You arrive with the family in tow at Heathrow from Saudi Arabia via Dubai mid-evening. Your brother-in-law is there to pick you up, but the geezer is beyond maddening. He flat out ignores your attempts to make conversation on the drive back to East London. He takes many, many wrong turns and then when you offer directional assistance he refuses to answer until a full minute later when he instead addresses your wife in another language. This occurs multiple times until the fella has taken you almost on a round trip back to the airport. He’s decided that your six-year-old daughter deserves the front passenger seat so you’re squashed up against the missus for the nearly three hour long-haul journey. Also the two-year-old boy takes it upon himself to vomit all over you as you pass through Embankment, which is of course exactly what you were hoping would happen. Then you’re obliged to visit her parents’ home because they’ve been eagerly anticipating your return. It’s approaching midnight and you’ve had ninety minutes of sleep since the day before yesterday. Tensions boil throughout the stay and certain people are oblivious to how close they have come to being throttled. Once home you remove your vomit soaked clothes and return to the sweet safety of the other side of consciousness.
The next morning is Friday and you plan to get to Stamford Bridge later for the youth cup semi second leg with Manc’ United. You heard it was a £5 entry game and so you check the website for the precise details. But… what? What the…? The tickets are sold out! Do they mean the entire stadium? Have 40,000 fans paid to come see the kids play? This would be unprecedented. You must see this match though. Maybe it’s on ITV like the previous leg. Nope. Sky Sports? BBC? Playboy Lesbian? Nope, nope and nope. Instead it’s on Chelsea TV and MUTV simultaneously. You don’t have a subscription to either of those though. You used to have some kind of arrangement with the former, but it expired. You usually rely on coolsportz for your sports streaming needs, but they’ve not got these niche channels either. Googling first conjures a couple of expired links before you come across sportz-for-free.org. In its standard size window the images are blurred, but in full screen it’s plain blobby. You soldier on.
John Terry is in attendance and he becomes the sometime focal point of the Chelsea cameramen, in much the same way as Danny Webber was during the previous game.
As it turns out just 5,000 are at the ground to watch the Academy, 500 of whom are United fans placed in the lower Shed End. Millions invested in our youth team and it’s a stretch too far to bring in enough stewarding for a few hundred extra supporters on the cusp of a final.
Both teams exhibited the neat passing sequences that you’d expect from apprentices of this calibre. The neutral would have found entertainment in the end-to-end yo-yoing, but more mature, stabilising football would have been what the respective managers were looking for. The concern for Chelsea in particular was the uncertainty in handling of Blackman in goal and a host of opportunities wasted through long-range punted shots.
The United opener came in the thirty-seventh minute. Tyler Blackett had worked himself well into the box and eventually siphoned the ball off to Mats Daehli, who decided that Jack Barmby and the left side of the box was a worthwhile option. The nifty son of Nick spiked a left footer from eight yards at the inches away Todd Kane to deflect it over Jamal Blackman and into the underside of the silver netting.
The half-time interval elicited worry as the stream controller took hold of his TV remote to check on the Southampton – Reading score and then switch over to the alternative MUTV for the second stage of the game. All of which was acceptable, except for the red bias in voiceover and a nervous sounding presenter.
The Blues moved beyond a 0.0001 goal aggregate lead twenty-three minutes into the half. For me though it was as disturbing a thing as my spherically-headed nincompoop husband of my wife’s sister. The temptation of a desktop mouse is that you absolutely have to touch it from time to time. I was drawn to do so just as United conceded possession in the centre-circle. Having inadvertently switched channel I scrambled to get the right game back. However, not just was this website providing jarring footage that was akin to old camera phone quality, but it also insisted on a thirty second long advertisement covering the screen when connecting. So as the goal went in I was forced to decipher the commentary and outside edges picture behind a commercial for some no-name product and the musical accompaniment of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’!
Eventually I was able to piece together what had occurred. Islam Feruz had picked up the lost ball in the middle of the pitch and taken his soon-to-be copyrighted mini running steps in the direction of the goal. Knowing that the defender’s jockeying couldn’t go on forever he shimmied to the left slightly and layed off to Lucas Piazon with the most precise of weight. In very similar fashion to the opposition goal, especially in that it was from a nearby spot at the same end, the Brazilian chopped it past Jonathan Sutherland’s stretching right hand into the corner.
The action somewhat died down in the closing quarter-game. Chelsea took to a lot of time-wasting, especially from delayed goal kicks and the Mancunians proved faltering in attacking possession.
Like a bonus album track Manchester United television granted a fantastic gift for those that kept watching past the full-time whistle. You were able to see Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Wayne Rooney participate together in some Mission Impossible-themed skit advertisement for the red wine Casillero Del Diablo. Evra was limited to short lines and Giggsie played the role of stony-faced leader of the ensemble well enough. The latter lothario’s absence of performative emotion probably reminiscent of how he broke down to his missus her options upon last year’s well-publicized extramarital revelations. However Shrek’s performance was so atrocious that I now need hairplugs, and you can bet that Colleen found out about his affair just by innocently asking him where the cheese was.
Chelsea Academy reach another year’s final by knocking out the holders and are now on course for Blackburn, with the first home leg this coming Friday. We have the youth and first-team celebrating the same achievement within the space of a few hours.
FA Youth Cup
Chelsea 1 – 1 Man Utd
Stamford Bridge, London
13 April 2012
6. Chalobah (C)
8. Swift (93 min, 14. Nkumu)
7. Affane (63 min, 16. Kiwomya)
Unused subs: 12. Beeney, 15. Nortei, 16. Mitchell
Booked: Nditi, 43 min
5. McCullough (C)
10. Daehli (81 min, 16. Rudge)
9. Byrne (81 min, 14. Wilson)
11. Van Velzen
Unused subs: 12. Hendrie, 13. Jacob, 15. Ekangamene
Booked: Pearson, 44 min, Blackett, 77 min, Ioannou, 94 min