Ok, be honest, how many of you thought Chelsea would emerge from Wembley with a 5-1 victory over Tottenham under their belt? After the nerve-filled drudgery of the recent stalemate between the two clubs in the Premier League there could not have been many who predicted that there would be six goals in Sunday’s encounter regardless of the frenetic nature of play that has traditionally characterised the FA Cup.
• Who Will Lead The Line Against Barcelona?
But the match was much more than just a victory for the Blue part of London. There was intrigue, controversy and even a moment of ugliness that will shape the memory of those who attended the match or watched on television.
The Moment of Silence
Disgracefully it was anything but. What should have been a time to reflect on the horrors of Hillsborough and to pay respects to the memory of Udinese player Piermario Morosini - who tragically died following a heart attack during a match against Pescara in Serie B on Saturday - instead became the platform for a few mindless idiots to shame the club and 99.9% of its supporters present by cutting through the vacuum with chants of ‘murderers’. Tasteless does not even begin to describe their actions and it is to the credit of the vast majority of those in Blue that they implored the perpetrators to cease emitting such bile.
I’m sure excuses will be given by some apologists laying claim to freedom of speech and high alcohol consumption will no doubt be cited as one of those though it cuts no ice with me. I’m all for singing gently mocking songs at the opposition and indulging in a bit of schadenfreude when the luck goes against your rivals but insulting the dead is so far over the line that it defies comprehension. Surely it is not too much to ask for club loyalties to put aside for a few seconds so that fans can show that they are human beings and not the Neanderthals that many outside the game convey us to be. Some may rail at the widespread proliferation of these minutes/moments of silence and the subsequent dilution of genuine sentiment and they may well have a point. However, that is an argument for another day and, for the sake of common decency, keeping your own counsel in such a situation has to be infinitely more preferable to the odious sounds heard prior to kick-off at Wembley. These ‘fans’ have embarrassed all of us who follow Chelsea and should be shunned without exception.
Chelsea’s “Phantom Goal”
On to the match itself and the major topic of discussion has undoubtedly been the decision to award Chelsea their second goal after a goal-line melee early in the second half. From my vantage point high in the upper tier of the stand on one side of the stadium it was hard to get a proper view. My first instinct was that it had not gone over the line but it was certainly close. I have since watched replays on television and seen photos of the incident and I have to say that I am pretty stunned at the scathing criticism that Martin Atkinson has received. I agree that there is nothing conclusive to say that a goal should have been given but to hear some of the observations of supposed neutrals you would think the ball had never left the centre circle.
For a start, there was only one TV camera that was pointed directly down the goal-line though unfortunately it was situated on the wrong side of the pitch to see a clear view of the incident. With no other camera providing a definitive verdict it seems extraordinary that so many people have been quick to categorically judge that it was not a goal especially when images such as this and this have become available today. Either way, Chelsea scored four other goals and displayed a cutting edge that Tottenham could only dream of thus rendering the debate obsolete.
Who Will Lead The Line Against Barcelona?
Popular wisdom – guided by Roberto Di Matteo’s recent selection policy - has tended to agree that whoever played in the key midfield and attacking positions at Wembley was unlikely to be in the starting eleven for what is certain to be a demanding and exhausting encounter against Barcelona on Wednesday. However, events during the pummelling of Spurs will have given the manager food for thought. Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres have, by and large, been used in one-game rotations in recent weeks and with the Ivorian starting at Wembley it had been expected that the Spaniard would take the field against his compatriots. That assumption must surely be questioned right now after Drogba put in one of those commanding performances that only he is able to produce. Strong, powerful and clinical, he put opposite number Emmanuel Adebayor in the shade.
Di Matteo may well have ear-marked Drogba for yesterday’s Wembley appearance and a starting berth against Arsenal next Saturday in the knowledge that he has a peerless strike rate both at the home of football (7 goals in 7 games) and against the Gunners (13 in 14 games) while unleashing a an unsullied Torres in the Champions League semi-final. While it is hard to argue with the Italian, who has made an exceptional start to his career in the Chelsea dugout, I can’t help feeling that the team will need the hold-up play of Drogba to ease the pressure on a defence that will be tested to the limit by Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and co. Having said that, wouldn’t it be just like football for Torres to really announce himself in a blue shirt with a match-winning display against Barcelona? Maybe that is asking too much but with the delirium of the 5-1 thrashing fresh in memory – not to mention that night against Napoli – the team have given us all a reason to dream.
You can read more of Phil's opinions at ShoutyAndSpitty.com or on Twitter @PhilLythell