Chelsea 1 Norwich City 1 AET
(Chelsea finally f*cking win a week and a half late 5-3 on penalties)
FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, Wednesday 16th January 2018 19:45
Tickets priced at double what they should have been in mid-January. For a game that was televised for all anyway. And thousands displaced because Norwich demanded the whole shed and then failed to sell even half of it. Utter farce. And that's before the game even kicked off.
In The News: We've won out against the "right to light" nonsense. Brendan Rodgers reckons he was hospitalised "over the strain of leaving the Red Scouse" in 2015. Presumably some kind of muscular strain from carrying all of the cash they paid him off with. Either that or the weight of his own fake teeth kept dragging his face down and he couldn't see where he was going until he had them removed. Nobody feels sorry for you Brendan. Somehow David Moyes is one of only four managers to have won 200 games in the Premier League. 'Arry Redknapp is one of the others. Proof that if you hang around like an unwanted, dirty fart long enough, just about anything can happen. As if lauding Keown, Sutton and Redknapp Jr. as the three wise men wasn't hilarious enough, the Daily Fail are bigging up their "brilliant" new column. The author of this splendiferous offering? Michael f*cking Owen. As if listening to him drone on isn't torture enough, they want us to read his drivel now too. "Guardiola has taken the hard road to glory." He says. Do shut up. Yawnworthy, attention seeking pillock with the intellectual capacity and charm of a dead haddock. The only brilliance he can claim credit for is finding an agent that continually convinces people to pay him for his boring, self-centred opinions.
Russia stand accused of planning to dope their whole team at the World Cup. Isn't clear if this is to make them play better or to help them cope with sitting through the whole yawnfest tournament. Speaking of international dross, Shearer has mocked Giggs's appointment as Wales manager, and with good cause after he spent an entire career using every ingrowing toenail or minor splinter to get out of playing for his country. More bizarre even than his sudden affinity for international football is the revelation that he has never apologised to his brother. And if you needed anymore proof that the Red Swarm are idiots, a whole article was dedicated to the fact that Sean Dyche's gravelly voice is down to the fact that he eats worms. I'd say you couldn't make this sh*t up. But they have.
Transfer B*llocks: As was expected, Merseyside police have confirmed with the Mayor of Scouseland that he is a rabid lunatic after he demanded that they investigate the Barkley transfer. An evening headline today has made my week. The same gutter press that spent the whole summer criticising us for not spending enough money, not being active enough in the transfer market, not buying enough players; the same Red Swarm that has spent the whole of the first half of the season reminding us at every juncture that Conte didn't get what he wanted because we suck as a club... Is now mocking us with this: "Chelsea struggling to profit from £185m summer spree." Do f*ck off. Apparently Sevilla have expressed a desire to sign Batshuayi. I hope they didn't watch the game tonight.
The Others: Just the 57 separate stories re the Scouse defeat of City. It did make me chuckle, but we will literally never, ever hear the end of this. My favourite one? Next year is their year. I've not heard that before. And Arsenal are still doing their best to amuse the rest of the footballing world. I don't know whether to laugh because they are so awful or cry because we still can't score against them. This comes hand in hand with the news that their whole squad is nearing the end of their contacts and the lofty claim that it's more expensive to support them than any other club on the planet. Two words: W*nker tax. Southampton robbed by naff refereeing. Shocker. Much more entertaining: French referee Tony Chapron kicks player who runs into him like a dope and then sends him off.
Us: In a week when Antonio has declared that keeping players happy is only a concern in England, and that in Italy nobody gives a sh*t as long as they do their jobs, he made a host of changes. I think Dave was the only survivor, but this match has now been dragged out for so long tonight that I don't actually care if that is right or not. Either way, he was clearly determined to do this largely with the same squad players that subjected us to the original tie at Carrow Road. The bench was stacked better this time, in case we needed to turn the screw. And boy would we need to try and turn the screw.
Them: I've spent eight hours on Asquith, Lloyd George and the collapse of the coalition in 1916 today. I'm all out of f*cks to give when it comes to things I don't really care about.
A trip to the posh seats in the East Middle for me tonight, to join JK of fancast fame. While everyone else was freezing their tits off outside we were indulging in gourmet pasta salad with brocollini and cheese twists, not to mention gin. There's no slumming it trying to get a 4G signal to get the team news, they give you a colour printout complete with a sexually suggestive and perhaps a bit creepy Bakayoko photo on it. This was the least I deserved after having to power walk from Parsons Green in four inch heels because TFL think we are stupid enough to believe that one faulty train causes a shut down of half the District Line.
Kick off was duly put back, as if everyone wasn't in a bad enough mood over this fixture already. But we plugged the gap by decadently quaffing smarties and minstrels like spoilt Gooners in Ossie's during the delay. JK and I saw nothing in the first five minutes to distract us from our pick n mix. Then we had a couple of half chances, culminating with a narrow miss for Dave on eight minutes. A free kick shortly afterwards went straight at the keeper, and from then on we began to drift. Norwich broke, and Big Willy came rushing out of his goal in his obligatory, once a game dash to the sideline, but once again he put it in the stands and bailed us out.
