No FA Cup giant-killing romance as plucky Chelsea fall at last

author avatar by 13 years ago

They came in their thousands to Stamford Bridge; full of voice, cheerful, and determined to have their day out. And for ninety-plus glorious minutes their fairytale remained alive.

Firstly, they held Premiership giants Everton at bay for the whole of normal time. Then, a 105th-minute strike from club talisman Frank Lampard put the home supporters in dreamland.

With just moments to go before the final whistle, even the most pessimistic fans dared to believe.

But football is an unsentimental game and Everton were not about to dish out charity. Leighton Baines produced the free kick that broke Chelsea hearts; a blow so close to the final whistle visibly knocked the stuffing from the Londoners.

Penalties may have provided a second chance, but with so much at stake, Chelsea could not hold their nerve. It was a cruel result for a brave, battling side that have worked so hard and who have invested so much into this greatest of cup competitions.

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With their league form shaky at best, an extended FA Cup run will be looked upon as a bonus by the honest little Londoners, once the bitter clouds of disappointment have faded.

“We gave it a good go,” said a crestfallen Frank Lampard after the match.

“Given our current form, we could have been over-awed – but the manager just told us to go out there and enjoy ourselves. And we almost stole it.”

The shirt of eventual Everton match-winner Phil Neville, grabbed in haste after the final whistle, will doubtless provide a consoling memory in years to come.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti refused to be philosophical in defeat. “Frankly I have had enough of this ‘plucky little Chelsea’ talk,” he said.

“If you look at the game, we matched them kick for kick, for ninety minutes or more. I think we deserve respect for that.”

He refused to comment on speculation linking him to the Crawley job.