Monday 30 May
The monsterous, Manchester, unmissable, Monday night football turned out to be a mammoth letdown as City overcame the least ambitious United team in Premiership history. An heavy drinking Glaswegian football manager lied afterwards that he had never sent out a team to play for a draw: funnily, but to no body’s amusement, everyone else saw an aging team, one in decline that couldn’t cope with young upstart neighbours.
Tuesday 1 May
After the least cheerful FA press conference ever. Basically all the questions started “why didn’t you appoint Harry Redknapp?” and “why have you given him a four-year contract when you are going to have to sack him in four-months?”
We’ve just worked out why the FA chose Roy Hodgson – he was the only candidate older than them.
Hodgson is a thing of the past. He is as wedded to 4-4-2 and, frankly, the football world has past him by. He will be an utter disaster and we’ll have wasted another four-years because they’ll refuse to sack him until it is too late.
By then we’ll be humming “50-years of hurt, never stopped us…”
Harry Redknapp might have cost more, Martin O’Neill might have been more volatile and Alan Pardew just a little bit dull but we would have stood a chance.
Liverpool, the side Roy Hodgson recently so briefly lead towards a bright and shining future, warmed up for the Cup Final with a home defeat, another one, this time 0-1 to Fulham. They did rest half the team but it does make only five home wins this season at Anfield.
Wednesday 2 May
Chelsea 0:2 Newcastle United
Well, the bubble was going to burst somewhere and rather tonight than Saturday.
Roberto Di Matteo made six changes from the weekend with Ivanovic coming back after his suspension the most significant and the opening exchanges, with Torres looking to get behind their defence promised more than a night of frustration. They chances were exchanged pretty much tit-for-tat before Hatem Ben Arfa ran straight at us with much of a challenge and fed Papiss Cisse who took one touch and lashed it into the top corner. 0-1. Only 18 minutes gone but given the number of games recently the team didn’t look to have the legs for a fight back.
We had to wait until nearly half-time for Malouda to meet a Torres cross but the ball went agonisingly wide.
Mata and Drogba came on for Sturridge, a disappointing night for our budding England international, and Malouda. But although penetration improved a bit chances didn’t, corners rained in but Terry’s header was cleared off the line and the Newcastle that was taken to bits at Wigan looked to have come with a much improved attitude in defence.
Cisse again demaonstrated why we’ll probably be paying £90m for him next year by unleashing simply the most unanswerable strike in the history of Stamford Bridge. He had the ball out near the left touchline about 30 yards out and hit his shot first time on a arc that took out Cech and left the ball nestling in the bottom corner. 0-2.
And a tired Chelsea trudged off hoping to recover a bit a whiz ahead of Saturday but with 24-hours less rest than our opponents. Maybe next season we’ll get a break and have more rest than an opponent.
It was the first time in a generation Newcastle had beaten us at the Bridge on the league and we wish them luck in overhauling Arsenal for third spot.
Thursday 3 May
With a healthy lead in the FA Youth Cup final and the FA Cup proper on Saturday Chelsea collected the hat-trick when the Chelsea women team beat Arsenal 2-0 to reach their own cup final. Arsenal have won their cup so often people stopped counting, only Fulham, Charlton and Everton have been close enough to challenge in the last fifteen years.
The women’s final will be held at Ashton Gate in Bristol on the Saturday 26 May.
Jose Mourinho will be having a few shampoos tonight as Real Madrid clinched the Spanish league title by Beating Athletic Bilbao. That makes it seven titles in ten years as a manager.
West Ham took a step back towards the Premiership by beating Cardiff City 0-2 in Wales. If football has natural laws a West Ham promotion should mean a QPR relegation to even out the noisy upstart ratio.
Friday 4 May
Chelsea announced that they’ve put in an offer on the Battersea power station site to build a 60,000 seater. Plans include a bank of 15,000 seats at one end. No word though on who gets to row around the river collecting loose balls.
A mammothly expensive plan appears the only option if the club are going to move within three miles of the current ground and we have to declare an interest Battersea power station is just down the road for us and is framed in our son’s bedroom window. Being home before the end of Final Score has its appeal.
Blackpool took a slender advantage from the home leg of their play-off against Birmingham City. A 1-0 win at Bloomfield Road will need a lot of defending at St Andrews.
