We continue our look back at the wonderful 2004/05 campaign with a trio of games that yielded a frustrating comeback, a famous brace and a welcome first...
‘I am born to score goals; without them I am not a good player. All the players have helped me with my confidence. I know all the lads were behind me, so you can try anything.’Mateja Kezman
Taking into account their current lowly positions in the second and third tiers of English football, it’s hard to imagine games against Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic eliciting a collective drawing of breath from the Chelsea faithful. However, 15 years ago it was not games against Manchester City, Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur which were looked at with any trepidation; rather, the likes of the Trotters and the Addicks were more likely to cause mass panic in the Blues ranks.
‘Big’ Sam Allardyce, then manager of Bolton, seemed to take particular pleasure out of disturbing the perceived status quo – as well as proving to be a bit of a headache to Chelsea, his sides also made a habit of irritating Arsenal.
Surely not this time, though? A year on from overturning an early deficit to record a 2-1 victory at the Bridge, Allardyce’s collection of veteran superstars, foreign bargains and hardworking domestic players found themselves two goals behind to a side which hadn’t conceded more than once in any game through the first third of the campaign.
The 30-minute delay to kick-off had clearly left the home team looking to make up for lost time, as Damien Duff gave us the lead after just 35 seconds, netting a breakaway goal from Frank Lampard’s through-ball. That was followed by an electric start to the second period which saw Tiago score yet again with a delicately crafted goal. If that was beauty, though, the Blues were about to come face-to-face with the beast.
The Trotters responded moments later through a typical Kevin Davies goal - all brute force - and after withstanding plenty of Chelsea pressure, they grabbed an equaliser through Radhi Jaidi. Even Allardyce hadn’t expected that. ‘When their second goal went in I thought it was the end for us,’ he revealed. ‘But when they're sitting comfortably and all of a sudden a goal pops out of the blue, they're going to feel a little shaky.’
For Mourinho, meanwhile, the result was an unwelcome first. ‘Never, never, never,’ he announced after one reporter had asked him if one of his sides had ever failed to protect a two-goal lead. ‘It was the first time.
‘I don't think many people in this country like the way Bolton play, and I don't like it, but we have to be fair. They are a very difficult side. They hit long balls upfield and are strong in the air for the first ball. They work a lot at set-pieces and they are an effective and dangerous side. It's difficult to play against them.’
A potential four-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the table was gone; was the old inconsistency shown by Chelsea, the scourge of two previous title bids, coming back to haunt us once again?
‘It was a silent dressing room afterwards,’ wrote JT in his next set of programme notes. ‘If that’s what it’s like now after a draw, I hate to think what it’ll be like after a defeat. Hopefully we won’t find out for a long time, but nothing can be taken for granted.’
It was the end of an eight-match winning streak, which had come off the back of a defeat at Manchester City. A similar reaction was needed to keep ahead of the Gunners, and who better to lead the charge than the captain himself?
As assistant manager Steve Clarke pointed out, ‘Those of us who have been around the club for a while know how hard it can be to get three points at The Valley.’ Indeed, the previous season’s visit had seen the Blues go down in humiliating fashion, a 4-2 defeat one of the low points of the campaign. ‘You can lose a game, but you should never get beaten like that,’ stressed JT.
A repeat was never on the cards from the moment Duff opened the scoring after just four minutes. It was all about the captain after the break, though, as he netted a quick-fire brace before Eidur Gudjohnsen made sure of the win before an hour had been played.
The manager hailed the reaction of his players to the Bolton setback, describing the visit to The Valley as a ‘match of 60 minutes’ such was the clinical devastation of their attacking play.
The home side’s manager, Alan Curbishley, delivered his verdict on this Chelsea side compared to their counterparts who had been dismantled in south London 11 months earlier: ‘The big difference is it's a settled side. No tinkering.’ Given the identity of Mourinho’s predecessor, the Charlton gaffer had selected his final word carefully. Clearly wasted as a football manager, a career in the media beckoned.
With a trip to Highbury on the horizon, the need to maintain our advantage extended beyond The Valley and back to the Bridge. With a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals secured in midweek, the boys were full of confidence ahead of Newcastle United’s visit for a lunchtime kick-off in west London. Blues fans who have made the trip up to the North-East at the crack of dawn on a Saturday twice in as many years will empathise with their Toon Army counterparts.
There was no sympathy on display from Mourinho’s men, however. Newcastle’s previous two visits to the Bridge had ended 3-0 and 5-0 respectively – this scoreline was to fall in between, although only after the introduction of Didier Drogba at half-time.
The Ivorian had a hand in Lampard’s opening goal and then bullied Titus Bramble to extend the advantage. ‘I’m back,’ screamed the Ivorian after putting his injury woes behind him. Premier League Player of the Month Arjen Robben added the third with a typical solo goal, but then came the moment Chelsea fans had been waiting for.
In stoppage time, Duff ran through on goal and looked to outfox his Republic of Ireland team-mate Shay Given. The keeper brought him down; referee Rob Styles pointed to the spot. Finally, Mateja Kezman had the opportunity to break his Premier League goal duck.
Imagine the thought-process of a previously lethal striker in this situation: smash it straight down the middle; play it safe with a side-foot into the bottom corner; how about a cheeky Panenka?
Perhaps he had exchanged views with Petr Cech prior to the game, because he chose to ape Czechoslovakia’s infamous penalty taker – cue bedlam at the Bridge! Rarely can the fourth goal in a 4-0 rout have been celebrated in such a manner by fans and players alike.
‘I am born to score goals; without them I am not a good player,’ admitted the former PSV striker.
‘For the last three or four months I've been unlucky, but all the players have helped me with my confidence. I know all the lads were behind me, so you can try anything.
‘Frank gave me the ball [for the penalty] because he knows how difficult it has been for me. You can see our spirit after I scored – every single player came to me. That was fantastic. That's our strength this season. That's how we can be champions.’
‘Hopefully that puts a bit of pressure on Arsenal,’ declared Lamps. One week later, a trip to Highbury would provide the answer.
- By Richard Godden - Chelsea matchday programme editor
On 30 April at 8pm, there will be a special watch party of the victory over Bolton that sealed our first Premier League title live on the 5th Stand app...