Saturday 18 April
Arsenal 1:2 Chelsea
1947-2009, Arsenal’s FA Cup run against us has, finally, come to an end and you can add another date to the end of this season. We will now play our ninth cup final and our second at the new Wembley.
The new place looked good in the sunshine this evening but its downfall so far has been the state of the pitch. Five players slipped over in the first three minutes and you knew it was going to be an exciting game. Thrills and spills.
Both sides started with nerves and slips and it almost cost Arsenal the lead, Fabianski came for Lampard’s long ball only for Drogba to head it past him, Gibbs, rushing back cleared for a corner.
Arsenal had a few probing movements but nothing to suggest they might score – until they scored. Anelka was slow to pick Gibb’s run, his cross found Walcott, whose shot deflected off Ashley Cole and in. Cech, who continued to look nervous, was wrong footed by the shot.
The goal didn’t seem to change the attitude of the team. Though when you have conceded eight in a week and still come back for the result we’d guess your confidence was in the right place.
Within a few minutes Malouda had a shot across the box and Didier scooped one high over the bar and far away.
Then on the half-hour, Malouda controls Lampard’s long pass perfectly drifts inside the defender to level the score at the near post. His second goal at Wembley, from the handful he’s scored for us. And, no, we don’t know what the celebration means, but it looked, for the world, a labia majora.
Anelka and Drogba combined to bully the ball back from the Arsenal defence only for Anelka’s crisp shot to come back off the bottom of the post.
We controlled the game until half-time but started to pick up inexplicable cards; Ivanovic on Van Persie and Ballack on Fabregas; although the seriousness of the contact in either case is debateable.
Arsenal started the second-half with a shot from Adebayor that flew high and wide. Then Lampard robbed Denilson only for Toure to cover his shot.
Walcott then crossed with Van Persie rushing in but the ball eluded him, Arsenal seemed stronger than they had at the end of the first and Malouda was lucky not to give a penalty away when he shoved Fabregas as the ball was going out for a corner. Van Persie lashed another good chance over, after Alex’s bicycle clearance.
Slowly, Chelsea started to reassert themselves, Lampard volleyed a Drogba cross just wide, before Silvestre clearly handled in the box while tugging back Didier.
Drogba’s winner was another moment of long-ball brilliance. Lampard cleared and the big man suddenly found himself round their ‘keeper who’d charged out to meet him, and dispatched a bouncing ball into the empty net. Wembley here we come. Again.
Chelsea youth 4:0 MK Dons youth
A return to form for the youth team, Philliskirk (who had two other efforts struck off), Phillip and Lalkovic with two scored the goals against a Dons side run ragged by the end.
Elsewhere in football, Wolves will be back in the Premiership next season, Leicester will be back in the Championship.
Sunday 19 April
Everton in the final, after extra time and penalties. Manchester United showed a degree of contempt for Everton and the competition by playing their youth team strikers, so no more blather about quintuplets.
Monday 20 April
Chelsea reserves 2:2 West Bromwich Albion reserves
Belletti and Carvalho started in a strangely unbalanced Chelsea side. Michael Mancienne, for instance, played left back. Belletti opened the scoring and Patrick van Aanholt added our second but we’d developed a habit of letting them back in with questionable defending.
Mancienne’s performance was closely watched by Hiddink and left many speculating that he might play there against Barcelona.
Next Monday against Spurs at Griffin Park is your last chance to watch the stiff this term.
We forgot to mention last week that Charlton Athletic will be playing third division football next season. Bad luck for them and Hereford who slip down to the forth. Yes, we know that should be first and second respectively but we find it hard to keep up, at our age, with all these new fangled divisions. And, who in their right mind, calls the third tier of foot ball the first division. Apart from marketing men.
Happy birthday Mum.
Tuesday 21 April
Rumours that Wolves want Michael Mancienne for £4m. While he is not the finished product and £4m would be a good price, it would be a crime to let a young lad go before he has had a sustained run in our first-team, after which, of course, he be worth £14m.
Charmless automaton Howard Webb has been appointed for the cup final. He has done us few ills in recent seasons so perhaps we should learn to be a little more gracious and simply call him Roboref.
Liverpool and Arsenal put on an entertaining show, drawing 4-4 at Anfield. Liverpool are back on top of the heap but United have two games in hand.
Wednesday 22 April
Chelsea 0:0 Everton
Well, that is that then. On a night Manchester United extended their lead at the top we couldn’t breakdown a well organised and surprisingly ambitious Everton. Luck, good and bad, played a large part but ultimately we were undone in just this kind of home draw where the ball just didn’t want to go in, during that run we’ve dropped 12 points from six draws and two defeats.
