Chapter 37 Chasing Former Glories Thursday 12th April “Welcome to the Sport Show on Radio Canterlot, and to quote today's Football Daily front page, are Chelsea on course for the Treble?” “No they damn well aren't!” came Belladonna's voice from the other side of the door. “Rattled, are we?” Autumn muttered, as Big Match and Kick Off discussed the previous night's match. “...as well as Mikel,” Kick Off continued, “Especially how he kept Gerrard and Alonso quiet all game.” “Well, Chelsea did suffer a blow last night as Carvalho limped off injured; he faces at least two weeks on the sidelines…” With the feeling that she had done this far too many times, Autumn turned the radio off and dialled the visitation office. Saturday 14th April As the weather was getting warmer and Chelsea weren't in action until the following day, I'd taken Dinky to a tour of the newly rebuilt Wembley Stadium, which would be hosting the FA Cup Final in May. The semi finals were taking place this weekend; Everton would face Tottenham at Villa Park, while Chelsea's opponents at Old Trafford would be Aston Villa. The two of us got back to the apartment (following a stop at Goalato) just as the league results were coming in. “Manchester United cruised to a comfortable win over struggling Middlesbrough this afternoon. The result sees them open an eight point lead over Chelsea, who are in FA Cup action this weekend and play their fixture at West Ham on Wednesday...” Man Utd 2-0 Middlesbrough (Rooney 32, Giggs 55) 1 Man Utd P34 79pts 2 Chelsea P33 71pts Sunday 15th April Once upon a time, Aston Villa had been a great team. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they'd collected a number of trophies, culminating in the European Cup in 1982. In the early 1990s, they'd challenged for the title and won the League Cup in 1994 and 1996. However, the trophies had then dried up, and all they had to show since then was an appearance in the last FA Cup Final at the Old Wembley in 2000, in which Chelsea had beaten them 1-0. In the past six seasons, they’d flirted with relegation as often as they’d flirted with Europe. This season's FA Cup, however, had given them the chance to rekindle their glory days. A surprise victory over Man Utd in the third round had been followed by wins over Nottingham Forest, Reading and Middlesbrough. Now, they faced Chelsea in their bid to get to Wembley and have a chance of winning their first trophy in eleven years. Of course, Chelsea were still fighting on three fronts, and had their own eyes on the FA Cup; the last meeting between the two sides had been that final in 2000, which was the last time Chelsea had won the cup. “So, half time here at Old Trafford,” Big Match said, “And we still have no idea of who will join Everton in the final; they beat Tottenham 3-1 in yesterday’s semi final at Villa Park…” The score stood at 1-1 at half time, with both sides having traded blows. Midway through the first half, Agbonlahor had cut inside and scored from an angle with a shot which beat Cech at his near post. Then, six minutes before half time, Joe Cole, deployed behind Drogba and Gudjohnsen, had run onto a pass from Drogba to fire a low shot past Thomas Sorensen to bring Chelsea level. “Well, Aston Villa have a chance now to show that they are still up there,” Kick Off said, as the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second half, “But Chelsea have shown this season that they can really turn it on in the second half.” And turn it on they did. Four minutes into the second half, Joe Cole played a through ball to Gudjohnsen, who turned Phil Bardsley before unleashing a shot which was saved by Sorensen. Three minutes later, Drogba was fouled just outside the area by McCann, who was booked for the challenge. Lampard stepped up, but sent the free kick just over the bar. The match then went quiet, as Villa looked to frustrate Chelsea in midfield; with Makelele seeing a cross caught by Sorensen. Three minutes later, Sorensen was called into action again, saving a Drogba shot from a tight angle, and then saving Ballack’s header from the resulting corner. As the match entered the last fifteen minutes and extra time loomed, Lampard looked to get his name on the scoresheet, but again Sorensen was on hand to save his shot. Then, in the 78th minute, Bouma looked to clear the ball out of defence, but his clearance was blocked by Essien. Drogba pounced on the loose ball, and ran into the area, holding off Gareth Barry, before letting fly with a shot which beat Sorensen at his near post. “Chelsea’s persistence has paid off at last!” Kick Off exclaimed, “And once again, it’s Drogba who scores a vital goal! Twelve minutes to go, and Chelsea lead in the FA Cup semi final!” Now, it was Villa who looked to attack, but it wasn’t until the 86th minute that they looked like creating something. McCann passed to Agbonlahor, who played the ball on to Bardsley. Bardsley looked to cross from distance, but Ballack was there to intercept. Chelsea finished the match stronger, and could even have doubled their lead in the final minutes. With a minute to go, Drogba was played in by Gudjohnsen. He let fly from a tight angle, with his shot being saved by Sorensen. Then, in the second minute of added time, a cross by Ballack was headed clear by Mellberg. Makelele intercepted the ball and passed to Gudjohnsen, who saw his shot tipped wide. Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa (Joe Cole 39, Drogba 78; Agbonlahor 22) “And the final whistle goes, and Chelsea are going to Wembley!” Kick Off said, “They won the last FA Cup Final to be played at the Old Wembley, and now, they will be playing Everton in the first FA Cup Final at the New Wembley! Aston Villa, meanwhile, see their hopes of a first FA Cup in over 50 years dashed; a season which started so brightly will now only deliver a mid-table finish…” In the stands, the Chelsea supporters were in full voice, singing a song which had not been sung for six years. “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we’re going to Wembley…” A/N: Between 2000 and 2007, domestic cup finals were played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff while Wembley Stadium was rebuilt. From the 2007/08 season onwards, all FA Cup semi finals have been played at Wembley. “Goalato” is the football-themed ice cream parlour which appeared in “A Time to Bloom”.