We continue our look back at the 2004/05 season by detailing the first silverware we picked up in the Abramovich era, after a classic match you can watch in full on the 5th Stand app...
‘For us as a group of players it was massive because it was the start of winning things. We'd done a lot of talking, but until you actually get one in the bank, there's no reality to it.’Frank Lampard
As Chelsea Football Club prepared to celebrate its centenary, five years without a trophy was barely noteworthy. Nowadays, of course, with the Blues firmly established as one of England and Europe’s elite sides, it would be unthinkable, but in 2005 we were picking up silverware, on average, once every 10 years. And even that was boosted by a glut of trophies in the late nineties.
As a result of that ‘barren’ run, however, the club was lacking a winning culture as we looked to convert our leading of the Premier League table into lifting the trophy come May. Success breeds success and the Carling Cup offered up a chance of both silverware and, it was hoped, a gateway to bigger and better and things.
The Blues had negotiated a tricky run in the competition, with London derbies against West Ham United and Fulham sandwiching a gruelling encounter against Newcastle United in the North-East, which secured a two-legged tussle against Manchester United in the last four. Sir Alex Ferguson had previously played out 10 semi-final ties as manager of the Red Devils, coming through each of them unscathed. Not this time.
After the first leg had finished 0-0, the two sides were poised at 1-1 and destined for extra-time. Then, Damien Duff’s whipped free-kick from miles out somehow missed out everyone and bounced in at Tim Howard’s far post; the type of delivery that, you will have been told on countless occasions by commentators, simply cannot be defended against. The same was true in 1972, when Alan Hudson settled a semi-final tie against Tottenham with an almost identical effort to Duff’s.
A memorable victory at Old Trafford was secured and Jose Mourinho could celebrate his 42nd birthday following a game which, according to Kevin McCarra in The Guardian, ‘was a battle for power rather than a dispute over a lesser tournament’. To Chelsea, however, it was about far more than that.
‘We have to win it,’ said John Terry, ‘and if we do, then we can build from that. To get one trophy under our belts will mean we can attack the others more easily.’
Standing in our way was a Liverpool side also in their first season under the stewardship of a new manager. Rafael Benitez, fresh from winning the UEFA Cup with Valencia, wasn’t quite enjoying such a natural acclimatisation period as the man in the opposite dugout, but a narrow semi-final victory over Watford gave him hope of a first trophy when the first major final between the two sides kicked off at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Chelsea had gone into the game on the back of an FA Cup exit at Newcastle and a controversial defeat to Barcelona in the first leg of our last-16 tie in the Champions League, prompting suggestions the proverbial wheels were coming off; the members of the press were gleefully rubbing their hands together just 45 seconds after kick-off in Cardiff as John Arne Riise blasted home the quickest-ever goal in a League Cup final.
‘Textbook volley,’ was Andy Gray’s Alan Partridge-esque verdict on the goal, offering his analysis as part of Sky Sports’ commentary on the game.
That the ball had flown past Petr Cech, rather than Carlo Cudicini, was unfortunate for the popular Italian. Considered the Premier League’s top shot-stopper before the arrival of Czech Republic’s no.1, Cudicini had found himself serving the role of understudy. He had been a virtual ever-present in the run to the final, missing only the second leg of the semi-final due to Cech’s height and superior ability to deal with crosses.
‘I promised Carlo and the players before the second leg that if we reached the final it will be for Carlo,’ said Mourinho. ‘He’s played every game in the competition up to now, he’s a fantastic professional for us, he’s been here a long time, and I think Carlo deserves this because of what he means to the club and his contribution.’
A red card in the aforementioned defeat at Newcastle, however, put paid to those hopes, although Cudicini donned his suit to lead the team out in the Welsh capital – a gesture which he certainly appreciated.
The absence of Chelsea’s back-up goalkeeper may have been a pre-match talking point, but it was the man in the opposite penalty area who kept Liverpool ahead for so long – although the most eye-catching save was arguably made by Cech to keep out a powerful Didi Hamann strike.
The German midfielder was then guilty of a cynical – some would say tactical – foul on Frank Lampard close to the halfway line which had Gray berating the referee’s decision not to play what looked to be a handy advantage to Chelsea. With the benefit of hindsight, Blues fans could applaud Steve Bennett’s decision.
Paulo Ferreira put the ball ‘into the mixer’ and Steven Gerrard, challenged only by two of his team-mates, inexplicably flicked the ball on with his head and beyond Jerzy Dudek. Amidst the celebrations, Mourinho was sent to the stands for what he later described as a ‘close your mouth’ gesture which was directed at the press.
That sent the game into extra-time, when the Blues truly exerted our control. Glen Johnson’s long throw in the second period went all the way through to Didier Drogba in the six-yard box. The Ivorian simply could not pass up such an opportunity.
A similar chance fell Mateja Kezman’s way five minutes later after Dudek could only parry Eidur Gudjohnsen’s fierce strike from a tight angle.
It was appropriate that the Icelandic ace should be involved in what proved to be the winning goal, as it had been his half-time introduction as a midfielder, rather than in attack, which had helped Chelsea take control of the game in the second half.
Antonio Nunez may have given Liverpool hope, but a 3-2 victory was the least Chelsea deserved; the roar after the shrill of the full-time whistle from those who had made the trip from west London showed just what it meant to the Blues. An even bigger roar erupted as JT lifted the trophy to the sound of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Wonderful Night’.
‘Winning that game was the best feeling I’ve ever, ever experienced in my life – winning my first trophy for Chelsea and being the man to lift it, seeing how much it meant to all my team-mates,’ wrote JT in his next set of programme notes.
‘It's very difficult to win for the first time and for these players it is the first time so it is important,’ was the message from Mourinho. ‘We now have the first title and almost for sure we will have the second one – and the second one will be the big one.’
On a weekend when Wales took control of the Six Nations tournament, Cardiff found itself painted blue, rather than red, thanks to our brilliant victory. The Daily Mirror’s headline declared: ‘The first of many.’ Martin Lipton could foresee what was coming for Mourinho and his team. ‘Chelsea looked like a team that knows the glory story has only now started to be written.’
- By Richard Godden - Chelsea matchday programme editor
On 30 April at 8.30pm, there will be a special #CFCWatchParty of the victory over Bolton that sealed our first Premier League title live on this website