2008 started with us second best to QPR but scraping a 1-0 win at home to see us into the fourth round of the FA Cup. An evening game at home to Everton in the Carling Cup semi was next and somehow, after Mikel had walked for a two-footed challenge, ten-man Chelsea came away with a 2-1 win. Great stuff. Spurs at Stamford Bridge in the league followed and a SWP goal and Juliano Belletti screamer gave us another 2-0 win which put us just four points off United. Three more points away at Birmingham with a Claudio Pizarro goal followed before a 1-0 away at Goodison set up a Carling Cup final with Spurs. Nicolas Anelka’s first goal for Chelsea helped us to a 2-1 win at Wigan to see us progress in the FA cup before seeing the month out with a Ballack’s first half header enough to secure a win at home to Reading.
The month started with points dropped at Fratton Park despite another Anelka goal, although to be honest, Defoe’s equaliser was no more than Pompey deserved. Points dropped at home to Liverpool next in the usual bore draw and failure to capitalise on United’s defeat to Citeh at Old Trafford. A break from the league saw us welcome Huddersfield to Stamford Bridge in the fifth round of the FA cup – then wave them goodbye with a 3-1 defeat. February had also seen a trip to Athens although the game against Olympiakos hardly warrants a mention. The month ended with the Carling Cup final against Spurs and our first cup final defeat as a Berbatov penalty and Woodgate header cancelled our Drogba’s earlier strike. Oh well.
The start of March and a game Upton Park gave us the opportunity to put the Carling Cup defeat out of our heads although unfortunately for West Ham, they got the backlash with a 4-0 drubbing. Olympiakos next and plenty of fingers crossed it couldn’t be quite as dull at the Bridge – as luck would have it – it wasn’t, and we were rewarded with a 3-0 scoreline after an impressive performance. Back on the Chelsea rollercoaster ride, and the FA cup 6th round saw us crash out away at Barnsley. And back we come again at home, with a 6-1 against Derby – all good fun. Then John Terry’s first goal in 19 months gave us a 1-0 win at Sunderland before we took Spurs on again, this time in the league. Unfortunately, despite being 3-1 up on the hour, we’d somehow let them level it 3-3 and even Joe Cole’s strike 9 minutes before time, we still couldn’t hang on as Robbie Keane nicked a point for them in the last minute. The next game saw us fall a goal behind at home to Arsenal before a Didier Drogba brace completed a great comeback, taking us above the gunners in the league into the bargain. And despite Boro being denied by the woodwork three times, Ricardo Carvalho’s first goal of the season was enough to see out March with another win at home.
Fenerbahce up first in April and a 1-all draw in the first leg of the quarter final, followed by a 2-0 win away at Eastlands – if we’d known what was to come in the summer we really should have punished them a bit more! Then Fenerbahce again and goals from Ballack and Lampard giving us a 3-2 aggregate win and a place in the semis. Oh, and next to visit Stamford Bridge was Wigan – a Wigan side who’d managed just one point away all season, so it was pretty predictable they’d see that doubled against us. So that 1-1 draw saw us fail to close the gap on United and we were now 5 points adrift with 4 games to play. A 1-0 win away at Goodison was followed by one of the most embarrassing press conferences in the history of football as Avram Grant took a vow of silence the minute they started asking questions. Anfield in the Champions League and despite it being totally undeserved at 1-0 down, we walked away with a draw. Benitez predictably blamed time added on and a biased ref as opposed to the position of Riise’s head for the result, but who really cared? Get in! Next up it’s United at the Bridge – yep, nice easy month this. Ballack put us ahead although the second half saw Carvalho gift Rooney an equaliser, but before I had time to reach for the tissues, Ballack had slotted home a penalty courtesy of a Carrick handball. So 2-1 it was and level on points with United. How the bloody hell had we managed that? And as if the month hadn’t been exciting enough, we rounded it off with our 2nd leg against Liverpool and oh how Rafa ended up regretting slating Drogba before the game, because he really came good and we were going to MOSCOW!!
United had already played West Ham ahead of our game at Newcastle, putting us 3 points behind and the pressure back on, but a 2-0 win made sure that against all the odds we’d take the title race to the final day of the season. So, Bolton for us and Wigan for United and whilst we went in 0-0 at the break, Ronaldo had slotted home a penalty. And as excited as we got when Sheva scored, news of a second United goal killed us off and we vowed revenge in Moscow. How unreal was that eh? Not just our first Champions League final, or the fact that it was against United, but under Avram Grant’s ‘management’ – had football gone mad? Anyway, I’ll skim over the game because we all know what happened. Heartbroken.
