Monday 24 April
Chelsea reserves 1:4 Manchester United reserves
A bit of a damp squib for the reserves final fixture as early mistakes and atrocious weather left everyone feeling flat. Patrick Bamford scored Chelsea’s late reply.
Tuesday 25 April
Barcelona 2:2 Chelsea
“Aoaaaghghghoaoaoaoa-ahhhh”, to quote Gary Neville. What a game. Greatest club side in the world by far? Pah.
It is difficult to remember now but this all started so badly. We adopted exactly the same team and tactics as the first leg. Sit behind the ball and watch them try to batter their way through the middle. All their pretence of going wide evaporated and they stuck to poking little balls through our back-line. The first calamity came when Gary Cahill reacted to one such and found his weight sliding backwards as his foot stuck in the turf. “I felt something pop” he said later, which makes it more mysterious that he initially decided to stay on. Bosingwa replaced him only for the inevitable to happen… yes, Bosingwa played like a god.
Didier Drogba had our first chance as Cech boomed one the length of the field and Valdes clattered through Piquet and Drogba in his eagerness to clear. The contact with Piquet’s head looked more sickening the more often it was replayed and the lad had to go off.
But for all the intricacy of our build-up play – Cech to Drogba – somehow Barcelona managed to stretch things at the other end, Fabregas backheeled the ball through to Messi but the little Argentinean could only hit Petr Cech’s legs.
The warning was not heeded as a corner was headed clear by Drogba but Alves poked it back in and Cuenca squared to Busquets. 1-0. Even then you’d expected him to miss, a Chelsea leg to appear to turn it round the post, a vulture to swoop down… such was the determination shown by Chelsea and luck we’d ridden up to this point. Now we’d have to score.
One-nil down to the best team in the world and suddenly a red-card. Most who hadn’t seen it clearly were ready to accuse the referee but a simple replay cleared it up, John Terry really did knee Sanchez. In all the time we’ve watched John since he came through the youth team we don’t remember him doing anything so stupid. Bosingwa now came inside to partner Ivanovic in defence with Ramires coming in to right-back.
It doesn’t get better, as a few minutes later it was Ramires left floundering by Messi’s through ball and Iniesta finished across Cech. 2-0. But strangely 2-0 doesn’t change things significantly because one goal at 1-0 or 2-0 and we are through. But how could we possibly score, Barcelona are the best team in the world, they never give us the ball and we are down to ten… the only way we could score is if Lampard could find Ramires and the Brazilian could score a wonder goal… and then Lampard did find Ramires, down the inside-right channel, and the Brazilian chips the goalkeeper with an emphatic thump. 2-1 and simply the best goal ever scored by a Chelsea player for its combination of circumstance, timing and execution – perfect.
The referee’s whistle went for half-time almost immediately and Barcelona looked stunned as they wandered off the pitch.
Obviously the second-half starts with a penalty. Obviously, it wasn’t a penalty: Drogba was stretching for the ball and Fabregas took the opportunity to go sprawling. Messi stepps up to end his seven game goal drought against us, and … and … and … hit the bar. The explosion of joy in blue was easily as big as a goal and Barcelona seemed to wilt, from that moment on, their belief drained away.
Their discipline almost blew up as well when Fabregas tangled with Frank Lampard and Messi waded in pushing and shoving. No cards from a ref who doesn’t seem to realise that player’s futures are in his hands: already Ramires and Ivanovic will miss the final for nothing because he is card happy.
Sanchez headed wide when it looked easier to score before Didier Drogba did almost the greatest thing ever done on a football pitch: playing right-back he dispossessed Cuenca as if he wasn’t there, surged to half-way, nutmegging Puyol on the way, and tried to score from fifty-yards. Their keeper got down to make a sprawling save.
Then Ivanovic has the kind of chance you dream of: a rare corner and Alves flaps but doesn’t get near it and Branislav heads … wide.
Pass, tika-taka, pass, tika-taka, pass, tika-taka: Barça owned the football but made few chances in the twenty-minutes that remained the best two fell to Messi but his first shot was brilliantly turned onto the post by Cech at full stretch before the ’keeper bashed the other behind for a corner. Torres was on for Drogba for the last few minutes and the decision looked mad as the quality of the defending at left-back suddenly dropped but Robbie knew what he was about because Torres is the last person Barça players and fans wanted to see with fresh legs and an unerring knack of scoring against them.
Kalou thumped a clearance from inside his own box and as the camera pans it became clear that Torres, running from his own half was onside and unmarked, he round Valdes and tapped it into the empty net and the whole of West London exploded… 2-2… and not all of the pieces have come back to earth.
This was, simply, the most incredible match in our history and one of the most outrageous in European football. We survived the best team in the world, Lionel Messi, the best player in history, one of the biggest stadiums, John Terry’s red-card, their two-goal lead but for once not the referee.
To be fair to the Barcelona fans they didn’t file out in disgust, as Spurs fans did the other week, but stayed and paid tribute to their players in song and did themselves the favour of appearing the most generous football public in history. Oh, that we could claim to be the same. We’ll be welcoming QPR on Sunday with open arms and a generous spirit.
Now how do you get from here to Munich.
Wednesday 25 April
Bayern München qualified for the final in their own stadium. The debate for the twenty-four hours before this was all about who would you want Real, your ex-manager and tactical genius or Bayern playing at home. By the end of the first-half it was clear that Bayern were by far the better team and most in Chelsea blue were hoping that Real could scrape through on penalties.
