As cries of “that’s why we’re champions” rung out at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, the Fulham residents would undoubtedly have thought it was service as usual. How wrong they were…
Chris Hughton’s masterful job at Newcastle continued in the Carling Cup as his reserve team dumped cup favorites Chelsea out of the competition. With their exit went what looked far from derisory claims of a quadruple season for the blues by star striker Didier Drogba.
Chelsea’s 21 goals this season with only one reply, playing some majestic football, meant they looked a decent bet for a clean sweep of the domestic titles. If that bet was somewhat uncertain, victory over newly promoted Newcastle certainly wasn’t. But as we all know only too well: “nothing is certain in football”.
Having not conceded a goal at Stamford Bridge in over 10 hours of football, it would have taken a braver man than I to punt on a Newcastle victory when the Magpies conceded early. Thus minutes into the second half when the inconsistent but at times irrepressible Shola Ameobi gave Newcastle a much deserved 3-1 lead. It triggered euphoria on an unrivaled level among the raucous travelling supporters.
For 20 minutes, as Newcastle admirably pushed forward in search of a 4th, the away support created an atmosphere that very much justified their highly debated tag as the “best supporters in the country”. If Ameobi had taken the chance for his hat trick and Lovenkrands shot crept inside the post it may well have been 6!
As it was, with Chelsea down to ten men through injuries to Kalou and Benayoun it needed a colossal team effort, aided by a moment of effortless genius by Nikolas Anelka and shameful gamesmanship by Alex in acquiring a penalty, to peg Newcastle back.
In doing so, the ever vocal Geordie faithful were plucked from their perch on “cloud nine”, much to the delight of the previously speechless Chelsea supporters.
When Ferraira struck the post moments after Anelka’s 89th minute spot kick had equalized, the comeback that only sides as good as Chelsea can muster was so nearly complete. At this point the tide looked to have well and truly turned. However…
Even the most ardent of Newcastle supporters, with a talent for story telling or day dreaming, would have struggled to script this finale. Thus at 3-3 in the 90th minute amongst quite remarkable scenes Shola Ameobi leapt highest to head home a Gutierrez corner, sending the black and white army into a Geordie wonderland, and his team into Saturday’s 4th round draw.
The 4-3 final score line gave Newcastle their first win at Stamford Bridge since 1984 in a cup tie which shows the many Carling cup cynics that this competition still has its place.
Who fancies Newcastle for the league at 1000/1?