journey. Moments earlier with the game at 1-1, playing in his first match back since the death of his mother Pat on Thursday, Lampard had taken the penalty that virtually decided this game. That was something special, but on the night that Chelsea finally made good on Roman Abramovich’s personal investment, there was plenty to admire among the men in blue shirts.”
The Times, Martin Samuel: “What a player. What a man. What an absolute diamond of a footballer. The critics, the haters, they cannot touch Frank Lampard now. Not after last night. Not after that penalty. He won, they lost. What more is there to say? Didier Drogba’s second goal of the night might have made Lampard’s penalty, given when Sami Hyypia fouled Michael Ballack, superfluous, but not at the time it was not. When Lampard stood over it, in the eighth minute of extra time, it was about the bravest act most in the stadium had seen from a professional athlete.”
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “It was a night to remember for everybody linked with Chelsea, and the image of Didier Drogba and Steve Clarke bouncing along to Madness hit One Step Beyond will live long in the memory. Roll on Moscow.”
There’s a scene in my all time favourite movie, Pulp Fiction, where Butch the washed up boxer, when asked by his girlfriend where he’d been, after being the target of a hit man sent by his predatory paymaster Marcellus Wallace to exact revenge for not taking a fall as agreed, killing said hit man on the toilet whilst he was cooking pop tarts having gone home to get his watch that had been kept up the arse of his dad’s soldier mate for two years in Vietnam, then run over Marcellus Wallace who was carrying MacDonald’s breakfast, before being kidnapped by two red necks, tied up and almost raped before knocking out The Gimp, breaking free, rejecting a host of DIY instruments to adopt an ornamental samurai sword in order to kill one red neck and maim the other thus freeing Marcellus Wallace but earning his freedom, answers her with, “This has without doubt been the single weirdest fucking day of my life.”
Yep Butch, that applies to this week and this season if you’re a Chelsea fan.
Despite my protestations to all and sundry that I wasn’t bothered about this game, that it was a win-win with Avram Grant going if we lost, but a Champions League final and victory over Rafael Benitez the flip side if we won, the dreadful truth was I couldn’t eat this evening, couldn’t drink, couldn’t think and couldn’t stop shaking inside. Football matters, football hurts and football is unique in that, aside from ‘love’, nothing else generates this feeling and passion. No wonder the St. John’s Ambulance are at every game. From next year I might suggest to Roman Abramovich and gang that they despatch them to the homes of every Chelsea fan watching at home as well. I mean… sack our most successful coach, draft in an unknown and unqualified replacement, plagued by injuries again, losing players to the Africa Nations Cup, losing to Spurs at Wembley, losing to Barnsley in the FA Cup, producing the world’s worst game of football against Benitez’s gang in the league at Stamford Bridge, coming from behind to beat Arsenal, setting the world alight against Manchester United on Saturday… the list just goes on.
And then tonight…
- The first half performance and extra time. Whilst the first half wasn’t quite up to Saturday’s tempo this is understandable as the players spent a lot on the pitch and in extra time we found the old Jose Mourinho extra gear. I doubt the ‘boring’ tag can be used for our recent form.
- The atmosphere. I wasn’t there but it must have been electric. I watched it at my Scouse supporting brother-in-law’s house as he has a great big fuck-off TV. Our atmosphere tense, peppered by small talk used to try and remove it. Utter failure. I stood for the whole of extra time just as I stood for the whole game on Saturday.
- Didier Drogba. I’ve been critical of him lately and deservedly so, but on his night, on his game he is un-bloody-beatable and in-bloody-destructible. He’s a huge, growling, snarling, hungry slavering beast that would make an angry Mike Tyson look like Graham Norton in a shop selling sparkly pink butt plugs.
- Michael ‘The Bison’ Essien. Boy oh boy is he back. Him and Michael Ballack were utterly magnificent. Forget the Ballack/Lampard combination, worry about all three because together they are… awesome.
- Beating Benitez. I can watch the final knowing that the two best teams in England will play out a game like last year’s FA Cup final. I have no issue even if we lose, because Manchester United fans on the whole have doffed their caps when we have won titles or beaten them. Mutual respect amongst the loathing. Liverpool don’t know what that means and tonight was ample repayment for the grief and gloating we’ve suffered at their hands. Nothing, I mean nothing gives me greater pleasure than doing this to our new ‘Leeds’. Looking forward to tomorrow’s Scouse hunt at work.
- Avram Grant. A touching gesture at the end on Holocaust Day, plus his dignified demeanour and refusal to join in Benitez’s pre-match mind games means he gets his first and deserved mention here. I’m still not convinced he’s the future, but he deserves credit for everything bar the half time talk! The Nicolas Anelka for Joe Cole substitution was inspired. He seems to have one thing Mourinho didn’t… luck. I’m not complaining.
- Frank Lampard scoring the penalty. I didn’t think he should have played, but he showed he has balls as big as our Teutonic Midfield Android and let’s be fair he needed them for that penalty. Pat Lampard, wherever you are, you gave us one very special man. And that makes you very special. Frank Sr’s relief and pride made me want to jump through the screen and hug him. It was emotional.
- The other two goals. A triple orgasm if you like (I remember being young enough to cope with that!). Drogba back on song and showing his class with two wonder strikes of such power that TV stations might have to invent new technology in order to slow the pictures down to see them go in. Anelka’s turn, run and pass for the second was sheer class and intelligence that both Joe Cole and Salomon Kalou should learn from.