The only bright spot was that yellow cards means that they’ll miss three first-team players as well.
Islam Feruz made an appearance for Scotland U21 tonight. Not that unusual for a Chelsea player until you realise that Islam is only 16 years old. As a second-half sub he didn’t score but did muddy the Italian ’keeper’s gloves in a game Scotland lost 1-3 in Edinburgh.
Thursday 26 April
The bad news from Uefa today is that only 17,500 of us will be in München for the final, which isn’t enough. Uefa reserve some of the tickets to sell locally in effect boosting the home teams numbers. Fewer than 25% of the tickets is a disgrace.
The grown-ups at Queens Park Rangers have again asked for handshakes between the sides to be suspended, we nearly said waived but then waving at QPR might suggest we expected them to go down and we’d never want to give that impression. The FA agreed after it emerged that QPR had taken legal advice (it’s their own money) about whether they had to shake hands or not.
Like we said – grown-ups.
Friday 27 April
Pep Guardiola announced his resignation as Barcelona coach. He tried to pretend that he’d been thinking about it all season but it was clear that the result against us was the tipping point Don’t expect him to be Chelsea coach next season as he has stated, clearly, that he needs a rest from the pressures of the game. Having said that he’d not be a man of his word if he took the Chelsea job in the summer.
Meanwhile, Uefa have said that John Terry can lift the trophy on the 19th and that they don’t have a problem with suspended players taking part in celebrations.
Saturday 28 April
Marko Marin has signed on for next season. The 23-year-old Germany international is the first to jump from the sinking Werder Bremen ship. Rumours are that Marin, who was born in Yugoslavia, has been struggling at Bremen because he is a winger not the number 10 Bremen hoped and cannot really function away from his wing. The £7m fee probably also reflects his recent injury history which is not good. On a more positive note Marko was once hailed as the ‘German Messi’ so we hope he can recapture that form.
Southampton finally clinched promotion and will be joining us next season. West Ham will have to enter the play-offs with Birmingham, Blackpool and Cardiff if they want to bounce straight back.
Sunday 29 April
Chelsea 6:1 Queens’ Park Rangers
It seems Fernando was just waiting for a defining goal in the Camp Nou to spark his confidence – it would have been quicker if his confidence could have rested on scuffing one against Wigan, it would have been easier to arrange.
This afternoon was billed as firmly post Lord Mayor’s shindig against opponents determined to maintain their Premiership status, after 47 seconds however, it appeared to be a stroll against a lower-league team.
Daniel Sturridge started the ball rolling by playing a wall pass off Ferdinand before curling one past Kenny in the QPR goal from the edge of the area. 1-0. Daniel really wants to play in Munich and it showed this afternoon.
The fun started to really bubble when John Terry headed in a corner. 2-0. We’d barely sat down from informing our neighbours of their likely league location next season when Mata found Torres running through the middle and the Spaniard rounded the ’keeper and scored. 3-0.
There wasn’t much time after that before Onuoha headed Mata’s hopeful ball against, rather than to his goalkeeper and Torres was quick to control and dispatch the loose ball. 4-0.
Few afternoons have been better than this for gleeful enjoyment in recent years – Chelsea safely in two cup-finals and tonking hapless neighbours the smile grew wider and wider, even the rain stopped.
Frank Lampard had a glorious chance but just overran the ball as QPR evaporated.
Torres could have had a first-half hat-trick but he smashed his effort just over.
The second-half wasn’t five-minutes old when Mata was played through by a resurgent Ashley Cole but the Spaniard didn’t seem to realise how much time and space he had and flopped his effort at the ’keeper.
To be fair to QPR they then had one of the most powerful shots seen at Stamford Bridge in many a year as Jamie Mackie thrashed one from distance but Cech was equal to it – just.
Straight from their corner though we almost made it five as Mata broke but Torres slipped. We had to wait five more minutes for Mata to play Torres clean through the middle and the Spaniard switched feet and found the perfect angle across Kenny. 5-0.
Florent Malouda was presented with the next as Kenny could only palm Ramires’ cross into the Frenchman’s path. 6-0. It could have been a cricket score as we let them have possession up to the edge of our box before breaking through them like the wind. Might that be preparation for Liverpool and Munich?
It was a shame to blot our afternoon but a late strike from Cisse robbed Cech of his clean sheet. 6-1. Torres could have restored the six-goal margin at the end but a defender threw himself in the way of the shot – now why didn’t they think of that before?
We needed to win by ten to put Rangers back in the bottom three but Bolton can’t accuse us of not tying.
It emerged in the evening that West Bromwich Albion have been so successful and entertaining this season that the FA have approached Roy Hodgson to be the next England manager.
This is the kind of stupidity you get when you promote too many brainless business types to run the Football Association. They didn’t know what they were doing when they appointed McClaren or Capello, they didn’t know what they were doing when they offered the Italian a new contract before the worst World Cup England have ever played or when they sacked him or when they waited months without interviewing anyone for the job and let us all assume that Harry Redknapp would have first refusal. Now the bungling feckers have approached the wrong man for the job at the wrong time.
Hopefully Roy will notice the wave of disappointment this news brings and tell them he’d rather stay at WBA.