Chelsea were curiously flat as Manchester City won the FA Cup fifth round tie 2-0, and rather easily too.
Cheers for joining me. It’s been a pleasure. Apart from those people who said Arcade Fire are no good. Here’s another to see you right.
And there you go. City are through, and they were very, very, very much the better team against a curiously flat Chelsea. Jose Mourinho got it very right in the league game here, and while you might not blame his tactical choices for this defeat, not much he tried went right. City are in the hat for the next round, and should now be favourites to win the thing.
90 min +4: “Let’s all laugh at Jose,” is the chant that rings around the ground. And they do. Oh boy they do.
90 min +3: Oscar feeds Salah, but his cross rather sums up Chelsea’s day. Low, aimless, pointless.
90 min + 1: Clive Tyldesley very nearly says ‘shit’ on commentary. Nine-year-old boys and MBMers giggle.
90 min: Navas does well to find space on the right and clip a cross over, but Ivanovic dives and heads clear. Four minutes added time.
88 min: Bit of the old aggro now - Matic hacks Toure down and is booked. Toure takes a while to get up - looked sore, that one.
87 min: A brief hole appears in the City defence, with Matic trying to find time for a shot, but Zabaleta swoops in like a ninja to tidy up.
85 min: “Toure is like a wildebeest with the feet of a ballerina,” says Justin Kavanagh. “Some player.” Amen Justin, amen.
84 min: Hazard flips a free-kick in from deep, but it’s headed away. They’ve looked rather blunt in this one. Cue a goal, obviously.
82 min: Salah crosses from the right, but it’s cleared by Garcia, who despite our cruel words, has actually been pretty good today. Can only assume we inspired him. You’re welcome, City fans.
81 min: ”Is 90% onside the same as 10% offside?” asks Adam Musser. “And if so, how much offside is offside? And then, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a ... well, you get it, I’m sure.”
80 min: Dzeko chases a long ball down the left channel, but it skips away from him. A noise that sounds like a tribal chant echoes around the ground, but it’s just the City fans welcoming Alvaro Negredo, who comes on for Dzeko.
77 min: Navas slips inside to Dzeko, who shoots with some optimism from range, but it’s blocked.
75 min: Oooh, that was close. Garcia heads a corner down that is saved by Cech, Lescott is there to rebound the ball home, but the flag goes up. Only just off, that.
74 min: Toure performs an improbable spin to get out of a tight spot inside the Chelsea half. What a delightful player that man is.
72 min: Chelsea falsely claim a handball from Zabaleta, so the ever-amusing chants of ‘HANDBALL!’ every time anyone touches the ball ring out. Be still our aching sides.
71 min: Another change for Chelsea. Willian - or ‘Will’un’ as the tannoy bloke says - comes off, and Oscar comes on.
70 min: Seamus Devlin offers a harrowing glimpse into the company he kept as a younger man. “I knew a guy at college who referred to a certain act performed alone as a JW after June Whitfield. Strange chap I can promise you.”
No idea what to do with that.
69 min: And that’s the last thing Silva does - Jesus Navas replaces his compatriot.
68 min: Oh well that is just lovely stuff. Nasri pokes the ball through to Silva, around 90% of whom was onside, who then takes it towards the byline and clips it back to Nasri, who sidefoots into an empty net. Well done chaps, well done indeed.
He’s back, back, back and doubles the lead.
65 min: The City fans advise Jose Mourinho to ‘fuck off’ as he complains about a decision. He doesn’t.
64 min: Ivanovic is given time to cross, but wastes his time and ours by scuffing it along the floor.
62 min: Yaya goes into the bookbook for a triptrip on Matic.
61 min: And copycats City also make a sub - Samir Nasri makes his first appearance in over a month, replacing goalscorer Jovetic.
60 min: Here’s Fernando Torres - he replaces Ramires. Jose Attack.
59 min: ”There appears to be a lot of bad words to be said about John Obi Mikel,” writes Duncan Smith. “This is a player Chelsea almost went to war, and did go to court over to sign, as well as spend about £16m on an 18 year old that was meant to cost £4m. You’d think they’d treasure him after such wrangles. Maybe the joy is all in the pursuit.”
57 min: Manchester has seen its fair share of comical dives this season, but Jovetic adds to the canon by half running into Luiz, then flinging his arms to the skies and his body to the floor. He’s booked.
56 min: Earlier, I asked that Pellegrini and Mourinho nude wrestled in front of a fire. Well, Dzeko and Luiz oblige, if disappointingly clothed. And not in front of a fire.
55 min: Chelsea win a free-kick out on the right, which Willian slings over. It’s cleared, but breaks to a battle between Ivanovic and Kompany, for which the former is penalised for a high foot.
53 min: Silva tries a couple of crosses, one from a corner, one from open play, that are aimless and cleared easily. Doesn’t sit right when he gets something wrong.
