Singing, Sunshine and Celery... But Benitez Costs Chelsea The Budweiser FA Cup
Having spent a full day with friends and family singing and having a few drinks before and after the game, I stand by my assertion that this was a great day out ruined by a game of football.
Ultimately we have lost our FA Cup crown, but eventually we refused to go out without a fight pushing Manchester City right to the final whistle in a game which on another day may have gone our way.
The day started at the Globe Pub opposite Baker street tube station where around 200 Chelsea fans had congregated in one of our traditional pre-Wembley haunts, the pub was full to bursting so fans spread out across the pavement bringing their own beer.
The next couple of hours consisted of singing songs, drinking beer, throwing celery, enjoying the clear blue skies and talking about the game ahead.
Confidence was high amongst many fans but having endured the reign of “The Interim One” and the inconsistent and abysmal performances that have accompanied his floundering in the dugout meant that I was pessimistic about our chances.
I was particularly concerned about the absence of both John Terry and Frank Lampard from the starting line up. In the big games you need your experienced players and it came across that Benitez was building for his legacy with a symbolic decision to omit them.
However in the last decade we have been spoilt and Wembley really feels like a second home and I was hopeful that this would be a good omen.
Knowing that the winner would face Wigan in May this felt like the Final with both sets of fans confident that they would win the trophy if they could get past the semi-final.
In the end the Budweiser FA Cup Semi Final was a great day out undermined by 60 minutes of passive and uninspiring football from Chelsea that saw Manchester City score twice and put the game just out of our reach.
This game was similar in make up to the FA Cup Final last season with one team dominating for 60 minutes until a substitution changed the balance of the game, but not enough to bring the team back onto level terms.
Unfortunately on this occasion we were the team that failed to turn up for the first hour. We failed to pressure the ball in midfield with the opposition threatening every time they went forward.
A few decent results last week cannot paper over the poor performances that have become par for the course under Benitez.
We went in at half time just a goal down but in reality we were lucky to keep it to one.
We were all quite flat at half time as it was hard to see a way back into the game unless we could start quickly and change the rhythm of the game.
Of course we come out and the team talk goes out of the window almost immediately with a well taken goal from Aguero that beat many fans on both sides back to their seats after their half time pint.
At this point it pains me to praise Benitez who took decisive action bringing on Torres for Mikel and a goal materialised moments later with this uncharacteristic statement of intent the catalyst for a second half fightback that arguably should have led to an equaliser.
Demba Ba scored another brilliant goal and we were now able to push forward and induce panic at the heart of the Manchester City defence, coming within inches of creating an equaliser on a number of occasions.
The last few minutes were frenetic and the key talking points of the game the Aguero tackle and Torres penalty appeal were difficult to judge from my seat but the television evidence is quite damming.
It is always great to visit our impressive second home but hopefully the next time we visit there will be a happier ending.
Despite some positives it is hard not to be disappointed by the performance that saw us relinquish our Budweiser FA Cup crown. I refuse to accept tiredness as an excuse particularly given how we finished the game, instead Benitez got it tactically wrong as we were unable to cope with Manchester City’s midfield.
He can also be criticised for the ego driven omission of Frank Lampard and John Terry as this attempt to show the progress in moving the team forward contributed to this defeat.
It’s always difficult refereeing such an important match but it is frustrating when you do not get the decisions that could have changed the game in your favour. That being said we shot ourselves in the foot by failing to turn up.
Fourth place in the league should now be the focus and we cannot afford to fail to turn up for an hour when we face Fulham in midweek.
Congratulations to Manchester City, few will be betting against them for the final.
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