Wow, what a week. I thought Saturday, and the top of the table clash with Manchester United was an emotional roller-coaster, but it was nothing, nothing compared to the feeling of the Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg.
I cannot remember the last time I have looked around Stamford Bridge at full time and seen so many people so exhausted, and yet so full of relief and joy.
It was though a great ordeal had been survived, and everyone had just been reunited with his or her families.
Family; perhaps the most poignant word of the night.
Frank Lampard stepped forward in the 98th minute and did his family proud. Jamie Redknapp, the former Liverpool footballer and Frank’s cousin, was visibly moved when analysing the penalty for television after the game.
Six days after his mother has passed away, the Chelsea vice-captain put more weight on shoulders that were ready to buckle. He took a deep breath, and sent Pepe Reina the wrong way, and Stamford Bridge into euphoria. The reaction was nothing short of magical.
I am not normally a romantic, but can be known to get caught up in the moment, especially when the Blues are involved. But the minute or so after Lampard’s goal will live we me forever.
The Black armband, Lampard collapsing to his knees. The complete outpour of emotions, the point to the heavens and then the kiss in the direction of his father, who sat beside an empty seat in the east stand.
Yet this was a moving sub-plot to an absorbing if not pretty game of football. Chelsea started much the way they did against United, on the front foot, and eager to impress.
Didier Drogba, himself involved in his own sub-plot with Rafa Benitez, was titanic. More proof that when the Ivorian decides to play, he is unstoppable. Drogba’s celebration after the first goal was the only answer he needed to give the Liverpool boss; after hammering in from 10 yards, Drogba skidded, cheeks puffed out, right in front of the Liverpool bench. Benitez probably thought he dived…
Credit to Liverpool for fighting back, and pushing until the bitter end, but from the moment Lampard restored Chelsea’s lead in extra time, the Gods were always with the home side. Drogba emphatically made it 3, and not even an absolute screamer from Ryan Babel could dampen Chelsea spirits on a fantastic, if soaking night in West London. Chelsea were home, even if they weren’t exactly dry.
Now to Moscow, and the chance for Roman Abramovich to see HIS team win the trophy HE really wants, in HIS city. Who says romance is dead…
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