Barnsley 1 – 0 Chelsea

Match reports

The Observer, Spencer Vignes: “And they say that lightning never strikes twice. Having disposed of Liverpool in the previous round, Barnsley only went and did it again by knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup on a memorable night in South Yorkshire. Dickie Bird, Darren Gough, Arthur Scargill, Michael Parkinson. Your boys dished out one hell of a beating.”

Sunday Times, Andrew Longmore: “So this hazy, crazy, Cup year careers on. As if the exit of Manchester United was not enough of an upset, albeit to a Premier League side, Chelsea were humbled by Barnsley on a Yorkshire night made for the underdogs. So no member of the Big Four reaches the last four of the FA Cup and all is right with the world outside the Champions League.”

Sunday Telegraph, Alex Morfey: “Make no mistake, this was no fluke because although Avram Grant made six changes to his team from the one that romped over Olympiacos in the Champions League in midweek, there was still a star-studded line-up on view.”

Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Football followers yearning to see a name other than that of the big four clubs on the FA Cup will have their wish granted for the first time since 1995.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea … lost to lower division opposition in the FA Cup for the first time since 1995, and the first time since 1992 without a penalty shoot-out.”

The goal

66′ Odejayi 1-0

The good

  1. Barnsley. You can quote shots on target, possession stats and any other mitigating factors all you like; the home team (and their fans) thoroughly deserved their victory and the trip to Wembley for the semi-final. All the clichés were there – tough trip ‘oop north, big centre forward, a pitch like the Somme on a bad day in 1917, a player called Hassell and so on. Fair play you Tykes – if you make it to the final (and let’s face it, you’ve beaten Liverpool at Anfield and the holders in your own back yard, so why not?), I’ll stick a flat cap on, buy a whippet, indulge in a few other dodgy Yorkshire stereotypes and cheer you all the way to the final whistle. If anyone deserves to lift the trophy, Brian Howard does. Well done.
  2. The travelling Blue faithful. I believe our very own Mark is one of the disappointed 5,500 or so making his way back to London as I type. It’s just a shame that your performance in the stands wasn’t matched on the pitch.
  3. Avram Grant. And I’m not even throwing that in to be obtuse; it may have been too little, too late and badly executed, but taking off Juliano Belletti to go three at the back with another striker up front at least showed he was willing to be bold in an attempt to salvage something from the game.
  4. At least we can concentrate on the league(s) now.
  5. We’ve got our (frustrating and utterly unpredictable) Chelsea back.

The bad

  1. The result. I can’t be arsed to check as I’ve got a baby vomiting copiously over me (she’s as pissed off as I am), but I think the last time we lost to lower league opposition in a domestic cup was Huddersfield in the Fizzy back in 1999(?) (Millwall in the FA Cup in 1995(?), if we’re being competition specific). Whilst we’re some way from the bad old days, today was inexcusable and piss-poor.
  2. The players. I rarely bother with ratings, but taking Tony’s 6 out of 10 as a default, I’m struggling to find a player who manages to stay on that mark. Maybe Ricardo Carvalho and Joe Cole. Feel free to use the comments facility to agree/disagree as appropriate. Poor, poor and thrice poor.
  3. Avram Grant. You tried to outwit the mighty Barnsley. And you failed, miserably. I’ve tried to avoid direct comparisons, but could you see Jose Mourinho making a similar mistake?
  4. We’ll have to listen to Dickie Bird and the world’s most professional Yorkshireman, Michael Parkinson, banging on about this for bloody years to come.

Man of the Match

Joe Cole played quite well. But frankly, Kayode Odejayi deserves his spurs. He looked like Emile Heskey with inner ear problems on occasion, but he did the business when it mattered, which is more than we can say for our lot. ‘nuff said.

Final thoughts

I’m not so much angry at the result, more at the way the legacy of a team that not so long ago terrorised Europe’s finest is being squandered for the sake of the owner’s vanity and pride. I’m perfectly prepared to give Grant a chance and have humble pie shoved up my arsehole until someone calls an ambulance, but after United lost today, this was a gilt-edged, nailed-on chance to win a trophy and persuade the sceptics that he might have something resembling the ability to manage a top-flight football club.

But as previously stated, he failed, and failed miserably. He left a number of key players behind (and in all fairness, I know little of their availability to play in the game at the time of writing); Rafael Benitez made a similar mistake in the previous round and suffered the consequences – I thought that Grant at least had the ability to learn from his mistakes, but obviously not.

Yes, we’re still in two competitions (had to throw that one in…); keep that pie warm by all means, but I don’t think I’ll be eating it come the end of May.

So please, for the love of all that is holy, can we end this ridiculous charade and get a manager who is at least qualified to do the job properly? The manager is responsible for preparing and motivating the players for every game and on the evidence available, he is simply not doing a good enough job consistently. Roman and co., you have made a mistake – please admit it and move on for the good of this football club.

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