The post-coitus cuddle
- Rafael Benitez. Because I hate the fat beardy prick. The master tactician wound Drogs up with silly accusations and boy did I enjoy Drogs celebrating in front of him. Taking Fernando Torres off was downright silly if it was just a hamstring tweak… I mean what was he saving him for? The look on Torres’ face as he went off, and when on the bench crying said it all. If it was more serious then why not bring on that streak of piss Peter Crouch, who seems to cause havoc with our back four? Yeah, tactical genius… whatever.
- The second Liverpool goal. A howler from Petr Cech. Let’s hope we get Carlo Cudicini to coach him next year instead of ‘hoof it up field’ merchant Christophe Lollichon. Because, despite his great potential, this season has been a litany of errors from our Cat in the Hat.
- Liverpool. Horrible players, horrible strip, horrible fans. Undignified, whining wasters. How can such a great club become so detestable?
- The second half performance – or at least part of it. Why oh why oh why can’t we go a goal up and then take the game to the other team? Is what’s said at half time so soporific that the players may as well have a nurse come on with a pillow and some warm milk to help them sleep? We couldn’t keep the ball, couldn’t pass the ball, couldn’t get the ball and frankly descended into moments of pub football. You could see their goal coming. It’s utterly bizarre.
- My other brother-in-law – the one who supports Chelsea. Ten minutes to go, 3-1 up, he says, “That’s it we’ve done it… game over.” How did I react to this blatant ignorance of the Sod’s Laws of Football? The truncated version is that I stood in front of him and told him to shut the fuck up, that he would be the cause of Liverpool getting another goal. It’s like waving when you’re a street in front on the crib board. You just don’t tempt that cruel breaker of Chelsea hearts, the ancient God with the fickle fingers called Fate. He got the message.
Discussed at length with the numbskulls and voices in my head.
- Petr Cech: Don’t be sad coz two out of three ain’t bad. Two great stops, one howler – 7/10.
- Michael Essien: Don’t stop the music! – 9/10.
- Ashley Cole: He wants your sex! – 9.5/10.
- John Terry: Solid. Solid as a rock! – 8.5/10.
- Ricardo Carvalho: Claire, the moment I met you I swear… ladies and gentlemen it’s Gilbert O’Sullivan! – 8.5/10.
- Michael Ballack: When the going gets tough, the tough get going – 8.5/10.
- Claude Makelele: He got by with a little help from his friends – 8/10.
- Frank Lampard: Super Trouper, lights are gonna find me – 9.5/10.
- Joe Cole: Unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed – 7.5/10.
- Salomon Kalou: Things can only get better… – 8/10.
- Didier Drogba: I am the god of hell fire, and I bring you… fire, I’ll take you to burn, fire, I’ll take you to learn, I’ll see you burn – 9.5/10.
- Andriy Shevchenko (sub): Over the Hills and far away – 7/10.
- Florent Malouda (sub): They call him the Wanderer, he wanders round and round and round – 7.5/10.
- Nicolas Anelka (sub): Shine on you crazy diamond – 8/10.
- Overall team performance: Back in the USSR – 9/10.
Man of the Match
Blimey, what a choice… Drogs for his two goals? Essien for being so bloody brilliant? Ballack for running more than anyone else even on an empty tank? John Terry for being a true captain?. Sorry peeps, for having balls the size of water melons during a time of adversity – Frank Lampard, take the bouquet and the bow me old mucker. Inspirational.
The nervous “Was I any good?” slide into satisfied sleep
I’m exhausted. What a season. What a week. What a night. What a game. It may not have been a purists’ delight. It may not have had North London Circus football or Catalan flair. It had everything an English cup tie should have. A lucky team playing a tactical game based on fresher legs carrying a big reputation, and a team hated by the media and neutrals everywhere for having the temerity to find a rich benefactor, but with a sense of doggedness that would make Columbo proud.
A game that to’d and fro’d, where the pendulum of luck swung either way, alongside the pendulum of grit, the pendulum of skill and the pendulum of passion. So many pendulums were in action one can only imagine there are a lot of silent grandfather clocks in London tonight. We were the better team over the 180 minutes, although a little credit goes to Liverpool for spotting our usual habit of falling into a second half/one goal lead malaise and capitalising on it through the impressive Torres. Steven Gerrard was kept quite by Ricardo Carvalho and Terry in front of goal, and Ballack showed him how to command midfield alongside our much maligned Frank. On tonight’s performance we saw why Frank is better than Gerrard, and why Terry is a better captain.
It was a night for us, but also for English football, surely now firmly back on the European map and back in the big time. Can anyone imagine two teams from Spain or Italy producing such a feast? No, me neither. But on a night like this, I say bollocks to the purists, because this is real football, ugly, passionate, hot, sweaty, grasping, desperate and relieving. And it’s over in one go. Just like a one night stand.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!
- Reaction: Difficult but happy day
- It’s Chelsea v Man Utd in the final. Now fans face the struggle for a Moscow visa
- Champions League final – advice for travelling fans
- Upright Drogba shows all the deadly talents United will fear
- Goals and ghosts
- Penalty a victory for Frank Lampard – and for life
- Frank Lampard: Image of the day
- Avram Grant: Out of the blue