The third round of the FA Cup has a history of pitting the Davids against the Goliaths of this world. On this occasion, however, this was completely lost on Kasabian’s Pizzorno and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, as they combined together to produce a cacophony of ties. Chelsea v Ipswich. Thanks. We’ve all seen it before. Two years back, inspired by a Michael Ballack double and a Frank Lampard screamer, we sent the farmers back to Ipswich on their tractors. FA Cup Third Round is about romance. There was no romance in Chelsea v Ipswich at home. Add to the fact that this was seventh year in a row in which Chelsea have drawn lower league opposition at home in the Third Round, you could see why some Chelsea supporters, including myself, weren’t pleased to draw the East Anglian side.
Chelsea and Ipswich, though in different leagues, have a similar story to tell in the last couple of months. Defeats, draws, misery and solitary league wins; Ipswich though managed to show a League Cup quarter-final win over West Brom in that period. In the week preceding the tie, Chelsea managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat only to throw it away again as I literally aged a year during the last 10 minutes of the game against Aston Villa. Midweek saw us travelling to the bottom side in the league and coming back with only the matchday programme. For the fine people of Suffolk it wasn’t any better. First they saw Dani Filth voted as the Icon of Suffolk in a poll conducted by ‘Choose Suffolk’ tourism website and then they saw his name being taken off the final list by the judges. Good Call, in my opinion! On the football front, the team slipped to yet another defeat at home to Forest. Carlo Ancelotti and Roy Keane, were both heavily tipped for the sack by the bookmakers; it was a matter of which owner blinked first. Marcus Evans couldn’t hold his nerve and another Roy was consigned to history, joined later in the week by the affable Hodgson. It’s a results business at the end of the day and few Ipswich fans, I have talked to, are shedding any tears. Ian McParland, former Notts County boss, took temporary charge for the visit to the capital.
It was a bright Sunday afternoon in this corner of West London as I set on my way to Stamford Bridge. Getting off at Earls Court, I looked around expecting to see a few tractors in the vicinity but there were none. Presumably, the Ipswich fans had parked them on the periphery of London and had decided, in fine London tradition, to tube it to the Bridge. With the increasing ticket prices, many people have been priced out of premier league football. If you want to take a child to any stand apart from the East Stand, you have to pay the full adult price. Where is the logic in that? Cup games therefore are a welcome break as the club have stuck with their policy of reducing admission prices. In today’s game for example, kids would have got in for 12 pounds which isn’t bad at all to watch the current FA Cup holders. It was therefore a pleasant sight to see more families and kids, as I made my way through the West Brompton cemetery thinking about the game ahead and at the same time reflecting on the futility of this life.
In spite of the midweek setback at Wolves, there was positivity all around in the Chelsea camp pre-match. Chelsea gave first starts to young England U-17 international Joshua McEachran and Dutch U-21 international Patrick Van Aanholt. With Grant Leadbitter suspended, Jake Livermore injured and Jack Colback recalled by Steve Bruce, Ipswich were missing a few players of their own but young England U-17 stiker Connor Wickham, chased by a number of clubs, was in the starting line-up . Chelsea have fallen into a dreadful habit of starting games on the backfoot lately but it wasn’t the case today as, right from the first whistle, there was assertiveness in our play. Early exchanges presented Chelsea with a host of opportunities with Anelka, Sturridge and McEachran all working the Ipswich defence. For the visitors, Jason Scotland had the best chance in the first half but he saw his left-footed shot, which swerved in the air, tipped away by Petr Cech. There was a moment of concern for the Chelsea fans in the first half when Petr Cech was knocked out in a collision with Wickham but fortunately the Czech managed to recover.
With the clock ticking past the half-hour mark and Chelsea not making the most of the opportunities, you began to wonder if it was going to be one of those days. It wasn’t. Anelka, who was having a great game, then danced through the Ipswich defence and struck a powerful shot past Fulop. The latter did manage to get a hand to it but there was too much momentum on the ball and he watched in despair as it inched towards the goal. And then Saloman Kalou arrived. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Saloman Kalou as much as I love my local kebab shop but what he did next was daylight robbery, reminiscent of what Nugent did to Defoe.
There was no way any Ipswich player would have got to the ball even if Usain Bolt was playing for them. But, that’s why we love Saloman Kalou, who in the process scored his 50th goal for Chelsea. The lead was doubled moments later as Sturridge flicked Bosingwa’s cross with his right foot(I am lead to believe) into the net. David Norris then went flying into John Terry on the left flank. The referee immediately blew his whistle and booked the former Plymouth man. John Terry though, thought it was a fair tackle. From the resulting Lampard freekick, Carlos Edwards headed the ball into his own net as Chelsea went into the break 3-0 at HT. No disrespect to Ipswich fans, but before the whistle was blown, we were already checking out the FA Cup draw for the next round. Everton away. A difficult one, we reckoned. Ipswich fans presumably were already thinking about the journey back at that time.
As the team emerged from the tunnel for the second half, we were expecting more of the same. Moments after the restart Anelka had a quick one-two with Kalou before confidently placing it past Fulop. Best finish of the game I thought. An afternoon of misery continued for Ipswich as Sturridge doubled his goals tally with a curling right footed shot past the former Sunderland goalie, who must be thinking it was groundhog day all over again. There was a brief respite for the Ipswich team as goals dried up for the next twenty odd minutes but Chelsea were still on top. Ipswich, for all their endeavour, had nothing to show for it. Their passing was agricultural (excuse the pun) at best. Wickham cut a forlorn figure upfront and was later substituted. It was a difficult afternoon for the teenager up against two international centrebacks. Lampard, who was having his best game since return from injury, put the game to bed with a double strike near the 80th minute. First, he shot from the edge of the box, as the ball fell to him from an earlier corner. Second, some good work from McEachran released Ivanovic, whose low cross was tapped in by Frank. Chelsea fans chanted ‘We want eight’ but that would have been a bit too harsh on the Ipswich fans. As Andy D’Urso blew his final whistle, Chelsea had recorded their highest aggregate cup win, second only to the 9-1 win over Worksop Town in 1907. Que Sera Sera, ….. We’re going to Wembley (again) … we sang as crowd filtered out of the stadium onto the Fulham Road.
As I sit on the west side of the Shed, it’s sometimes difficult to make out the atmosphere in the away end, but I have it on good authority from someone who was there that it wasn’t anything special. The only bit which I could hear clearly from the away fans when they started off with ‘We’re the right side … We’re the left side’ in the second half. Most of them however stayed till the end and they were a credit to their club. In the home stands, the atmosphere was much better than the previous matches against Villa and Wolves, helped undoubtedly by the good performance and goals galore. I felt a tad sorry for Ian McParland, thrust into the position after Keane’s sacking and then having to see through the 7-0 defeat. The task doesn’t get any easier for him as they face Arsenal next. It’s easy to get carried away by this emphatic win as Chelsea supporters but that’s a mistake I believe few will make.
Today was all about the Cup though and after such a convincing victory we can afford to be a bit chipper. As I saw young cheerful faces going back home with their parents, and probably with some tales to recount to their friends and family, I realized that there was still magic in the cup; magic in a Chelsea v Ipswich 3rd round tie. Not in the way as we generally relate it to – a small unfashioned club standing up against the established hierarchy – but may be it’s about putting a smile on a child’s face.
Next stop. Merseyside.
Well, we said it was sometimes amusing for the underdog to get a smashing in the FA Cup. Cheers to Yasser for his take on this humiliating defeat for the Horses. And if you’re wondering about the rainbow photo, the end of it is in Cobham. It is.