Another routine victory apart from Nicolas Anelka scoring his first for us in a display that confirmed his class. Played on a mess of a pitch in front of a Division one sized crowd, the first half was tedious in the extreme to the committed. Goodness knows how a neutral managed to stay awake.
All that changed in the second half when Anelka nudged a beautiful chipped through ball by Belletti past the onrushing Kirkland. Wigan roused themselves and a master display of the dark arts by arch villain Michael Brown brought some spice into the game. Where Essien received a red card for a forearm to an opponent while within a yard of the ball, Brown escaped any punishment for a forearm into Makelele’s face with the ball at least 10 yards away.
The match seemed over when SWP slotted home after Anelka had done all the hard work, but Belletti displayed his occasional defensive weakness when he stood off and admired Sibierski chest the ball down, swivel and shoot into the top corner with a couple of minutes left. A great shot by Markus Bent in time added on hit the top of the crossbar, but a very tired Chelsea played out the last seconds to advance to the 5th round again.
CECH – 7. No chance on the goal, but exuded confidence in everything he did despite a pitch that looked like it had just hosted a ploughing match.
BELLETTI – 6. Never got a chance to reproduce the bullet he fired last time we were at the JJB, but got forward at every opportunity. Wobbled occasionally in defence.
ALEX – 7. He and Carvalho had their hands full in the air with Heskey and Bent, but owned their opponents on the ground. On a pitch that didn’t reward subtlety, Alex was right at home.
CARVALHO – 7. Another commanding performance until late in the game when he seemed to think he was playing midfield as well. Hared around like a madman chasing the ball when it would have made more sense tactically to ensure the back line was properly manned. Picked up a yellow card, his fifth, and will be suspended for the visit to Portsmouth, which is what we don’t need.
BRIDGE – 6. Up against a potentially tricky winger in Valencia, but never let him past. Seemed one of the players most put off by the churned up pitch and didn’t look confident going forward.
MAKELELE – 8. You could almost write the same thing after every game. He harried Wigan out of their stride and was always there to clean up any loose ball.
SIDWELL – 5. I really wanted to give him more, but he is so limited in what he can do. Did well to play in Cole in the first minute, but that was about it apart from some honest running around.
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS – 6.5. Some brilliant turns and touches followed by basic lapses in technique. Gave him an extra 0.5 for playing both games after looking hurt enough to miss several games after the injury a week ago.
MALOUDA – 6. OK, but opponents know he only has a left foot and seem ready for him, meaning he has only a fitful impact on a game.
J.COLE – 7. Always seemed most likely to create the opening for a goal, even if that never happened. Had the beating of Kilbane any time he wanted and he put in several dangerous crosses. One incredible trick to get by Brown in the second half.
ANELKA – 9. Class in everything he does. Even when wrongly flagged for offside, he shrugged and got on with it. Deserved to get away with what looked like a slight push on a defender in the lead up to our second goal. Could have shot, but unselfishly set up SWP for a much easier chance. Can’t wait to see him with Drogba.
FERREIRA (80 mins. for Malouda) – 6. Meant to close the game the game down, but that didn’t happen, did it?
PIZARRO (90 mins. for Anelka), n/a.