Chelsea defied all odds Wednesday night, as their 4-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of the Champions League tie against Napoli had them overcoming a 3-1 deficit to advance to the quarterfinals in Europe.
This is part three, the final chapter of this short series I did on what the result meant to the club. While the first part was over-exaggerated ramblings of an emotionally unstable fan, the second was an analysis of what should have been a season of disappointment. This final segment is the culmination of it and what it means going forward. Enjoy.
Part Three: And Beyond
The empty cups of beer have been picked up. The sticky residue left on the seats as the foamy drink flew as fans jumped with joy has been washed away. The reality of the result has faded into legend. Now all we have to remember it by is grainy YouTube clips and the spotty recollections of our minds.
Three days removed from what can safely be described as the most exciting and exhilarating night I had experienced as a Chelsea fan, I have moved on. The majesty of sports is in this nature—the way we can be so emotionally invested in something for so many hours and then have it fade away into nothingness in even less time after it ends.
Roberto Di Matteo pulled off the improbable, but what that result meant in that moment is completely dependent on what the future holds.
You see, there is another brilliance of sports that reflects more of a sensibility to reality than anything else. While there is the simplicity of reaction to the moments by fans, that moment is characterized by the future as well.
Chelsea will play perhaps the biggest game of the season this Sunday hosting Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.
If in September you had told the team that this would be their mid-March draw, it would have been greeted with shrugs and indifference, perhaps even a bit of excitement as they were fortunate to draw a lower-division opponent so deep in the domestic cup. But for Di Matteo and his brethren of the reinvigorated “old guard,” it is another challenge for them to prove that all this is real.
There is no denying the brilliance of what can only be described as the most exciting day of the modern grounds which currently hold Stamford Bridge, but it all must be toward some end game.
That end game is still far off. It is a season that ends with this: a fourth place finish in the league, an FA Cup and continued dominance in Europe.
Not more than three weeks ago these would have been thought of as unrealistic propositions. Had they accomplished one of these feats, it would be looked upon as some sort of grand comeback. This is no longer the case.
Wednesday’s victory set a new precedent for this Chelsea squad. The arguments “they are too old,” “they don’t have enough creativity,” “their strikers can’t score” no longer hold any weight. The players proved that despite all these statements being accurate, they are still of the quality they possessed not even two seasons ago.
With results come expectations. We finally saw what this team can do and anything that is not that will be shunned.
We as fans will no longer excuse a team that cannot score. We will not pardon easy goals against. We will not and cannot accept anything different than what we saw Wednesday night. So now the bar is raised, and not meeting it will only leave the same foul tinge we all suffered with under Villas-Boas.
Today, Chelsea fans were restrained in their excitement as tweets and statuses across the web read passively optimistic with the knowledge that they had drawn Benfica in the quarterfinals of Champions League. No one would suggest it is an easy route to the semis, but everyone also agrees it could have been worse…much worse. Those games are not scheduled until a few weeks down the road.
Until then, they entertain matches against Leicester, Manchester City and Tottenham. Three tough matches and three must wins to accomplish the goals above. But, just like the expectations have changed in terms of goals, so has what we expect from these games.
Not one of them is easy, but no longer are they improbable.
From here on out, nothing is improbable.
So here’s a toast to it all—Di Matteo, the “old guard,” Abramovich, Villas-Boas, Fernando Torres, the young guns and everyone that got them to where there are right now. I salute you as you go forward and wish you all the good fortune one may have as Wednesday night will always live on as the day that forever changed the Chelsea Football Club.
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