Monday 13 May
FA Youth Cup Final 2nd Leg
Chelsea 2:3 Norwich City
Finals week at Chelsea wasn’t supposed to start like this. We could moan about the penalties – both ridiculously soft – or about the rough defending Norwich were routinely allowed without sanction but in the end their stubborn aggression was too much.
Aston Villa pointed the way in the NextGen final proving that at this level big strong lads have an advantage over quick creative players. They did have some speed on the flanks but defended with everyone and counted on the break.
We might have lost but this has been an outstanding season for the U18 and many have pushed themselves forward – Nathan Ake only watched tonight because he will be in Amsterdam on Wednesday on first-team duty. Alex Kiwomya, Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Adam Nditi, Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, John Swift all stand on the brink and will find themselves on loan and honing their skills in first-teams next season.
Jeremie Boga deserves special mention for giving us hope. First by equalising on aggregate and then by pulling a late goal back but it was not enough.
Special mention also to the fans in a gate of 17,000 there was singing and banter and a family atmosphere. Norwich City brought ten coaches and did their side proud. Delia Smith, Ed Balls and Stephen Fry will all be delighted.
Elsewhere Crystal Palace beat a nervous Brighton to reach the play-off final against Watford. It is a shame for Gus Poyet’s side but they will come on stronger next term for the experience.
In manager news Manchester City sacked Roberto Mancini in an ungrateful move but finishing only second is clearly not good enough. To be fair they stank in Europe and never really challenged their neighbours. They have been treading water and the cup final was probably the last straw.
Tuesday 14 May
Both Eden and John travelled with the squad for tomorrow’s game in the Netherlands but Hazard will not be playing. Terry will be reassessed on the morning of the game.
Arsenal showed no sentimentality to Wigan by thrashing the FA Cup winners 4-1. The Gooners climb into fourth while Wigan become the third and last to slip out if the Premiership. It all comes down to Sunday when we play Everton at home, Arsenal are away at Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspurts are at home to Sunderland.
News is starting to emerge that if we finish level on points, goal difference and goals scored we will have a play-off with Arsenal.
Wednesday 15 May
Benfica 1:2 Chelsea
Last gasp dramatic winners have rarely been so late or dramatic. After a night of poor defending and wasteful attacking we somehow managed to nick this. To cap it all Frank Lampard announced that he is close to a new deal to keep him at the club beyond the summer.
Benfica started the better side as they pinged the ball around midfield and walked past lame challenges from David Luiz and Lampard both of whom let their game slip at the worst possible time. Torres was dropping deeper and deeper looking for the ball and our defending was passive, we never pressed the player in possession so they simply played round us.
The Portuguese side arrived in the box time and again and were unlucky that we managed to get bodies in the way – just.
The half could be characterised by one move that saw Torres bravely holding the ball up against two defenders waiting for support only for the team to play the ball all the way back to Cahill on the edge of our box.
Just as it looked like we’d surrendered Frank Lampard reminded the game that we were there. Picking up possession he thrashed a shot at goal that the Benfica ’keeper just palmed away; brilliant stuff from both and the first class of the evening.
The second-half started much as the first had ended the closest we could get to the ball was to bring them down. A succession of free-kicks and corners ended with the ball in the net but an offside flag saved our bacon – he looked level.
The shock woke Chelsea from their collective slumber. Mata started to spray some passes around but the breakthrough came from a more direct source – channelling the Wimbledon side of 1986 – Petr Cech threw the ball straight down the middle, Mata flicked, Torres ran on to it held off the defender, rounded the ‘keeper and lashed the ball in from an angle. 0-1.
We didn’t have long to enjoy the lead as the referee bizarrely interpreted Azpilicueta’s hand deliberately getting in the way of a ball travelling at speed from an inch and a half away. Cardozo scored and immediately collapsed with cramp. 1-1.
We should have had a penalty of our own when Torres was rugby tackled in the box but the referee calmly allowed the foul.
The recovered Cardozo drew a flying save for Petr Cech a few minutes later but we were in the game now and competing. Frank tried again to stamp his authority on the match from twenty and odd yards his shot cannoned back of the cross bar.
Ramires was having a very unlucky night as his runs were either stopped by a poor pass, an offside flag or in this case a deflection for a corner, Mata swung it in and this time Branislav Ivanovic popped up to direct a looping header back across goal and in. 1-2. The whole place exploded. Try telling anyone in blue that the Uefa Cup doesn’t mean anything.
