The Times, Matt Hughes: “Mourinho rested Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and Claude Makelele and was fortunate to keep an unbeaten home league record stretching back to FC Porto’s defeat by Beira Mar five years ago. In doing so, Chelsea equalled Liverpool’s record of 63 top-flight matches at home without defeat, although a more telling statistic is the fact that Mourinho’s team have ended the season with five successive Premiership draws, their worst run of his reign. The lap of honour was muted, although Mourinho vowed to return next season.”
The Independent, Jason Burt: “That parade was made all the more downbeat by the walking wounded who took part in it. Behind Mourinho and his children hobbled an array of players – Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho, Arjen Robben, Andrei Shevchenko. The list went on.”
The Guardian, Matt Scott: “Chelsea extended their unbeaten home sequence to a record-equalling 63 games yesterday but it came at a cost. The loss of Mikel John Obi to an ankle injury means Chelsea approach Saturday’s FA Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley with “only 15 fit players” according to their manager, Jose Mourinho.”
Daily Telegraph, Clive Tyldesley: “Didier Drogba’s 20th League goal of the season confirmed him as the Premiership’s leading scorer, and enabled Chelsea to equal Liverpool’s record of 63 unbeaten home games in the top flight. But it was a match that Everton might easily have stolen. Their manager David Moyes was sent from the touchline for contesting an incident in the build-up to Drogba’s equaliser, and James McFadden was unfortunate to have a late goal ruled out for offside.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “The traditional lap of appreciation to the fans after the final whistle became equally a send-off down Wembley Way for the players and staff.”
- Shaun Wright Phillips. Yet another good performance from the man who has become the most improved player in the squad in a period of two months. Whatever Jose Mourinho did has finally come to fruition.
- Didier Drogba. Congratulations to the big Ivorian who collects the season’s Golden Boot award for his 20 Premiership goals and his 12 or so in other competitions. Without his goals we would have been nowhere near the Title, the Champions League semi-final, the Carling Cup or next week’s FA Cup final. His goal in this game saved us from an embarrassing defeat to an average Everton side.
- Peter Cech. One single second half save prevented us from going 2-0 down and to all intents and purposes chucking away the unbeaten home record of 63 games which we eventually equalled. Might have been slightly at fault for their goal but frankly when he pulls saves out of this quality then the odd mistake can always be forgiven.
- The Everton fans. Hats off to them for the support they gave to the parents of Madeline McCann, the missing four year-old in Portugal. They got a well deserved round of applause from all of us. They backed their team as well, instead of attacking them, which they normally seem to do at Stamford Bridge. Oddly enough quite a few stayed afterwards for the lap of honour.
- Flashes of expansive play. During both halves we saw some flashes of expansive football that seem to have been the exception this season. I hope it’s a sign of things to come… although it needs to be combined with some much more lethal finishing.
- The injury to John Obi Mikel. The Nigerian youngster was playing well again and now looks likely to miss the FA Cup final unless Bryan English and his band of merry medics can perform some miracles. Was he worth risking for this game? Mourinho put out a near full strength team, the wisdom of which I would question with such an important game less than a week away.
- Salomon Kalou. The “next Thierry Henry” my mate says… well unless he changes his name and undergoes a Doctor Who like regeneration into the real Thierry Henry then he has a very long way to go. At times in this game I’m convinced he thought he was an Arsenal player with little tricks and crafted passes. Unfortunately the tricks didn’t work and the passes went awry. His poor decision making is all the more obvious now Nick has pointed it out, and he messed up at least four clear chances to either score or play someone in. He may well learn and become a real star for the future but at the moment his inconsistency is maddening to say the least.
- The game. One wonders why games like this are played. Obligatory I guess. But the sense of pointlessness hung high over the Bridge today. There was a mixture of emotions on display from players and fans alike, a feeling of wanting to see a display of power a week before the Cup Final, and from the early exchanges a feeling of wanting to put on a display as well. But 15 minutes in the game started to decline into a steady, average game with neither team going into tackles hard or showing any real desire to stretch themselves. I spent a lot of the game chatting to people around me and the distinct sense I felt was that for a lot of fans it was really about the lap of honour and the chance to bid a fond farewell to our spiritual home for a few months. Perhaps we, like the players, deserve a bit of a break as well.