51 min: Michael Hood seems to be confusing mind games and chickens. “Sorry Chelsea, but many of us would really, really like Mourinho’s obnoxious mind games to come home to roost and bite him.”
50 min: Lovely play City, including a delightful one-two between Clichy and Dzeko, breaks to Jovetic, but he leans back and shoots well wide/over.
48 min: Chance for City - Milner gets the ball on the right, but his low cross bounces right back to him, and he shoots left-footed high over the bar.
47 min: Oooh, naughty little David Silva. He trips Ivanovic, and a free-kick is given. As it should be.
46 min: We’re underway again, as the cameras cruelly cut from Salah starting out of position up front, to Fernando Torres rather forlornly warming up.
Half-time sub: And it’s a rather interesting one - Mohamed Salah replaces Samuel Eto’o, so no ‘proper’ centre-forward for Chelsea.
If only to annoy the couple of people who wrote in to say Arcade Fire are rubbish, when little could be further from the truth, here’s one of their most underrated songs.
“A bloke in a pub told me that our win ratio with Mikel is about 3% and without him about 90%,” muses David Goldstone, whose local boozer seemingly isn’t near Opta HQ. ”I know it’s hard for clueless armchair fans like me to judge these tactical holding midfield types. You have to actually understand football for that. But still, what’s the point of having a player who can’t actually do anything?”
And that’s your lot for this half. City are ahead, and deservedly so - they’ve been the better team and have created the better chances, one of which was neatly popped into the net by Jovetic. Chelsea seem a little disjointed, and could perhaps do with Oscar, who is on the bench.
45 min: One minute of added time, y’all.
44 min: Luiz gets a finger wagged at him for not taking a booking handed out to him, for a foul on Jovetic, in the spirit it was intended.
43 min: Milner floats a free-kick over, but it flies out seemingly a rather vague air. Milner then gets the ball back on the right and fizzes a low cross over that fizzes right past everyone in the area.
42 min: Mikel lucky not to go into the book for a barge on Toure. Takes something to knock that lad down.
41 min: Kompany plays a ball over the top that Luiz clears directly into Dzeko’s face, and it loops neatly into the arms of Cech.
40 min: Few juicy ol’ tackles going in. You’d think these two didn’t really like each other, if you didn’t know better.
38 min: City haven’t really been able to get going in the last ten or so. An attack breaks down, Chelsea counter through Hazard then Kompany takes him down in a really quite cynical manner. Yellow card for the big Belgian.
36 min: More cheers to be filed under ‘ironic’ as Sammy Eto’o is penalised for knocking Garcia to the ground. Everyone’s conspiring against City, you see?
35 min: Neat work by Hazard, but his deft flick down the right side of the area doesn’t find Ramires.
33 min: The resultant free-kick is thrown into the box, headed out to Clichy who volleys it right back into the mixer, but Jovetic can’t control it and eventually concedes a goal-kick.
32 min: A cheer almost as big as the one for the goal goes up as City win a free-kick out on the right, after Azpilicueta hacks at Zabaleta’s calf three or four times.
31 min: Milner gets the ball on the right, but his pass inside wrong-foots Silva to the extent that the wee Spaniard crumples to the floor like a child’s piece of origami under a bully’s boot.
30 min: Oh, Petr. Clichy swings a cross over from the left and Cech, Luiz and Dzeko all go up for it. The Chelsea keeper waves at the ball, and has to rely on Azpilicueta to mop up.
28 min: “JW” is shorthand for “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, Cort McMurray says, helpfully. ”Who are alternately known as “the Jay-Dubs,” “The Witnesses” (or, in my neighborhood, “Los Testigos”), and “People Knocking on Saturday Morning, Wanting to Talk About Jesus.” As a Mormon, I assumed you’d been talking about us, not JW.”
Hopefully none of those nicknames are hugely offensive.
27 min: Willian picks up the ball and runs towards goal, but dithers before shooting, feeds Ivanovic on the right, who plays it back and Willian launches his shoot into the cool Manchester night air.
26 min: Ramires plays Eto’o in just inside the box, but there’s a brief period in whichy everyone seems to lose control of their legs, and it’s eventually cleared.
24 min: Effort, Edin. City getting into their stride now, and some nice play feeds Dzeko with his back to goal, and he spins Azpilicueta and shoots left-footed towards goal, but Cech gets a healthy hand on it and beats the ball clear.
22 min: Neat passing by City around 30 yards from goal finds Toure, who sets his sights and fires a low shot, which goes plenty wide, as it turns out.
21 min: Bit of juggling on the floor from Pantilimon. Ivanovic slides over a low cross from the byline on the right, but the big keeper needs a couple of goes to gather it.
20 min: Ivanovic absolutely belts a cross from deep on the right, which is blocked by Silva with a thud you could probably hear in Salford.
