Chelsea are back, Chelsea are back, hello, hello. OK we didn’t sing that but we should’ve done, after beating Man United on penalties in the Charity Shield it looked like maybe the curse had been exorcised, and there were signs of the start of things to come. But it appears not.
Ancelotti made eight changes to the side that saw off Arsenal with ease. Hilario, Ivanovic, Ferriera, Belletti, Malouda, J. Cole, Kalou have been ever present throughout our League Cup campaign, Mikel, Zhirkov, Deco and Ballack completed Wednesdays line up, they have each started two of the three matches. Drogba, Kakuta and Bruma were joined on the subs bench by Turnball, Hutchinson, Matic and Borini.
Neil McDonald stood in for Sam Allardyce, who has had heart surgery and should be back in the stands this weekend.
The first half was one to forget from Chelsea, an appalling half of football saw us trudge off a goal down. With Blackburn on the attack, Chimbonda and Pederson linked up for a one-two, the low cross found Kalinic who tapped in from close range, dreadful defending. Our chances were limited, Zhirkov had an effort saved by Robinson, as did Joey Cole, Ballack hit the side netting with a volley.
At half time Ancelotti decided to go for a triple substitution, bringing off Joey Cole, Deco and Belletti for Drogba, Kakuta and Bruma. Two minutes into the half and Malouda’s cross was met by Drogba, his powerful and well placed heard beat Paul Robinson and put us on level terms.
Four minutes later Zhirkov’s clever pass split the Blackburn defence and found Solomon Kalou in acres of space, Kalou advanced with it, waited for Robinson to come out a little and placed it superbly into the corner.
Hilario knows that displacing Cech is an impossibility, but Turnball replacing the Portugeeser as Cechs understudy is a possibility, so he unfortunately did himself no favours for Blackburns equaliser. Emerton’s cross was deflected high in the air, as it came down Kalinic jumped for the header but didn’t make contact. Hilario had to wait until that moment to commit himself to the ball, but unfortunately he missed timed going down to collect it and it went under him and into the net.
By the 70th minute Blackburn had made two subs, Grella came on for Pederson and Hoilett came on for Roberts.
Drogba had a good shot saved by Robinson in the 71st minute, almost straight after this Kalou got injured and had to come off, leaving us to play the last 20 minutes with ten men. Memories of the Feb 2005 Newcastle F.A Cup game must have been coming back to all.
Benny McCarthy thought that he had won it for Blackburn in the last minute of the match, but his goal was ruled out for offside. Kalinic then saw his last ditch effort saved by Hilario, so the game went into Extra Time.
Blackburn then used their last substitution, Heerden came on for Nzonzi. Just two minutes after the restart and Blackburn were in front, Zhirkov slid in but caught the man instead of the ball, ref Alan Wiley correctly gave a penalty. McCarthy converted the penalty. Bruma picking up a caution for fouling Kalinic is the only other point of note in the half.
The second half of extra time saw a penalty appeal from Chelsea, Drogba was in the box and going near the by-line, as he cut inside Samba dived in for the challenge, taking the ball then the man, Drogba went down under the challenge and his head hit Paul Robinson’s knee. After a quick bit of treatment the Ivorian was back on the pitch.
The fourth official held up two minutes of stoppage time. Right at the death, a high ball went into the Blackburn area, Robinson went for the aerial ball and under pressure from Ballack failed to deal with it, the ball fell to the unlikeliest of heroes, Paulo Ferreira rifled the ball into the net.
So it went to penalties, McCarthy started the shootout, he stepped up and converted his second penalty of the night. Michael Ballack, the usually ever-reliable penalty taker was second-guessed by Paul Robinson, who dived magnificently to tip the German’s effort on the post.
Emerton, Drogba, Grella and Malouda all scored their ones, Kalinic then saw his effort saved by Hilario. Zhirkov and Holiett converted their efforts. So upstepped Gael Kakuta, the eighteen year olds effort was fairly strongly struck but down the middle, and unluckily for him, Robinson hadn’t committed to much of a dive and was able to save it.
It must be hard on Gael Kakuta, having received a transfer ban which has been suspended, and now missing the decisive penalty. He is only eighteen, and these are the sorts of things that will mould him as a person, hopefully he will become mentally stronger from it.
In the League Cup, since Villa knocked us out in normal time in December 2003 we’ve now either reached the final or lost on penalties. Last season it was Burnley and 05/06 it was Charlton – both of which were at home. With Robert Huth missing against Charlton, maybe League Cups are an Achilles Heel for German penalty takers. Neither Ferreira nor Mikel took a penalty this time, but both did last season in the defeat against Blackburn’s Lancashire neighbours Burnley, with the latter missing the decisive one.
So after the hour mark Carlo’s Half Time gamble looked like it’d pay off, but then unfortunately Blackburn equalised, Kalou got injured and we had to play 50 minutes with ten men. It was a good opportunity for some fringe players and youngsters to get involved and display their talents to the new manager.
Good luck to Blackburn in their Semi Final against Villa. As for us, well, we’re five points clear in the league and the treble is still on.