Date: 19 December 2018
Bournemouth put on their best performance in ages in this match, and were unlucky that in the end the only difference between them and a very strong Chelsea side was a solitary, late, goal.
It was the strength of the two line-ups that first struck us when the teams were announced. Both managers seemed to be taking this cup quarter-final very seriously indeed. The Chelsea line-up included Azpilicueta, Giroud, Loftus-Cheek, Willian and Fabregas. We, unusually for a cup game, were employing our own big guns like Aké and Wilson in the starting line-up; and even the bench had first-team regulars – the only player I’ve never seen being substitute goalie Travers. (Begovic was watching the match from the stands – sitting near us but in the ‘home’ end!) The biggest puzzle on seeing the teams was that there was no recognisable central midfielder (i.e. none of Lewis Cook, Lerma, Gosling or Surman) in the starting line-up. The solution to that riddle would be that Brooks and Stanislas would play in less wide positions than usual, while Aké would sit between them, slightly deeper. Steve Cook was captain for the day; Simpson, who’d played in the first and second rounds of this competition, was back after missing only one round, and was in the centre of a back three; Ibe and Rico were wing-backs and we had two centre forwards! Yes, despite a lot of players in new positions, Eddie was really going for this.
It took us ages to get into the ground – what with security checks and slow-working ticket machines. One steward actually asked us what time kick-off was; when we replied “7:45” he unhelpfully remarked “You’re not going to make that!” We didn’t; the match had already started when I reached my seat – but the clock showed that less than a minute had been played and, in fairness, the view from the Upper Shed was excellent. (Couldn’t be more different from row C of the Ted MacDougall at home!)
The first half was a pulsating one – with the game rarely taking a ‘breather’ even for free kicks, and no substitutions. The fact that (very unusually in my experience) zero minutes would be added at the end of the half gives a clue as to how ‘full’ these 45 minutes were. Chelsea had plenty of chances to get on the scoresheet, but our defenders were mostly successful in holding them back so that they had to attempt their shots from distance. If they did break through our defensive wall, Boruc was in great form keeping everything out. Perhaps his best moment was beating Willian one-on-one on the half hour. In fact it’s a shame that having had an outstanding half Boruc gave the ball away in a throw-out towards half time. But then, he must have been exhausted by now. In contrast, the Chelsea keeper didn’t have a lot to do. Our best shot of the half was from Wilson, cooperating well with Mousset, on 16 minutes, but it went wide. Apart from Boruc, Brooks and our two wing-backs were also having great games. One disappointment was that Ibe always seemed to be in plenty of space, unmarked, but no-one seemed willing to pass to him. Also that in the only corner-kick of the half, a Bournemouth one, Rico decided to go ‘short’ even though there was no-one there! Half-time: 0-0.
The second half began much as the first had ended, but within 15 minutes Chelsea had brought on even bigger guns: Pedro and Hazard. We responded by replacing Stanislas with Fraser who, although not being asked to play in as wide as a position as usual, broke free down the left wing almost immediately and got in a wonderful cross to Wilson who unfortunately was unable to capitalise on it. Chelsea’s third substitution was Luiz, so another strong one, but the deciding moment in the game would have to wait until we were just seven minutes away from a penalty shoot-out. Hazard received the ball on Chelsea’s left and managed – via a slight deflection off Daniels – to find the corner of the net. It was no defender’s fault in particular, and it was an untidy goal, but they all count. Now all Chelsea had to do was to hold out to the end.
Bournemouth gave it everything now. Defoe came on and we switched to a 3-4-3 system. Four minutes’ time was added so we still had a chance. Boruc even came forward for the last Bournemouth free kick during added time, (well, a longer cup run would clearly benefit him,) but it came to nothing and time was up. 1-0 to Chelsea.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
S Cook (7), Simpson (7), Daniels (8);
Ibe (8), Brooks (9), Aké (7), Stanislas (7), Rico (6);
Wilson (7), Mousset (7)
S Cook, Simpson, Daniels;
Ibe, Aké, Fraser, Rico;
Defoe, Wilson, King.