Saturday 5 May
FA Cup Final
Chelsea 2:1 Liverpool
FA Cup winners for the seventh time, John Terry became the first captain to lift the cup four times with the same club, Didier Drogba became the first man to score in four FA Cup finals, Ashley Cole won for the seventh time. We have not lost an FA Cup tie since Barnsley four years ago. No team have dominated the FA Cup since the Wanderers won five of the first seven cups between 1871 and 1878. The Wanderers, incidentally, split their games between Lillie Bridge grounds (just behind the present day Stamford Bridge) and Battersea park.
Days of destiny are probably always like this, slightly cold with the possibility of rain but little chance of Liverpool giving us a game. For the first hour this was a stroll and even after they’d deployed their biggest weapon they could do little more than go home nursing a slight grievance that the officials didn’t get a goalline decision wrong.
The day started like so many a cup final morning with reams of coverage on ESPN but, while the ticketed gathered at the stadium, the ticketless having two and a quarter extra hours to fill seemed content to book their favourite seat in the pub.
The match started with the usual caterwauling opera singer hitting all the high notes that Abide With Me doesn’t normally have and the national anthem all the while drowning out, once again, what used to be a communal sing along.
Liverpool showed the early nerves as Didier Drogba menaced from the first minute with a snap shot well over before he combined with Kalou to almost set up a chance. Cech had been watching when Mata fed Ramires on the gallop who beat Reina at his near post. 1-0. It was out of place in an otherwise uninspired start that the goal caught a good number unawares.
Liverpool had opted for Suarez with Gerrard supporting but our possession started to frustrate the scouse midfield and Gerrard dropped deeper and deeper trying to cope.
Kalou was making inroads down the left and nearly tricked his way through their defence but was dispossessed and for a while everything seemed to involve Kalou but nothing came of it. The rest of the half dwindled towards half0time with Liverpool seemingly unable to get players past our midfield or out wide.
No changes from either side at the break suggested Liverpool were content with things. Gerrard decided to try a dive (well, it worked in Istanbul) and having lunged into the box he flung himself forward but Phil Dowd had a decent afternoon and Liverpool got nothing – not even the card the performance deserved.
Didier Drogba decided that this was his time two simple passes found Lampard walking past a challenge in midfield and feeding Drogba on the edge of the box. Given time to turn and shoot he accepted with a simple left-foot volley across the ’keeper. 2-0.
Liverpool looked crestfallen to concede five minutes into the second-half but still refused to make changes. Preferring instead to drift for ten-minutes and waste possession. Eventually Spearing made way for Andy Carroll as you would expect, and he made quite an impact on the game.
But before he could Kalou could have sealed things as he ambled into their box before not curling his curling effort nearly enough. Frank Lampard tried to reproduce that thunderbolt from the semi-final but was just wide and then incredibly Liverpool sparked into life: Bosingwa dawdled and was robbed of the ball and when it fell to Carroll he seemed to turn this way and that looking for a shot with the crowd expecting it to get thumped wide or for a hilarious air shot, somehow he dows neither and hits the roof of the net. 2-1.
Carroll has suddenly found his mojo and is causing all kinds of problems for a defence that had looked lulled into a comfortable afternoon suddenly had to fight for every ball.
Suddenly Gerrard fired wide, Suarez had one saved and Agger headed wide as we failed to hold possession and then Suarez crossed for Carroll and they are wheeling away in celebration but the linesman and ref are not responding. Carroll thumped in a massive header and Cech managed get a fist to it and deflect it up and on to the bar. Ivanovic nicked the clearance away from Dirk Kuyt as he rushed in to try and finish.
For all the analysis afterwards everyone seemed to forget that that was probably the best and most significant save in a cup final since 1973 When jim Montgomery saved for Sunderland against Leeds.
Their followed a few half chances but we seemed to awaken to the danger and start to try to slow things down and control a little more Drogba won a free-kick which took 45 seconds to take as Lampard again tried the trick but Reina was equal to it. Somehow the Liverpool keeper and defence then handed the ball to Kalou but, as unlucky as ever for Salomon in finals, the ball wouldn’t fall for him and they cleared.
It took the sting out of the last few minutes and the referee finally blew.
Mata was named man-of-the-match, strangely as Petr Cech won it single-handed at the end and Ramires, Lampard and Drogba were all in with a shout.
The ceremonials were as usual Terry and Lampard lifting together and dropping the lid. The cheers and waves seemed more savoured by players and fans than recent finals but you just have to cast your mind back to March to know why: one final down, one big final still to come.
Sunday 6 May
None of our closest challengers for fourth could win so the improbably possibility of Champions league qualification remains; we just have to beat Liverpool. Arsenal drew at home to Norwich before the final yesterday, Newcastle lost to Manchester City and Spurs fluffed their lines by only drawing with Aston Villa.