The instance Hernandez cleverly redirected the ball past Petr Cech, the tingle that surged through me felt all too familiar. Why raise hope for a team that could hardly create a chance against Steaua Bucharesti?
When Rooney scored the second via a freekick with the help of our disjointed defence, the little hope I had left in me swiftly dissipated and I felt the hammering had already begun.
The first half was a brief reflection of how appalling we have been this season, falling apart too easily to top counterparts. Man Utd took the game by its scruff from the blast of the whistle, playing with purpose and intent. It was not much of a surprise that the Blues were already 2-0 down after 13 minutes. Although we created few chances afterwards, but as it’s become a notable feature of Rafa’s side, all attempts at goal were misfired, Moses was responsible for the most clear-cut of all those chances. It was a spineless, insipid and visionless display by Chelsea in the first half.
What transpired in the 2nd half superseded expectations/beggared belief/opposed football symmetrics. Trust me, I want Benitez gone as fast as every true-blue but whatever he said to the players in the dressing room ‘struck gold’. The second half started with the Blues going all out for it. The drive and intent that was severely lacking in the first 45 minutes shone through in the 2nd.
It was as though the team suddenly realized the F.A. Cup was at stake! And for the first time since his reign as Chelsea manager, Rafa actually made his substitutions as early as the 52nd minute, bringing on Hazard and Mikel for Moses and Lampard. This was an anomaly, shrewd moves like that are only carried out by the likes of Jose, Sir Alex Ferguson, not Benitez! However, you have to argue these game-changers should have been on from the start.
Whatever triggered that move was never to be rued as Hazard soon curled one in moments after coming on. That goal inspired the Blues all the more and we began to play with more urgency; Mikel shored up the defence and supported the attack whilst Hazard ran mazes through United’s defence and also linked up well upfront; it appeared the duo were the missing link. Credit to Rafa, he surely did pull the rabbit out of the hat and it was timely. Ramires soon crowned the team’s effort with a splendid counter-attack. And we could have won, Mata’s drive was spectacularly saved by De Gea to deny us the win.
Going by that dazzling 2nd half display, it wouldn’t be out of place to assume Chelsea has turn the tide. But is that true? We’ve seen the Blues slumber agains QPR, Reading, Southampton, Steau Bucharesti and impress against Villa, Everton, Arsenal and Stoke. Surely those were flashes of brilliance and they soon fizzled out with erratic performances. So, was that enthralling 2nd half display another momentary artifice?
I really do hope we’ve seen the turning point at Old Trafford and we can go on from there with the new-found gusto. Of course we wouldn’t win every games henceforth but to continue with this renewed verve would prove timely as we do need to put foot on pedal during this last lap and make something out of what has been a disappointing season thus far. Spurs’ loss against Liverpool in the EPL means they lead with just 2 points, go on a winning streak and we may joust them from 3rd position.
Come on Chelsea!
By Salako Aramide