Tonight was a nice night to be out and about London looks and feels like summer has come early but there was still a nip in the air come kick-off. Drogba almost lit the place up with an acrobatic swing of the boot but gravity robbed him of the ball. Everton had the better chances of a scrappy first-half. For the visitors, Jo was clean through twice but fluffed each chance and Cech had to be at his best to turn away a Cahill pile driver.
The urgency of the situation started to dawn on the players in the second-half but generally the tactic was to batter the ball through the middle, it was only with the introduction of Kalou that we started to try to get the ball down the wing and crosses in from more dangerous angles. In truth we created very few chances the one for Drogba when he could turn and shoot, only crashed back off the bar.
Still, Everton created better chances, and it was from one break late in the game that Cech had to prove himself. Jo rushed toward the box and Cech came out to meet him the big Czech ‘keeper got to the ball first but was clattered in the contact. It was his first serious clash since the Reading game three-years ago. Hiddink said afterwards; “Given the injury he suffered in the past, he was very brave putting his head into a very dangerous situation … that was a personal victory for him.”
Sadly it was the only victory tonight. We hope and pray that the Cup final is better than that.
Friday 24 April
Guus has been hinting that the team will be experimental on Saturday. Obviously left-back will be watched closely, Mancienne was hoping for a run out after Monday but the logical choice would be Ivanovic at left-back and Essien at right. Now, it seems Jose Bosingwa will probably be fit after all but on the left or right only the master tactician can tell.
For the first time in four years we are not fighting for position and can relax for the last month in the league and, dare we say it, concentrate on the European Cup.
Frank Lampard phoned James O’Brien’s radio show to call him and idiot, and it is hard to disagree with Frank’s case. The LBC presenter chose the first anniversary of Pat Lampard’s death to launch his attack on Frank as “weak and scum” for letting his children live in inferior conditions. Frank actually sounded quite calm as he dismantled O’Brien’s ill thought out position. It appears the radio presenter knows nothing about Frank’s life and it is none of his business.
The Wembley pitch is to relayed ahead of the FA trophy final, so we’ll have a new playing surface but no guarantee it will be any better. We loss the toss for colours with Everton so we’ll line up in yellow.
Obi John has been banned from driving for 15-months.
Saturday 25 April
West Ham United 0:1 Chelsea
This afternoon we enjoyed a little of what was missing on Wednesday; namely, a dash of luck. Where the ball refused to break for us during the week here we created chances but Salomon Kalou happened to be standing in the way when one of them dropped.
The weather and the play made this feel for all the world a pre-season friendly. And the team had an unfamiliar feel, Mancienne, Bosingwa and Belletti all started but Guus will have learnt little of Bosingwa’s ability at left-back from this gentle jog. Ashley Cole replaced the Portuguese and spent the rest of the match busting a gut to create or score, as if Hiddink might be thinking of a permanent switch.
With Florent Malouda lashing one toward goal with the first touch it appeared we had been instructed not to hang around until the last twenty-minute scramble. Cech collected a dangerous looking through ball and started us back up field for a chance that Malouda again lashed across goal.
Kieran Dyer appeared to be playing for West Ham, so the Bermuda triangle theory is right out, and he showed some good touches but when fed through the middle he shot tamely at Petr Cech. Petr wasn’t having the game all his own way, he needed Obi John on the line to stop a looping header from an ‘ammer’s corner.
We had a few punts, Lampard had a long shot dipping into Green’s arms and Anelka bobbled one wide. Generally we played like a team coming to terms with pressure-free football, we strung the passes together but didn’t have the urgency to make anything count. But to be fair you could say the same of West Ham, without a relegation struggle, they played like the summer was round the corner: Sous les terrain, la plage – beneath the pitch, the beach.
I fact there was a danger of nothing happening, again, until Malouda fed Lampard who got deep and crossed for Kalou to control on his chest and dink in. Why can’t we always keep it so simple?
Green then saved from Anelka, before an Ashley Cole shot hit the bar. Then again, after we’d looked comfortable, out of nothing Kalou drags back an ‘ammer in the box and it is Cech to the rescue from the penalty. After that the game stuttered to a close, Frank made Green work with a free-kick but the game was won and winding down.
After the whistle John Terry revealed that some in the West Ham crowd don’t love him and Frank but still attempted to make cash donatiojns while the two celebrated Kalou’s goal.
Later still, Tottenham looked to break the habit if a life time and actually win at Old Trafford. Thankfully the referee sensed the impending danger and offered the home side the first penalty he could. Normality restored, United won 5-2.
Chelsea youth 0:3 Leicester City youth
A bit a pasting for an under-strength Chelsea youth team. Many were being held back for Monday’s final reserve fixture. Milan Lalkovic was again the pick of the flops with a string of fine deliveries from the right.