Can you get carpal tunnel in your feet? Because sometimes this feels like the only possible explanation for how bad poor Michy's first touch is. After he squandered an incoming ball on 18 minutes, Kenedy did manage to get his foot on it and take a shot shortly afterwards. It was blocked, but it was going out for a throw in anyway. And so the pain of the last couple of weeks continued. JK and I had survived so far, but now we were coming down off of our sugar high and the smartie supply was dwindling. The fact that we were achieving nothing almost didn't matter on 24 minutes when Tenacious Double D hit the crossbar, but it was already evident that Conte's number one priority at half time had to be to get someone to go over the offside rule with Batshuayi. Our hapless striker had even managed to set them up for their best opportunity of the game so far, by gifting them the ball on the edge of the eighteen yard box. We decided we'd almost rather have Andy Carroll than watch him do things like that. Almost.
Norwich had offered little going forward, but they were spritely and by no means incompetent. I have repeatedly told Pepe the Prawn off (muppet alias) for the Batshuayi song he's devised (Oh Michy your so bad, your so bad you make me sad, hey Michy) But it was going round and round in my head at this point. Luiz too had been woeful, same Zappacosta, not a lot better from Kenedy. Pesto (f*ck off autospell) had a bizarre one tonight. He went from good, to bad, to bonkers, to running about trying to mount everyone like a randy Jack Russell, to being a massive bellend tonight with his dive. As half time approached the bananas were coming into it more, and this was turning into another lacklustre display of sloppy play. Their fans had the cheek to start singing “Just like the library.” Two-thirds of a stand that would have been happily filled with the resident season ticket holders was empty because they are greedy dickheads. Upshot of the first half? Bertie the kitten has buried stuff in his litter tray that looks better than this football match.
If you could have seen Conte’s face on 49 minutes when Michy failed again, it was a picture. For a moment he looked like he wanted to run on and pummel him with his angry Italian fists, and then he just shook his head. But. On a day when I was about to let Batshuayi have it with both barrels for the blog, he then went and scored. You could argue that if he hadn’t put that in unmolested from five yards out we should have just packed him off to the knacker’s yard, but let’s not be mean. He’d scored, which is more than can be said for anyone else in the last fortnight. However, Norwich just wouldn’t f*ck off. Big Willy was earning his money tonight, punching the ball clear and then diving to cover another shot that eventually hit the post. Never mind all of the atrocious shirt pulling in the box by the away side. That’s allowed, apparently. Pesto got himself booked for a dive on 61. The bananas occupying a smaller fraction of the Shed than they’d promised were singing “Same old Chelsea, always cheating.” They’ve been in the same league as us for about two seasons in the last two decades. How would they know anything about what Chelsea get up to?
Caballero was forced into another save on 64 minutes, by which time Antonio was going psycho on the touchline. Another long range effort for Drinkwater went high and wide. My kingdom for Solomon Kalou to spring off the bench right now and dig us out of this, because you could just see it coming as we sank deeper and deeper. But Conte looked like he was going to try and rectifiy the situation, as Morata was taking clothes off. Usually this would make me very happy at such close range, but the game had been so dire that JK and I had resorted to discussing the Red Baron’s pre-flight career on the Eastern Front as a cavalryman in 1914. Christensen was getting ready too, as Bakayoko sent a shot sailing into the keeper’s arms. Closer than most efforts so far tonight. Michy and Chuckie Ampadu (Rugrats reference, google it) who was pretty blameless tonight, went off. On their part, some pasty ginger bloke limped off and was replaced by Wes Houlihan, who was the only player in the Norwich squad I have ever heard of.
The difference in class between our two strikers was alarmingly evident, even if Morata did miss yet more sitters. Conte brought Kante on too. If the twins Couldn’t bring this home, nobody could.
The biggest cheer of the night so far came when the tannoy announced that TfL had got their sh*t together and that the District Line was running again. But before we could make the cold, wet journey home, we had four minutes of injury time to negotiate. Or not. Ten seconds before their goal went in, I said to JK. “Please don't let them score and make us live through another half an hour of this.” It was a real “f*ck my life” moment. A kid who has never scored before, heads the ball without even facing the goal, and it somehow touches the post and bounces in, leaving Big Willy nowhere. JK and I stomped inside for coffee to steel ourselves for another half hour of this nightmare fixture that would not end.
