Funny how time changes, you don’t you think? Ten years ago I would have given my left arm (I write with my right) to have won this competition in whatever its form, Worthless, Milk, Coca Cola or even Watney’s bloody Red Barrel. But now, strangely, I find it really hard to get motivated for it. Yes, it is a trip to Cardiff (although it will be bloody cold around final time) and yes, it is a route into Europe, albeit that ruddy UEFA cup. Do we want yet another season of heartache?
Having said all that, a win is very much a win. Suddenly we find ourselves in the last eight of this competition, and a bye to the semi-final if I am not very much mistaken. This lot may well be nicknamed the Toffees, but they are not a sweet bunch to say the least. In David Moyes though, they have a manager who is going to take them places, in a totally different way to Glen Roeder and the chimney sweeps from West Ham.
The game started quite poorly from our point of view, with Everton — playing three up front — having the majority of the first fifteen minutes but creating very little. They should, however, have gone one up when some really sloppy defending left Pembridge with the goal at his mercy. Luckily for us, he blasted wide.
Then we started to take the game over. The fact that we did lay fairly and squarely at the feet of the little man. Lumpy (of all people) won the ball well in our own box and it ended up with Zola. He hit a superb ball round the back of the static Everton defence for Jimmy Floyd to run onto. He made no mistake hitting the ball wide of Richard Wright. Probably an undeserved goal, but do we give a stuff? Do we heck.
Everton switched to 4–4–2 with Gazza’s love child, Wayne Rooney, switching out wide. He continued to do bugger all and on this performance we certainly have the better player in young king Cole. With a minute to go to the break it was 2-0, and once more it was the master’s work. Manu passed to Zola and then continued his run, a delightful ball over the top and Manu finished it on the volley and, basically, game over.
Claudio Ranieri decided to take Zola off nearly fifteen minutes into the second half — doubtless having our trip on Saturday in mind — and the little fella knew what was coming. He had a free-kick wide out on the left in a position that normal players could only cross from. Not Zola, he went for goal. Sadly for him, and us, the ball bounced off of the top of the crossbar. If anyone ever deserved a goal for their performance, it was him.
On 69 minutes, it was three. A corner won from nothing by JFH was brilliantly taken by him with Mario Stanic rising to beat his marker well and head into the Everton net. Two minutes later and it was four. Another corner, again well taken by JFH, came back out to him. He feigned to cross, went round Campbell (hate his soup by the way) and fairly belted the ball into the far corner of the net. At this stage it could easily have been an absolute rout, with Everton clearly going to pieces.
William Gallas, who had a very poor game by his own high standards, decided that enough was enough and headed the ball virtually into his own hands — penalty. “About time I had something to do,” thought Carlo. Up stepped little (well, not so little) Gazza and, of course, Carlo saved. Sadly, poor marking from the corner allowed Everton to score a goal that they did not really deserve on the balance of play. But if you are going to give daft goals away, then being 4-0 up is always the best time to do it.
What can we learn much from tonight’s game about Saturday? Well, Everton are good at corners, looking a threat each time they had one. Stanic looked to have stood still during his time out injured. Everton’s defence is very flat and very slow if you manage to get around the back. Terry is still very much a class act and was man of the match for me, despite the little bloke. Zola is god, not a god, just god, and the Gronk simply cannot cross a ball to save his life. If only we could put him and de Lucas in a mixer, we would come up with a real world beater.
I do not know where the Chelsea that I support have gone this season. Although our football is not the free-flowing stuff that we saw at times under both Ruudi and Luca, we have a solid look right throughout the side that inspires confidence. Without a doubt we have the best goalkeeper in the world on current form (bet the guy who sold him so cheaply is gutted) and in Gallas/Desailly/Terry we have a central defence that would grace any team around.
Sadly, and it is a shame as he is playing really well, we now lose Baba for three games. Thankfully, for he is a quality act, we have Soxy to replace him. For once I look forward to a trip to Thievingpool with confidence and a grin as wide as the Mersey Tunnel. Let’s just hope that my other Chelsea miss the bus come Saturday.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Melchiot, Gallas, Terry, Babayaro — Gronkjaer (de Lucas, 64), Lampard, Petit, Stanic (Morris, 72) — Hasselbaink, Zola (Gudjohnsen, 58)
Subs not used; de Goey, Desailly