- The lap of honour. I suppose after the last two years this would always seem a bit of an anti-climax, but the fans (about 20,000) were determined to cheer the boys on. A shame then that it was so apparently badly organised. Neil Barnett proudly stated at one point that “Here they are, the FA Cup finalists”… only for several minutes of embarrassed clapping from the fans as no-one actually came out of the tunnel. It was at that point that the WAG’s strolled down past the Shed and East Stand, baby buggies proudly on display ready for the offspring to be clutched lovingly by there doting dads on the pitch. Nice for them, but a pretty crap “customer experience” for the fans. The players and Mourinho stood in the centre circle before sauntering around the ground to applause from us all. Yep, a definite anti-climax moment which was highlighted by the apparent piss-poor organisation of the club. And where was Ashley Cole or Michael Essien? Neither came out for the walk. Lastly, I had hoped Jose was doing some kidology about Carvalho not being ready for the final – but no he wasn’t. Riccy looked very lame as he walked across the pitch, seemingly unable to bend his right leg at the knee.
- Petr Cech: Made one top save to prevent us going 2-0 down but loses a mark because on the replay it looks like he may have done better for the goal – 8/10
- Khalid Boulahrouz: A good all round display, could do little for the goal and although he made the odd error he recovered the situation well. If Riccy is out I’d play him in the final to allow Essien a midfield berth, especially if Mikel is injured – 8/10
- Paulo Ferreira: Coming back to his old form? Maybe, just maybe. Not scared of going forward as we’ve seen before and linked brilliantly with Wright-Phillips and got some good crosses in – 8/10
- Wayne Bridge: Should be first choice for the final in my view as he is way in front of Ashley Cole on form at the moment – 8.5/10
- John Terry: Is this heresy? Has not reached anywhere near his previous form since the injuries and although okay he isn’t commanding games as much – 7.5/10
- John Obi Mikel: Was playing well until injury and always looked comfortable on the ball. Fingers crossed he’ll be okay – 8/10
- Shaun Wright-Phillips: Another magnificent game in which he tortured Everton players when he got the ball. The odd loss of control can be attributed to a very soggy pitch. Almost certainly has done enough for a place in the final against a team he seems to revel in playing – 9/10
- Joe Cole: A quiet game which would have been ideal for his type of trickery. I hope he livens up before next week because he is being outshone by Wright-Phillips – 7.5/10
- Didier Drogba: Fought for everything and yet again popped up with a goal to save our bacon. Must be very frustrated with Kalou – 9/10
- Salomon Kalou: Has his recent run gone to his head? Our poorest player, and becoming something of an enigma, or a Jesper Gronkjaer. Can be sublime and ridiculous in equal measure. In this game he was mostly ridiculous – 4/10
- Frank Lampard: He’s had a rest so what was the excuse today – nothing more than average – 7.5/10
- Nuno Morais (sub): Much improved from Wednesday night when he seemed overawed. A bright prospect if he can keep this level up – 8/10
- Sam Hutchinson (sub): Got a good welcome but didn’t really feature for the 5 minutes or so he was on – 7/10
- Ben Sahar (sub): Yet to show the alleged explosive scoring ability in a Premiership game but this would have been good for his confidence – 7/10
Man of the Match
Well, it’s between Shaun Wright-Phillips who got the assist for the other candidate Didier Drogba. It’s a really close run thing, but a casting vote probably just gives it to Didier for saving the collective arse of the team again, and for now officially getting the Golden Boot as the Premier League top scorer. Unlucky Shaun, take a bow Mr. Drogba.
A strange day steeped in a cloak of anti-climax. A lot of fans seemed to use the day to discuss next season or catch up with the others around them. Even in the café beforehand everything just seemed a little low-key. In essence the players didn’t seem to be that bothered about winning and were concentrating on not losing. Looking at the stats we dominated everything but worryingly, as has been the hallmark of this season, we lack an assassin’s finishing mentality. Teams like Everton need to be put to the sword during periods when we are dominating games and we haven’t done this all season. Our last four results have been draws, three of them at home, and that’s eight dropped points. We finished six behind Manchester United and everyone at the club needs to look at that and think about how we’ve chucked the title away by our apparent over-cautiousness. I hope to see some of this thrown away next season and a bit less of the Arsenal-like attitude towards scoring.
I will be writing my own end of season review, with squad ratings for the season and thoughts going forward, but all of that is after my own post-season break in the South of France. I’ve kicked every ball and done every tackle with the players and frankly I’m knackered.
But I don’t want to detract from what has been a Herculean effort that can still culminate in two trophies from a possible four. The Double should be a rare event and hopefully fate and our own dogged determination will ensure that remains the case. We won the last FA Cup at Old Wembley and let’s hope we win the first at New Wembley. Just one more gigantic effort lads, just one more. Bring that Cup back to the Bridge and make sure that when I open the latest text on my phone during my TGV journey it brings an almighty roar of joy from me.
- Mourinho in Shevchenko challenge
- The man with the Golden Boot
- Extra Cup Final tickets released for sale
- Night of surprises for Players of the Year
- Buck: Jose has money to spend
- Mourinho confirms arrest over dog