Then followed the inevitable sacking of Avram Grant – hallelujah! Followed soon after by Ten Cate and a summer of speculation. Who would be our new manager? Would Lampard ever find a pen? Would Drogba ever make his mind up? Would we get Robinho? Well, Ancelotti, Mancini, Rijkaard, Spalletti, Hughes, you name them and they were linked with thevacant manager’s position although it was Scolari who eventually filled it. Lampard eventually signed a very lucrative contract – thankyou very much. Drogba stayed – in body at least. No, we wouldn’t get Robinho, we’d get Deco though, but we’d also see the squad totally cut back as players like Makelele, Sidwell, Tal Ben Haim, Boulahrouz, SWP and Shevchenko departed. The summer break also saw Chelsea embark on a 15 day trip to China, Malaysia and then on to Moscow (yes, again!) for the Railways Cup.
First game of the 2008-09 season saw us home to Portsmouth, with great football and a deserved 4-0 win. Deco looked like a great buy, capping an awesome Premier League debut with an equally impressive goal. What a way to start the new campaign! Then followed a hard fought 1-0 win at Wigan before ending the month with a 1-1 draw at home to Spurs.
The start of the month, and deadline day saw us lose out on Robinho – we just knew that would cost us eh? But we weren’t done there, because September also saw us lose Michael Essien to injury during an international and Steve Clarke to West Ham when he decided to join Gianfranco Zola. Were the gods conspiring against us or what?? Mind you, at least a visit to the newly named ‘Middle Eastlands’ gave us something to feel smug about as we walked away with a 3-1 win even with our captain sent off for wrestling. September also gave us another couple of 4-0 victories. Scolari’s first Champions League game in charge saw us beat Bordeaux 4-0 and we managed the same result against Pompey in the cup. We also took on United at the Bridge – a game which saw Deco withdraw in the warm-up and Carvalho withdraw 12 minutes in. Kalou cancelled out Park’s opener and it ended 1-1. Stoke away concluded the month and with Delap missing (thank god) we came away with a 1-0 win and all three points. Oh, we signed some bloke called Mineiro in September as well apparently.
Now this month didn’t start well with a 0-0 away to CFR Cluj and Didier Drogba, who’d only just started his season, stretchered off. So, he wasn’t around for our home game to Villa. Mind you, neither were Deco, Carvalho, Essien or Alex and we were still to lose Anelka and Joe Cole in the second half. So the 2-0 lead Anelka and Cole had given us in the first half came in handy really. Great performance and a deserved 2-0 win. Unfortunately for Boro, they were next up and we buried them 5-0 at the Bridge. Then came a hard fought 1-0 at home to Roma in the Champions League – so hard fought in fact, we couldn’t be arsed anymore apparently and ‘Fortress Stamford Bridge’ turned into a sandcastle as a flukey Alonso goal saw that home record come to an end against the scousers of all clubs. Still, at least we ended the month with another one of those away wins, this time, a 3-0 at Hull’s expense. And ours to an extent – because we lost Carvalho again!!
Started off well enough, with a 5-0 drubbing of Sunderland at Stamford Bridge – and the press were rolling out that Scolari bandwagon – right up until our woeful 3-1 defeat away at Roma that is! Oh, hang on though, because on a ridiculously wet day at Ewood Park, Anelka’s brace and our subsequent 2-0 win on Scolari’s birthday had the press back onside. Then again, losing 5-4 at home to Burnley in the Carling Cup on penalties and an upcoming ban for Didier Drogba were never going to keep us flavour of the month for long. A great strike from Bosingwa and another Anelka brace gave us a fully deserved 3-0 win at West Brom – and just to confuse the press again, we then drew 0-0 at home to Newcastle and 1-1 away to Bordeaux, with Lampard sent off into the bargain. The end of the month also saw another defeat at Stamford Bridge, this time to Arsenal (2-1), and serious questions are starting to be asked.
So, Bolton away to start the month and first half goals from Anelka and Drogba proved enough to seal a 2-0 win as we made it a record 11 wins on the trot away from home. Then a scrappy 2-1 win at home to Cluj settled our Champions League nerves for now before Gianfranco Zola returned to Stamford Bridge as the new West Ham manager and nicked a point off us. Next up was another away game – great stuff you’d have thought? Unfortunately, JT’s sending off didn’t help us and having played out 55 minutes with ten men, 0-0 seemed like a bloody good result. Boxing Day saw us wrap up a 2-0 at home to West Brom with Didier Drogba’s first Premier League goal of the season inside 3 minutes and a goal from Lampard before the break. And finally, our last game of 2008 saw us finish 2-2 away at Craven Cottage. 1-0 down, 2-1 up and again we couldn’t see the game off. Two bloody set-pieces and a frustrating end to the year.
Who knows what 2009’s got in store for us?