Monday 5 April
As the football weekend draws to a close we should welcome back the Magpies as Newcastle United return after a year in the second division. Peterborough slip out at the other end relegated to the third tier again after only one season at this level.
Tuesday 6 April
Internazionale progress in Moscow as Mourinho’s Inter beat CSKA 0-1 to secure a semi-final with Barcelona. Barça romped past Arsenal. Poor Gooners had their hopes raised and dashed in three first-half minutes when Bendtner gave them the lead only for North London cheers to stick in craws when Messi equalised and then, to wails of pain from Ashburton Grove, he added three more. Barça won 6-3 on aggregate.
Mike Dean has been rewarded for his performance at the weekend with demotion to the championship; he takes that linesman chappie with him. This sends a clear signal to all referees and linesmen – every goal scored against United at Old Trafford is offside.
The reaction is hugely disproportionate and stems from fear of Alex Ferguson rather than sober analysis.
Wednesday 7 April
Birmingham City reserves 0:1 Chelsea reserves
A young Chelsea side played some brilliant football against a stubborn Birmingham City containing seven first team regulars. Jacob Mellis scored the goal and the performance was such that this side should be allowed to play all the league cup games next season.
Manchester United crash out of Europe accompanied by the usual bleating. It all started to brightly with two home goals in seven minutes but an Ivica Olic goal set up Arjen Robben to volley in the winner on away goals. Rooney made a surprise return and a predictable limping exit.
United’s young right-back Rafael was sent off after hauling down Ribéry Ferguson complained that it was typical of Germans to ask for a second yellow. The old goat is forgetting that casual racism isn’t as fondly thought of as it once was. In his old age, he also forgets his team’s rather lamentable record of surrounding referees and the fact the Ribéry is French.
His comments should result in a touchline ban but don’t hold your breath.
Thursday 8 April
SW6 could still have a European trophy as Fulham march on in the Uefa Cup (we know Europa League but which sounds better?). Bobby Zamora scoring for them after only 21 seconds to secure a 0-1 at Wolfsburg.
Ancelotti announced that Ashley Cole might be ready for the Stoke game on 25 April. Essien he thinks is a week behind the England left-back but will return before the end of the season.
Ivanovic has progressed so quickly he could be an option from the bench at Wembley.
Friday 9 April
Aston Villa and Newcastle United’s youth teams drew 1-1 in the first leg of the FA youth cup semi-final. We’ll know our opponents in the final after Friday’s return at St James’ Park.
Saturday 10 April
Aston Villa 0:3 Chelsea
See you back here on 15 May. There was sympathy for beaten opponents and some controversy but in the end it was a stroll.
That Chelsea or our opponents ‘started brightly’ is a bit trite so we’ll work on something different for future reports. In this case it was Villa who did so we’ll leave it at that: Villa started brightly.
You have to congratulate the Wembley authorities and the FA for deciding to stage an FA Cup semi-final on ice. Nobody could keep their feet until a collective footwear change at half time most of the moves broke down because someone slipped.
Things were quite tight for the first ten minutes a corner each and a loosener from Joe Cole, when Villa started to gain some possession and James Milner flashed a shot inches wide. It was a warning we didn’t heed: Ancelotti for once was on the touchline barking that we should get tighter and give them less space.
Then came the penalty appeal: Gabriel Agbonlahor tried to turn onto a knockdown and fell as he did so. That he had firm hold of Obi John’s shirt and was backing into him when it happened, coupled with his legs slipping out from under him probably persuaded the ref not to give a penalty. It is not often we single a referee out for praise but Howard Webb got his decision spot on despite every commentator and expert scratching their heads.
John Terry then denied Carew a chance by deflecting Downing’s cross from the top of the Villa striker’s head.
We were making some progress but just like the first twenty minutes at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago Villa were smothering across the back and we couldn’t find Drobga.
One move, when Malouda broke into space and pulled back for Drogba, could have led to a goal but Villa bodies appeared to block the shot.
Joe Cole followed that up with a smart turn and shot but Friedel was well placed.
That was it for an even and entertaining half. It was probably like wading through treacle for the neutral but these games belong to the fans and, no matter how boring for an outsider, this one was starting to come together for Chelsea.
Villa started the second half with a header that flashed across the face from a corner but it was an isolated threat as we gathered strength and dominate possession and territory.
Deco had a shy from a corner and Joe Cole started a move only to miss out by inches as he slid in to Drogba’s cross. After a sweeping, length of the field move, Didier had another shot blocked bravely by Dunne for a corner. As that corner was headed out JT controlled on the edge of the box and passed the ball to Didier who flicked a spinning finish inside the far post with his instep. 0-1. Again sage voices in the commentary box said JT was going for goal but he is a better footballer than that; it was a pass.
The real controversy came next was John Terry slid in on Milner late and caught him high on the knee. John was booked and the tackle was ugly and late but it didn’t appear malicious. Martin O’Neill made a big deal of it afterwards.
The rest of the match was set up for us to counter attack and the second came as the substitute Michael Ballack crossed to the far post and Malouda smashed home. 0-2. The cross was world class.
A few breakaways broke down after that as Villa pressed forward and Malouda fired another chance over but Frenchman showed how devastating we can be when he bombed the length of the field in injury time laid the ball back for Anelka, our supplier in chief, who fed Lampard who finished neatly. 0-3.
After the match Martin O’Neill was furious with Webb for not giving a penalty or sending off John Terry. But it is all bluster; Agbonlahor was backing in and slipped, it wasn’t a penalty. A few years ago JT’s tackle might have been red but things have changed, Milner was not seriously hurt and doesn’t play for Arsenal so a yellow card is appropriate.
So, Chelsea-Tottenham cup final, can’t wait.
West Ham United’s win today means that Portsmouth are down ahead of their cup semi-final tomorrow.
Portsmouth youth 0:2 Chelsea youth
Saturday morning work out for the boys returning from Dallas after group stage elimination from the tournament. Philipp Prosenik and Anton Rodgers scored the goals. Prosenik was returning from ankle problems that have disrupted his first season with us. He will make rapid progress if he makes a habit of headers as powerful as the one that gave us the lead. Rodger’s goal was a cracking free-kick which will be on Youtube soon. Connor Clifford also returned from injury.
Sunday 11 April
The Chelsea/Tottenham cup final will have to wait for another year as Spurs actually lost to Portsmouth, 2-0. Avram Grant might be a better manger than we have given him credit over the last few years.
Better news from Blackburn as it filters through that Manchester United have only managed two decent chances in a 0-0 draw. We are now a point ahead with a game in hand.