Just as 2011 gets going, OBE here thought it time to take a look back at the past 12 months and pick out my favourite Chelsea moments.
In a year that brought our first ever Premier League and FA Cup Double there was bound to be plenty of high points, and while 2010 ended with a bad run not seen at the Bridge since the mid-‘90s, we at least returned to winning ways on Sunday with a 7-0 demolition of Ipswich in the FA Cup.
So in no particular order, here we go…
Proving the critics wrong
In the run-up to last January, we’d suffered a bit of a dip in form (though nothing by this season’s standards). Then came the African Nations, a time when four Blues would be gallivanting around Angola and Chelsea would be short. ‘Crisis!’ shouted the press. ‘Nonsense!’ shouted Carlo Ancelotti, as we proceeded to win our four January league games, and although Michael Essien would not return due to injury, the other three John Mikel Obi, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, all came back to help us on our way.
Conor’s Clincher in the Youth Cup
It had been 49 years since we’d last triumphed in youth football’s top competition with a side containing Peter Bonetti, Barry Bridges and Ron Harris. Several generations of Chelsea legends have passed since without junior success, so when Conor Clifford smashed home the winner against Aston Villa at the Bridge, 12,000 people saw the culmination of some serious hard work and rebuilding in the Academy. Expect more first-team involvement from the youth sides soon…
Alex’s free-kick v Arsenal
There’s one every year from the Brazilian barnstormer, and 2010’s effort did not disappoint. From somewhere between the 25 and 30-yard mark, the defender absolutely wellied it into the top corner of Lukasz Fabianski’s net, the goalkeeper making damned well sure he didn’t lose any fingers trying to save it. The fact Alex damaged his groin in the process and missed a few weeks of action (where we were unbeaten) seems to only heighten the quality of the strike.
Kalou’s hat-trick in the sunshine
He’s a lovely lad, Kalou. Sure, he can frustrate at times as he turns defenders and then himself inside out, but on a sunny afternoon in late April it all came together for the Ivorian, who netted his first Chelsea hat-trick and set us on the way to a big win against hard-working Stoke.
Frank Lampard’s goal against Stoke
Two moments from the same game. Such was the quality of football we were playing at that time, it’s not hard to see why. Lampsy’s finish, with the outside of his boot, on the volley, was top class, but this goal is nominated because of the assist from young Sam Hutchinson. It looked as though the versatile defender had finally beaten his injury problems that had plagued him almost three years, and on as a sub at right-back, he got forward and delivered a perfectly weighted far-post cross. There wasn’t a person at the club not delighted for Hutch that afternoon, and it was terribly sad for such a talented player to have to retire from the game just a few months later as the injuries returned.
Frank’s goal at Anfield
Penultimate game of the Premier League season, away at one of our biggest rivals. A victory was needed to stay top going into the last game at home to Wigan, and it duly came thanks to a goal in either half. It was the day all Chelsea fans, quietly, thought: ‘We’ve done it’, though no-one would say it out loud, just in case…
Beating Wigan 8-0 to win the Premier League
There are different ways of wrapping up a league title on the final day. Blackburn did it by losing in 1995, United beat Spurs in 1999, no doubt both satisfying in their own way, but has anyone ever done it with the class of Chelsea in 2010? Beating Wigan 8(eight, count them!)-0 must be the most convincing way ever. To make things even better, Didier Drogba scored a hat-trick to earn the Golden Boot, even after a minor disagreement with Lamps over who should be taking spot kicks…
Portsmouth pay the penalty
It was a fairytale story for Portsmouth, cash-strapped, relegated and managed by Avram Grant, to reach the FA Cup Final. Juliano Belletti was clearly feeling a little romantic when he brought down Aruna Dindane in the box to offer Pompey the Cup on a plate and deny us the Double. Thankfully Petr Cech was in less charitable mood and saved Kevin-Prince Boateng’s penalty. Drogba then struck at the other end with a cracking free-kick, and history was made.
Joe Cole scores at Old Trafford
Wasted showpony or silky matchwinner? JC divides opinion but his last Chelsea goal before leaving for Liverpool was him at his cheeky best. A low cross to the near post from Florent Malouda was flicked with his heel into the net to put us in front early on. Drogba smashed home late on to put us back on top of the league.
Ashley Cole’s goal against Sunderland
Remember this? Of course you do. John Terry sent a first-time through-ball over the top of the Mackem defence where the left-back galloped on, controlled the ball perfectly with his first touch, cut inside his man on his second and lifted it over the goalkeeper with his third. A rare goal for a consistent performer.
One of the many reasons to watch that Youth Cup run was to see a young midfielder in action who was attracting an ever-louder buzz. We all know him now, but anyone who saw Josh in action during that campaign will be overcome with smugness and saying ‘I told you so’ as he continues his progression under Ancelotti. Of course there is still work to do before he is the finished article, but at 17, time is probably on his side…
Peter Osgood’s statue is unveiled
It is now almost five years since Stamford Bridge’s favourite son passed away, but we will never forget Ossie, and to prove it the club erected a statue of the forward outside the West Stand, which was unveiled to the great man’s friends and family in early November. He now stands proudly for all visitors to the Bridge to see.
Let’s hope 2011 has just as many moments to remember…
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