Inside Blue Fri 26 Jan 2018
Gustavo Poyet recalls a memorable FA Cup tie against Newcastle United in 2000, when the Uruguayan earned a special place in the history of the old Wembley Stadium.
The two clubs meet at Stamford Bridge in a fourth-round tie on Sunday, but 18 years ago the stakes were far higher when Gianluca Vialli’s men faced the Magpies in the semi-finals.
The Blues were riding the crest of a wave going into the game, which took place just a few days after we had dismantled Barcelona on an unforgettable Champions League night at Stamford Bridge.
On that occasion, Tore Andre Flo and Gianfranco Zola were Chelsea’s goalscoring heroes, but at Wembley Stadium the burden would fall on the shoulders of a man who had been in good form throughout the competition.
As well as netting a hat-trick in the third round against Hull City, the Uruguayan midfielder, who has just been appointed as the new manager at French club Bordeaux, was also on target in a hard-fought win over Leicester City.
It was his contribution against Newcastle, however, which was arguably his defining moment as a Blue – and that’s saying something for a player who netted 49 times in only 145 appearances for the club.
‘My first goal in this game was a very good build-up and a decent finish, if I can say that, but everyone probably remembers the second one more,’ he said of his brace in a 2-1 victory. ‘Newcastle had just equalised through Rob Lee, but then it was a typical goal by myself – a header – from a good cross by Jon Harley.
As a result, Poyet went down in history as the last man to score in an FA Cup semi-final beneath the famous twin towers.
‘It was one of the best moments of my career to score these goals, without a doubt. But it was special for different reasons. Firstly, I used to love the old Wembley – it was a unique stadium and it had one of the best pitches I ever played on in my career.
‘To win a place in the FA Cup final there, with me scoring the two goals, made it a great moment. If you look back at the videos and see my face, you can see I was one of the happiest men in the world!
‘But your individual goals mean nothing if you don't get through. To be able to score twice at Wembley always comes second to the team.
‘When you play in any football game, whether it's a semi-final or a final, it doesn't really matter what you can achieve on your own – it's just about winning. I don't want to be the Man of the Match, I want to win and get hold of the trophy!’
The Blues did just that, with Roberto Di Matteo our goalscoring hero in the final as we saw off Aston Villa, just as he had been on target three years earlier against Middlesbrough.
That meant Poyet was able to get his hands on one of the most famous trophies in football, as well as taking an individual prize as the competition’s leading scorer that season.
‘I got an award in the tunnel after the game,’ he recalls. ‘They had a really heavy trophy for me and wanted to do an interview because I was the top scorer in the competition that season – but I didn't even know!
‘I was so focused on winning the game that I had no idea, but then I remembered my goals and I realised how many I had scored. Can you imagine if I had to do that interview if we had lost? It would have been terrible!’