The odds on Avram Grant lasting to next season have just become about as long as Barnsley’s of winning this cup tie. So it could happen, but several things — such as a league title and a Champions League trophy — have to happen. In this game several things happened to provide the entire country, aside from us Chelsea fans, a huge celebration.
1) Barnsley had in Odejayi the best player on the pitch. 2) The pitch bobbled as much as a 10-foot boat on the ocean. 3) We played utterly crap.
We can’t claim bad luck — Barnsley hit the post in the first half. We can’t claim bad team selection — this was a team well-equipped to deal with a Championship club, even though Lampard was ruled out before kick off with a slight injury. That shouldn’t have been a factor.
We created easily enough chances to win, but astonishingly wayward shooting meant we never properly tested their goalie. Cudicini was tested once and failed miserably; being out jumped by Odejayi to a routine cross, flopping feebly to the ground in the vain hope the ref might follow regular practice and blow his whistle because an opponent breathed on the goalie.
Yes, the pitch worked against slick passing along the ground, but then that has never been a problem for us in the past since we’re well-equipped to take the aerial route. The problem was so many of our vital players had shockers including, but not confined to, Anelka and Ballack.
This will take a lot of living down and especially hurts because the FA Cup was there for the taking after Manure’s exit earlier today. Mourinho never lost to a lower division team, so that’s another standard Grant has failed to match. I want to make him the scapegoat for the loss — and he will be made one because you can’t take credit for the wins if you don’t do the same for the losses — but too many of his rich players failed to do their job. You’ve got to think some of them won’t be around next season either.
CUDICINI – 4. Totally at fault for the goal. A keeper with the advantage of being able to raise his arms above his head should take crosses like Barnsley’s 100 percent of the time. He seemed to take the wrong route and ended up almost behind Odejayi. If he had gone in front he would surely have caught the ball or been fouled. The rest of his performance doesn’t matter. His mistake cost us the game.
BELLETTI – 6. Did about what was expected. Relatively untroubled defensively, he did his part in attack and it wasn’t his fault that we could have played another 90 minutes without shooting on target.
CARVALHO – 5. Strangely uncertain today, he gave Odejayi the room to look a world-class striker. Was also slow to close down a threat in the first half that saw Barnsley hit the post.
TERRY – 6. Thought he played well and no one could say he looked like he couldn’t be bothered. Bit of a shame that our last chance fell to him in the box. He showed the style of Jonny Wilkinson in leaning back and hoofing well over the bar.
BRIDGE – 6. Like Belletti, he defended well enough and got forward well. Took a couple of poor free kicks, but generally provided decent service to the front men.
ESSIEN – 4. Brought his strength, but no finesse. His struggles continue.
BALLACK – 5. Very disappointing. Looked in last season’s form and disappeared for long stretches.
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS – 4. Frequently showed some wonderful touches to spin away from close markers, but what use is that if you display a club foot when you distribute the ball? He is never going to be able to consistently deliver an end product.
MALOUDA – 3. Grant never signed him so we can’t blame him for that. But the man was a waste of a blue shirt. Displayed no special skill to distinguish himself from the red shirts and not nearly the same desire.
J. COLE – 7. Our best performer by a mile. Should have scored early in the second half, but the ball clearly bobbled as he tried to shoot. Was able to display his tricks despite the surface and with any half-decent colleagues we would have cashed in on the openings he created.
ANELKA – 3.5. An extra half point because no one was as bad as Malouda. The biggest disappointment was how he was beaten to most balls played forward, allowing the defender to nip in before him to take the ball. Took an age to get off shots, or slipped at the crucial moment. A nightmare.
KALOU (62 mins for Malouda) – 5. Took Malouda’s spot on the left wing and had the beating of his defender, but couldn’t really impose himself on the game.
PIZARRO (78 mins for Belletti) – 6. Displayed some good control, but wanted too long to shoot. It must be said that Barnsley had about nine bodies diving around to tackle and block in the penalty area so it wasn’t easy to see daylight.