At this point enter the referee, stage left. Refwatch: This man, having been pretty anonymous all night, rapidly began to accelerate towards the distinction of being a massive spunkmuppet in extra time. He looked like Kryten from Red Dwarf, with his alarming square head and lack of facial expressions, but moved slower than his mechanoid counterpart. Apparently Graham Scott has been on the select list of referees since he replaced Chris Foy in 2015. The fact that nobody could remember him or knew who the f*ck he was should tell you everything about how much PGMOL value him in this capacity. His booking of Willian was ludicrous. Even if you didn’t think it was a penalty, which would not be a criminal assessment, surely the bellend on the other end of VAR is pointing out to thim that the footage is not really conclusive, that you can’t rule out contact and that in the harshest possible assessment, Willian's fallen over whilst trying to avoid a leg that's been stuck out in front of him? But then, does it matter when the pratt has already started waving his cards around before even consulting it? Then it looked like he went back and consulted the chimp they must have installed at the console after all? Who knows, because the only indication we get of anything taking place is Kryten standing there with his finger stuck in his ear. For all we know he’s got Magic FM piped into it. And then because he’s already made his mind up we’re down to a choice of whether he wants to overule HIMSELF aren’t we? Not likely is it? Jesus wept. No, he didn’t just weep. He put on a mixtape of Lionel Richie ballads, stuffed his face with chocolate and sobbed into his pillow.
Conte brought on Hazard for Drinkwater. If we didn’t win this now we would actually be morons. In the first ten minutes of extra time we had looked more potent, but not really like scoring. With the introduction of Eden we really did look the better side now, and were only prevented from taking the lead on 13 minutes when the Norwich keeper made a fine reaction save from a Willian shot. B*llocks. I was joking when I said we’d end up flipping a coin for this, but it was starting to look like a distinct possibility. Morata missed another sitter, and it was just frantic. Luiz and Zappacosta were completely hanging out of their a*ses by this point. And yet every time we propelled ourselves forward, it seemed the latter ended up on the ball. Then he either gave it away or played the wrong pass.
“Zappacosta makes bad choices” said JK.
“Yes,” I replied, “like turning up for work.”
Another half chance passed Alvaro by, at which point Norwich began the age old ploy of pretending to have cramp. There was some semblance of a penalty shout, but by this point Kryten needed recharging. He was as wasted as some of the players and not even up with play. Norwich made their last sub, who walked off so slowly that he made Kolo Toure look like a whippet. He even celebrated how long he took with his mates on the bench. But have no fear Norwich. Kryten is going to try and get you over the line. Firstly, he sent Pesto off. I’d have been less p*ssed off had I not watched him blithely ignore several similar, cynical fouls on our players before he produced a second yellow. But he hadn’t even started yet. What is the point in VAR, if you are going to book a player TWICE without even calling on it. The monumental cockwomble didn't feel the need to even consult a wealth of technology and a person specifically installed for his scenario when Morata went down in the box. I’ve seen those penalties given, I’ve seen them not, but it certainly didn’t constitute a f*cking dive. And what moron with an ounce of common sense produces a first yellow without consulting VAR and then a f*cking second because the player is understandably p*ssed off about it? I watched Andre Marriner, who is a grade A f*ckwit himself, just turn away looking bemused. If Andre Marriner is judging your professional standards, just dig a hole in the pitch and climb in it.
Down to nine men. Absolute farce. But then something happened in the stadium. Because we Chelsea fans like nothing more than a bit of siege mentality and a good row. With penalties on the cards, you’d have thought it was a Champions League semi-final now. Whilst the bananas went into a huddle to plan their spot kick strategy, Conte spent nearly five minutes screaming at Marriner. This is how bad the referee was in the latter stages of this game. Antonio Conte saw Marriner as the voice of reason. Presumably having exhausted every swearword in the Italian language, he retreated to gee up his players. At least the shootout was going to take place in front of the Matthew Harding. At least Morata can't take one and inevitably miss, giving the Red Swarm hours of amusement.
Little Willy: Hit it like a boss.
Banana #1 Saved. Get in Big Willy. I could have licked his bald head at this point.
Luiz: Only his second decent touch of the night, but I’ll take it.
Banana #2: Sent Caballero the wrong way. Booo.
Dave: Smashed it. No chance for the keeper
Banana #3: In again. W*nker
Kante: Oh God, we said, he hits everything high! Why did we doubt him? Get in the twins.
Banana #4: Strode up with a bit of swagger. High and in. Git
It was all down to Eden, and of course he didn’t fail us.
Thank f*ck that’s over.
So: My footballing life has become like a country and western song. First Norwich game was like I lost my job. Arsenal was like someone came and repossessed my car. Leicester was like my boyfriend left me and tonight? Tonight it was like someone ran over my dog. Somehow we floundered our way past the post, I know not how based on that performance. And my Virtual A*sehole Rage is now off the scale, because its been brought in and managed with a level of competence that makes Brexit look like a f*cking cakewalk, and I fail to believe that select referees, the people running it and the clubs didn’t sit down and SPEAK TO EACH OTHER before the decided to f*ck with the beautiful game.
*Picture of a flying big Willy comes from Chelsea's official site