Benfica immediately punted the ball up field and Ivanovic was still buzzing, still drunk on the moment but Gary Cahill was alert and both blocked the shot and cleared in one movement without fouling the striker. It was a tackle every bit as important as the goal.
Poor Benfica, if only they could shoot.
The final whistle was moments behind the chance and we had the final piece of the jigsaw. Chelsea are only the fifth and the first English club to have won all three European trophies. Uefa Cup winners 2013.
John Terry supermaned into his kit to collected the trophy with Frank Lampard. John is in danger of becoming a mascot on European final nights. Next year he’ll perhaps get to play.
Spare a thought for Béla Guttmann the Hungarian coach who won back-to-back European Cups with Benfica and was refused a pay rise, his response: “not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever win a European Cup,” that was in 1962. Thank the baby cheeses too, that Eddie McCreadie had no Hungarian blood.
Thursday 16 May
Frank Lampard signed a one-year extension to his contract meaning he will be with us for many more late runs from midfield and so say all of us. It seems he was holding out for a deal that matched his current wages and has been rewarded.
Back at the awards dinner and Juan Mata scooped both player and players’ player of the year. Nathan Ake got best sprout and Oscar won goal of the season for his hit against Juventus a long, long time ago.
Friday 17 May
Thibaut Courtois and Atlético Madrid pulled off the shock of the season in Spain by beating Jose Mourinho’s Real in the Copa del Rey final. Jose was sent to the stands, Ronaldo was sent off for a petulant kick and Courtois pulled off exceptional saves from Ozil and Higuain in extra-time.
The bonkers idea of a play-off with Arsenal to see who finishes third has been fleshed out. The wonks at the Premier League have clearly lost the plot completely; Villa Park would stage the match on Sunday 26 May should we finish level on points, goals and etc. Content to ignore results between the two sides as a way of deciding the issue the league have forgotten that the Chelsea team will be completely exhausted, not only from a 69-game season but the flight back from the United States where we play Manchester City the day before.
Saturday 18 May
The Bantams made the leap into League One by overpowering Northampton Town at Wembley. Bradford City have been to Wembley before this season – you might not remember the League Cup final but they played Swansea City and got a bit of thrashing so this seemed like justice.
Sunday 18 May
Chelsea 2:1 Everton
That last game for both managers on a day of retirements and resolutions. We secured third spot with this win with Arsenal also winning to keep Spurs in fifth. Poor old Tottenham…
The afternoon started with a glittering early break with Demba Ba’s shot rebounding to Mata, the little Spaniard applied his twentieth finish of the season. 1-0.
The first-half was pretty much all Everton after that: Steven Naismith equalised, 1-1, and the Toffees could have had four before the break with a mixture of poor finishing, Petr Cech and their shooting boots being half way to the beach let them down.
We didn’t go completely quiet. Frank Lampard managed to smash wide the best opportunity and Nathan Ake had a chance to put the gloss on a great personal performance and season, only his shot was just too high.
Oscar took the second-half to his own, playing his 79th game of the season the young Brazilian was full of running and broke forward constantly pinning Everton back.
Fernando Torres took the opportunity to finish on a high as he rifled in Victor Moses’ knockdown. 2-1.
That was that, somehow the chances Everton spurned late on never felt like they would go in and the season was done.
Elsewhere, Romelu Lukaku scored a second-half hat-trick as Steve Clarke’s WBA drew a quiet end of season match with Manchester United 5-5. Alex Ferguson bowed out. Also departing this footballing life are Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, David Beckham, Stiliyan Petrov, and Mark Halsey. We wish Petrov and Halsey a long life and hope we have heard the last of Beckham.
Earlier at Wembley our near neighbours Brentford slipped at the final hurdle and so Yeovil Town will play in the Championship next season. What is that you say? Brentford always seem to screw up promotion.
In Belgium, Thorgan Hazard (Eden’s brother) guided Zulte-Waregem to within a win of the title as they needed to beat Anderlecht on the last day but managed only a draw. It has been a phenomenal season for the younger Hazard.
Spare a thought for Benfica as Porto confirmed their Portuguese league title.
The players paraded the Uefa Cup on the traditional post-season lap. Frank Lampard said thank you almost as if he had forgotten that he will be here next year and the stands reverberated with Jose Mourinho’s name.
In 2009 the stands shook to the name of Guus Hiddink, the players bought him a gold watch as a memento. Rafael Benitez didn’t show his face and the guys will send someone down to the garage for flowers after next week’s implausible games against Manchester City.