The Observer, Paul Wilson: "There was no St Valentine’s Day massacre, either of Watford’s Cup hopes or of Chelsea’s attempts to reinvent themselves under the gaze of a new manager, though there was a Sapphic proposal of marriage at half time: To Linda from Jackie. Far more interesting than anything that happened in the game, but the manager sent from Russia with love will get used to that."
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: "It’s going to be a tough week at Chelsea’ Cobham training ground and Hiddink must draw deep on his well of football wisdom if he is to turn this Chelsea side into a team capable of securing silverware. Nicolas Anelka scored twice within a minute to save Chelsea an embarrassing elimination in front of their new coach."
Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: "He had only one match in charge but Ray Wilkins showed the tactical appreciation that Luiz Felipe Scolari was deemed to have lacked to turn around this FA Cup tie and instal Chelsea safely in the quarter-finals. Watford were leading through Tamas Priskin and a bad week was turning worse for their Premier League opponents until Wilkins switched to a 4-4-2 formation and Nicolas Anelka rattled in a hat-trick in the space of 15 second-half minutes."
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: "A Watford side in danger of relegation to League One gave Chelsea’s temporary manager Guus Hiddink plenty to ponder before a hat-trick in 15 minutes from Nicolas Anelka guided his team into the FA Cup quarter final for a fourth successive season. Watching from the directors’ box alongside his patron Roman Abramovich, Hiddink saw the home side take an unlikely lead with only 21 minutes to play before the Frenchman’s dramatic intervention."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "The Blues make the last eight but only after Watford took the lead. Nicolas Anelka was the hero; his hat-trick a master class in finishing."
I live only five miles from Watford so today was more like a home game than a home game. My last visit to the Hornets was for a pre season friendly the summer that Roman bought Chelsea. That day, as our fans sang songs about loads of money, we embarked on a journey into the unknown, unaware how far or where Roman’s millions would take us. Today we embarked on a new journey, under the stewardship of Guus Hiddink watching from the stands, although this journey appears to have a fixed return date of three months. For his troubles Guus will receive the princely sum of £750,000 per month, a modest sum in banking circles.
Generally speaking if you apply the same process or formula you’ll get the same outcome, so it’s hardly been surprising that for the last two months our style of play and outcome has been depressingly repetitive. Full credit to Ray Wilkins for trying something different. Mancienne at full-back and the Scolari taboo of Drogba and Anelka up front.
It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed such a three-sided affair. The pitch was worn and bobbly and cut up easily, clearly good enough for a Test match in the West Indies, but tricky to play slick one touch football.
For the first 25 minutes we completely dominated but suffered from our recent drought of shots on goal. Watford got more into the game and had a couple of good free kick opportunities from the edge of our box. I’m not sure the Anelka/Drogba combo worked. Mostly Anelka was on the wing, but he’s not an out and out winger, and at times they swapped with Drogba on the wing, and he’s definitely not a winger.
The second half started much like the first and I was starting to think a draw was the likely outcome. After 70 minutes our defence was split open and Cech was left stranded like a Candle in the Wind as Priskin lobbed him to put Watford in front. I was starting to have flashbacks to last year’s trip to Barnsley and started muttering to myself “Don’t go breaking my heart”.
Full credit to Wilkins for having an immediate reaction by bringing on Stoch to a rapturous reception from the travelling fans.
It’s now typical for us to concede first against lower league opposition, I guess that’s why they call us the Blues, but today our response was almost immediate. The equaliser came from a corner with Anelka tapping in from close range, so it would seem Brendan Rodgers slipped the Chelsea training manual “How to defend set pieces” into his briefcase just before departing Cobham.
Five minutes later Anelka added a second and just before the end killed the game by getting his hat-trick. I don’t know if I’m being unfair but if Scolari was still in charge I’m not sure we’d have fought back, or was it the late kick off that made Saturday night’s alright for fighting?
Player ratings ought to take account of the opposition and Watford are third from bottom of the Championship. Therefore all players are giving two strokes.
- Petr Cech – 4/10 – not much to do but not confidence inspiring like the old days.
- Michael Mancienne – 4/10 – has he played at right-back before? Suffered one or two shaky moments but at least he’s been driven out the showroom and got a few miles on the clock.
- Alex – 4/10 – lumbering.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 4/10 – anonymous.
- Ashley Cole – 5/10 – consistently putting in the effort.
- Frank Lampard – 6/10 – cut above, good control, good passing and not wasteful.
- Michael Ballack – 4/10 – looks a bit knackered.
- John Obi Mikel – 4/10 – after early season promise starting to lose his way. The only player I have known where the crowd shouts “don’t shoot” when he’s nearing the box.
- Salomon Kalou – 5/10 – does go round defenders occasionally.
- Nicolas Anelka – 6/10 – well I’ve got to give 6 for scoring a hat-trick. Back to what he does best – looking totally disinterested but still managing to score.
- Didier Drogba – 5/10 – unbelievable, he actually looked interested. I guess after flexing his player power to displace Scolari he thought he better make an effort for the watching Guus and Roman.
- Miroslav Stoch (sub) – 5/10 – didn’t do too much but gave us some much needed width and pace. The fans were great for him and chanted his name continuously so if he can deliver he’s sure to become a favourite and join the Chelsea short player hall of fame.
- Juliano Belletti (sub) – 4/10 – cult status.
What could have been a fall at the hurdle turned into a fine comeback. We’re still in three competitions and Guus now has a week to get inside the minds of the players and improve the confidence of the team.
Time to say goodbye Vicarage Road, where the fans of the Hornets howl, you can’t plant me in their clubhouse, I’m going back to my Bridge.