A global archive of independent reviews of everything happening from the beginning of the millennium
To send us a review you have written click here
To register FREE as a freelance writer or journalist click here
Read our Copyright Notice click here
CHELSEA V. LIVERPOOL, CARLING CUP FINAL, MILLENNIUM STADIUM, CARDIFF, 27 FEBRUARY 2005.
Reviewed by ANDRE BEAUMONT
Chelsea 3, Liverpool 2, after extra time.
(Half-time: Chelsea 0, Liverpool 1; full-time: Chelsea 1, Liverpool 1).
Chelsea has long been a club rich in tradition. I first watched the team from the shed in an FA Cup match against Spurs. Terry Venables had recently left to play for the opposition and there was anxiety in my two schoolboy friends that
the departure of a star player to a rising club signalled possible declining fortunes.
They need not have worried. Osgood remained good and he was the real star player. Chelsea's tradition soon established itself as that of a club whose rightful place was as a top five club. Some years it fell disappointingly short. In others glory was won in the FA Cup, Cup Winners Cup or League Cup. The burden of expectation that lay upon Spurs and Liverpool of having won the league in recent memory did not over trammel enjoyment of fair reward.
Liverpool's tradition is one garlanded in honours beyond those of any other English club. In the last ten years, though, Liverpool has probably been Chelsea's closest competitor on the field. Top five but not quite tops. A not dissimilar number of Cups. Their fans' anxieties at the Millennium stadium perhaps akin to those I have described. Star player Michael Owen has quit for Real Madrid. Steven Gerrard, the remaining key player on whom hopes hang, has talk swirling around him of a move to the opponents on the field. It would surely be best for his long term renown if he remained at the same club.
Unlike most in Fulham in those days, I went away to school, and was astonished to find in my new temporary abode, that many who lived nowhere near Chelsea had adopted it as their club. For some reason, this phenomenon was not too apparent in the years that Ken Bates rebuilt the club but is now re-emerging in the Jose Mourinho era.
Mourinho is, as far as one can tell, good for Chelsea. I have often wondered what Napoleon would be like if he came back today. No contemporary man in the public eye seemed to demonstrate his extraordinary mix of character traits. Until Mourinho, a man of Napoleonic profile and stature.
If the new millennium would have offered Napoleon no scope to further a career as sovereign, Emperor and warmonger, he could have made a football manager building a European empire with global ambitions.
A man of unpromising beginnings in his field, he became the foremost of three emperors. A serial winner in the field, his presence was said to be worth 40,000 men. An extraordinary motivator, full of charm, with a ruthless overwhelming self-regard, prone to honouring himself rather than accepting honours from other. At heart belligerent, after defeating a rival emperor he could temporarily be graciously flattering, all the while learning the trade of emperor better. Forever wishing to control his press, with inclinations against free expression, defeat was followed by suppression of information and diversions.
At Cardiff, Mourinho dominated subsequent headlines with his removal from the pitch for making a now infamous, but engaging, 'shushing' gesture. Chelsea's players went on to win it for themselves, in the follwing 42 minutes, following, no doubt, the spirit of his orders.
After being frustrated and outplayed by Liverpool in the first half, the near inevitability of Chelsea's comeback was signalled, in my view, by Mourinho's replacement at half-time of Jarosik by Gudjohnsen, who displayed fine skills and doubled the effective strike force near the penalty area. Thereafter, Chelsea dominated possession.
The first minute of the game caught Chelsea's defence largely out of position. Morientes on Liverpool's right evaded full-back Gallas, fired across goal, easily by-passing the centre-halves Terry and Carvalho, into the path of oncoming John Arne Riise on the left who, unmarked by Ferreira, volleyed excellently well past Cech. The defence later improved, with Terry and Gallas making good long runs into Liverpool territory, and Terry even winning the man of the match award, but Cech, without making evident errors, continued to have an indifferent game. Lampard, too, though adjudged to have won the battle with Gerrard in midfield, look a man low on inspirational energy at this juncture of the season.
Chelsea dug in for a long haul but for the first quarter they were mostly on the defensive, threafter gaining more possession. Dudek did well keeping out shots on goal. In the end, Liverpool came out on top in the first half both in terms of the score and in the effectiveness of their play.
Chelsea pressure was relentless in the second half and all waited to see if the dam would be breached. Liverpool's lacklustre Kewell was soon replaced by Nunez. Just as time was trickling away, eleven minutes to go, Gerrard, rising to a cross from Ferraira that evaded Chelsea players, nodded the ball off the back of his head into the corner of Liverpool's net. Chelsea's relative inability to score goals over the four previous fixtures might have temporarily diminished their confidence but this gift conclusively reversed the situation and any doubts in Mourinho's demeanour and behaviour.
Mostly unaware that their manager had been directed to leave the pitch, Duff, always speedy on the wing, and Lampard, fired away at goal to attempt to resolve the match. Gallas had been replaced by Kezman in the 74th minute to increase the attacking players to five but following the Liverpool's own goal, as his last executive act on the pitch, Mourinho replaced an industrious Joe Cole with Glen Johnson, restoring the defence to full strength. All his substitutions proved well judged.
In extra time, Drogba soon hit the post and Liverpool counter-attacked, but the outcome, increasingly less in doubt as Chelsea played with growing fluency despite tired legs, was not resolved till its second period. Glen Johnson's long throw-in fell close to Drogba who tapped in past the legs of a defender.
Five minutes later, all issues seemed settled as a cross from Gudjohnsen from near the goal line, with all the trajectory of a carefully judged shot on goal, came down at the feet of Kezman, who poached another tap-in, the fourth, and possibly the most important, goal of his season.
Matters had not, however, all been settled. A minute later, Nunez headed in a free kick from Gerrard to conclude an energetic contest between teams still vying for Champions' League honours.