19 min: Toure and Mikel grapple, the latter seems to drag the former to the floor, but referee Phil Dowd, who looks like just the sort of chap you’d try to avoid eye-contact with in a sparsely-populated pub, gives Chelsea the free-kick. Weird.
17 min: Lovely finish, that. A neat ball is slipped through to Jovetic, who lets it run across him and slides a neat shot just wide of Cech’s splayed legs, and it flicks the far post before going in. City lead.
Jovetic makes up for the miss almost immediately!
15 min: Ooooh, chance. Yaya gets the ball outside the area, makes a bit of space for himself and fires a shot directly at Petr Cech’s stomach. It bounces out and Stevan Jovetic blazes the rebound over.
14 min: Is that chap defending Javi Garcia still around? He concedes his second free-kick of the game by simply being slower than his opponent. Which you wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the opponent in question was John Obi-Mikel.
13 min: Hazard loses the ball again. Currently looking into whether his brother Thorgan is playing rather than Eden, and has fooled as all.
12 min: Toure ‘eases’ Matic off the ball, and by ‘ease’ I mean clambered all over him. Free-kick.
11 min: City having slightly the better of things so far. Hazard miscontrols to cede possession, which just looks weird.
10 min: Jovetic does well to scrap and win the ball on the right corner of the box, he feeds Milner out wide and his low and perhaps a little too spicy pass can’t be controlled by Toure, and it bounces off the big man for a goal-kick.
9 min: Not much happening just yet, so here’s Tony Campisi with some words of encouragement: “Your JW joke isn’t funny at all. Very lame.”
7 min: Clichy makes tracks down the left and crosses low into the box, but Edin Dzeko is only ambling towards the danger zone, like a man arrogantly strolling to make a train when he knows he has a full minute to spare, only for the train doors to close. He didn’t get on the end of the cross, basically.
6 min: Javi Garcia makes his first telling contribution to the game...by barging Willian to the ground, just inside the Chelsea half.
5 min: The Chelsea fans are singing a song to the tune of ‘Delilah’, but I can’t quite make out the words. Any help?
4 min: David Luiz plays a rather errant pass. Mourinho frowns, vexed, on the touchline.
3 min: Silva plays in dependable old James Milner, who trudges down the line like the sturdy old truck he is, but he crosses straight into the first man.
1 min: And they’re underway. Ramires celebrates the start of the game by chopping David Silva over.
The players are gathering for the minutes silence in remembrance of Tom Finney. Here’s Brian Glanville’s obituary of the great man.
Jose Mourinho makes his way out to the bench before the teams, sits down, but after being asked to sign a few autographs by some City fans (what the hell are they doing asking for his autograph, anyway?) he gets up to scribble his name with the air of a man who has just heard the doorbell and just knows it’s someone who wants to talk about Jesus.
David Goldstone sends in a clip that genuinely caused my palms to get sweaty just watching it. Skip to about 2.50.
Incidentally, holders Wigan are through to the last eight, beating Cardiff, while an under-strength Southampton lost to an even more under-strength Sunderland earlier. Two spots sorted in the quarter-finals, with four more games tomorrow and Monday, and one to be rearranged after Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton was postponed due to Hillsborough being under about four feet of water.
“If for nothing else,” writes Philip Podolsky, ”Javi Garcia is noteworthy for being a thoroughly mediocre Spanish midfielder, a rarity in this day and age.
“Speaking of worst fears (and Oliver Reed, who gives a fantastic performance in this film I’m about to go on about), The Brood by David Cronenberg, the master of ‘veneral horror’, is based on the premise of one’s innermost fears and neuroses materializing as different growths, from lymphomas to mutant children. Usually horror flicks just bore me, but this is something else. Watch it! ”
Well this is all going over my head a bit. Francis Mead writes: “Re Jamie Jackson’s speculation, this has to be considered: “The probability that two consanguineous individuals will share the same traits depends upon the mode of inheritance (dominant or recessive) and the degree of penetrance or expressivity of the causative gene.”
Exactly what I was going to say.
“I’m letting you off the Garcia thing solely because you’ve got the decency to put some Arcade Fire up,” says a returning Andy Turner.
“I think football focus and motd have both used the track already this season. I’m looking forward to ‘No Cars Go’ being played over pictures of the Somerset levels.”
Well, if you insist.
Our man at the Etihad is getting lyrical:
Incidentally, Manchester City have an army of people working on their website, and social media and so forth, and it seems this is what they get up to.
Any team news announced to the strains of Arcade Fire is OK by me.
Nick Holden writes in with another burning issue:
‘Whilst you’re waiting for kick off, thought I’d mention I saw an ad for American TV show “Revolution” in the ads during Sunderland vs Southampton - you look startling like the character Aaron in that show. Just thought you should know.’
Dunno what you’re talking about mate.
