I could have saved Chelsea’s premier league season. All by myself. Only yesterday I realised that my Torres jersey has some special power. I wore it for the Napoli second leg, Barca home and away, Spurs in FA Cup semi final and the FA Cup final. These matches have precisely been the games that have defined this season for us. If I had known about this Torres jersey, I could have worn it all season. Might even have saved AVB’s job.
FA Cup champions in what was the worst year for Chelsea in Roman era. Don’t you think this is out destiny? When Chelsea beat Napoli at Stamford Bridge, I concluded that there’s going to be something special. When we drew Barca, I was still saying this could happen, referees permitting. For how this seasons has progressed, I’ve been extremely confident since April. There’s Thai newfound dose of cockiness that’s come from somewhere – probably from the boot of Didier Drogba.
I ‘knew’ we would win this game. We had to become FA Cup champions. There’s no way this Liverpool team was going to nick this away from this Chelsea team in this season in a cup final. Our name was written on the cup. But we still had to go out there and do the job at Wembley.
I thought RDM once again made a perfect choice of first eleven. I should say that it’s great to have a manager whose logic in starting players and subbing players is very similar to your own. The last time I had such a feeling in Chelsea was when Jose was managing. It’s as if Jose and I had a telepathic connection. RDM’s selections and substitutions have been just like that.
No matter how much I wanted to see Torres on the pitch, I must say it was the right decision not to start him. Drogba is the big boss. Player for all the big occasions. And Kalou keeps the ball better in the wide areas and adds a little bit to our defence. It also was a great decision not to start Malouda or let Sturridge play. They want to be heroes even in the less significant games.
I expected Chelsea to make a strong start and we did. In the first half, it was just Chelsea trying to take the initiative and the lead. The breakthrough came from the two contenders for the Chelsea player of the season – Mata & Ramires. This was coming. Liverpool’s defence was poor all along the first half and it was only a matter of time before Chelsea would take advantage of that.
Mata’s pass was beautifully weighted and placed for Ramires who made his customary run to the box. Actually, just when a micro second when I thought Ramires had fluffed his chance, be ball hit the back of the net. Just ahead of kick off, I tweeted about how certain I was that Pepe Reine will let in an easy near post shot. That’s been his weakness. That’s exactly what happened. It was a very good run but a poor shot from Ramires. Pepe Reine let in a goal in the near post from what should have been a customary save for any decent keeper.
Chelsea were well in control of the game all through the first half. The lead was thoroughly deserved and a two goal lead was also deserved but it would only come in the second half. That smart pass by Lampard to well-marked Drogba at the box might have put everybody on alert to witness the Drogba moment of another important match. Drogba tool the pass nicely, didn’t lose his marker, had an acute angle on sight but finished it with superb precision.
After Chelsea took the 2-0 lead, Liverpool started showing some ambition. And that was the time, Chelsea took the foot off the gas and let Liverpool have the ball. As soon as Carroll came in, the momentum started to shift. Liverpool’s plan was to hoof it up to Carroll (like we would do to Drogba). And it worked perfectly well for them. Carroll, tall and strong, kept us in our toes. For their late efforts, Liverpool had to score one and that was fair and deserved. And Carroll took that goal brilliantly well. For big man, he had quick feet to lose Terry in that little space and fire home a super shot.
At this point, Chelsea could have gone for the third goal and made this a no-contest. Instead Chelsea opted to soak all the pressure and hit them on the break. It works well when you defend flawlessly but the Chelsea defence was very very shaky and we were careless when we had the ball. I was a bit concerned at that stage. But as we reached the 85th minute, Chelsea were back in cruise control and saw the match through.
Amidst all this there was this excellent save by Petr Cech (who was on God mode all game) instinctively cleared by Ivanovic which was misunderstood to be goal. Replays showed clearly that the ball did not cross the line. There was no need for phony graphics from ITV to show Liverpool were robbed or something. It was clearly not a goal.
In all fairness, Chelsea did not have to play on top gear and were still able to win this final. This is after Liverpool rested their players for weeks when Chelsea were busy beating Barcelona in the champions league. If Liverpool had taken the lead yesterday, they would have seen Chelsea in top gear. Chelsea were playing within their zone of comfort and didn’t have to throw everything at Liverpool.
Anyone who’s been observing our success rate in finals, in FA Cup competition, in Wembley – were not surprised by the outcome. We ended up winning our fourth FA Cup trophy in the last six years. Several other records were broken and created.
Few words on Roberto di Matteo. This man deserves all the compliments he’s getting. He’s achieved something in 3 months that Arsene Wenger has not been able to do for 7 years – he’s won a trophy! He’s been brilliant (di Matteo, it just can’t be Wenger) all along and richly deserves all the praise he gets. He’d taken on the job at the most difficult times and he’s rallied his troops around magnificently. It was such a tight rope balancing act in April to juggle between the premier league, champions league and the FA Cup and he’s done a great job with some maturity and pragmatism. Will he get the job? That’s a bigger question. That’s for another day.
FA Cup Champions! Another trophy. Another great recovery by this remarkable Chelsea team. And it’s not over yet. The countdown for the big night starts today. But until then, let’s enjoy and celebrate this win and the tag of ‘BlueChampions’.