‘It’s very fashionable to knock this guy,’ writes Andy Turner in defence of Javi Garcia. ‘He’s a professional, ten years experience in the highest leagues, technically competent and able to play to the patterns and tactics required of the manager; he would walk into the midfield at Old Trafford. For example (OK, who wouldn’t).
‘Like Milner, he doesn’t get a good press but he does his job extremely well. They also serve etc etc.’
Some things are fashionable because it said so in a magazine, some things are fashionable because they’re in the shops, but some things are fashionable because they’re just true. Soz Andy.
...if you go on the internet at all, I assume you’ve already seen this, but get a load of these psychos.
And so, our worst fears were not confirmed. Well, perhaps not worst fears. That’s probably dying alone, or being eaten alive by rats or something. But Chelsea have put out more or less a first-choice eleven, aside from the injured John Terry, while City have David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure out there, even if that is balanced out a little by the presence of the great man Javi Garcia.
Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Garcia, Toure, Milner, Silva; Jovetic, Dzeko. Subs: Hart, Richards, Demichelis, Kolarov, Navas, Negredo, Nasri.
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Ramires, Willian, Hazard; Eto’o. Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Lampard, Salah, Schurrle, Oscar, Torres.
Chelsea are playing Manchester City today. Presumably you do know this because you’ve clicked on this link, and are looking to enjoy only the finest coverage of the game, but given the various shades and sorts of effluent that have been flung around this week, you would be forgiven for thinking a couple of things.
Firstly, that Chelsea were in fact facing Arsenal, hence Jose Mourinho describing Arsene Wenger as a ‘specialist in failure’, like it’s a vocation that requires qualifications and so forth. MIND GAMES, SEE?!?! And secondly, that the actual act of kicking a football about a rectangle of grass with the eventual aim of scoring more goals than the opposition, thus winning games, thus theoretically winning trophies or similar, has been relegated behind saying mean things about each other in the general football importance stakes. Of course that also has to take a ticket and join the queue behind collecting sponsors/’official partners’, posting selfies on Instagram, going to Nandos because you think it’s really healthy and thus the sort of boutique eatery a professional athlete should be spending time in, bitching about referees, transfer deadline day, counting the number of crosses a team makes and Piers Morgan.
But here we are, and there’s football to be played. Quite good football too, in theory. For one of these teams will not only progress in the FA Cup at some point either today or after that replay that they’d both rather go swimming in the Thames with a beluga whale on their backs than take part in, but also win the Premier League. Arsenal are too brittle, Liverpool too holey in the ol’ defence and Manchester United are too funny, so it will be one of these pair. The other up side is that if they finish level on points, we can forget that quaint old goal difference nonsense, and the title can be decided by a moderated debate between the two managers about exactly who has spent more money in the last 100 years. That, or they could nude wrestle in front of a fire, because now Alan Bates and Oliver Reed are both dead, someone has to. Television gold either way, I absolutely assure you.
The theory is that this will be quite good football, anyway. The reality, where these things are often prone to reside, may be a little different. After all, the corresponding league fixture a few weeks ago wasn’t exactly a barn-burner. A splendid result for Chelsea, sure, in which they didn’t quite park the bus, but perhaps rather left it idling in the general region of the City attack, but really not a game people will one day write poetry about.
While we’ll get to team news in a minute, the bad news for those who are looking forward to the brightest and the best of both sides appearing is that both have rather important Champions League games in mid-week, so Jose and Manuel might ask their top dogs to have a blow for this one. The good news is that even if the first-teamers are sat shivering on the touchline, the resources of both are deep enough that a pretty decent selection of players will be on display whatever happens. And possibly Javi Garcia.
Hey, we managed to get to the end of the preamble without mentioning horses, or livestock of any description. Oh...
Nick will be here from around 4.15. Meanwhile, here’s José Mourinho being mean about Arsène Wenger:
“So if supposing Wenger’s right and I’m afraid of failure, it’s because I don’t fail many times. So maybe he’s right. I’m not used to failing. But the reality is he’s a specialist because, eight years without a piece of silverware, that’s failure. If I did that in Chelsea I’d leave London and not come back.”
“Yes. He loves to look at this football club. I thought between 2007 and 2013 [when the Portuguese was at Internazionale and Real Madrid] was enough time for Wenger to forget this. But it looks like he always likes to look at this club. Am I afraid of failure? What is that. I believe at the end of the day I’ll be seen as the ‘impolite guy’, the one who’s aggressive in his words. But I’m not.
“He is saying we’re not candidates because we’re afraid of failure? Failure of what? Not winning a title this year? Or in two years? I have a lot of respect for him, he’s a great coach, but failure is not winning a title in seven or eight years. That’s failure. Am I aggressive in my words? I don’t know. Ask him, not me [why he is obsessed with Chelsea].”