Chelsea's dreams of a first League and Cup Double remain very much alive after they beat Newcastle United 1-0 in the FA Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge last night. John Terry, the England central defender, scored the winner in the fourth minute with a volley from a corner.
However, once again Jose Mourinho's Premiership champions-elect failed to entertain in what was a dour match. Their manager will probably claim not to care but if Chelsea lift the Cup they will have attracted few new followers last night.
For Newcastle the defeat means another season without silverware. Thirty-seven years and counting for the Tyneside faithful. For Alan Shearer, their retiring striker and assistant manager, hopes of a trophy with his home-town club - as a player at least - came to an end.
Had he scored a 203rd last night Newcastle United may have secured at least a replay from this FA Cup sixth-round tie but he did not manage a shot. Nor did enough of his team-mates as Newcastle strained in vain to level John Terry's fourth-minute goal.
Shearer will head into retirement this summer haunted by the knowledge that, despite his status as one of England's finest post-war strikers, his career honours list can be boiled down to the solitary Premiership medal he won with Blackburn Rovers in 1995.
The Chelsea squad matched that last season and remain on course to add the Double but, once again, they left a sour taste. The culprit was Shaun Wright-Phillips, who capped an abysmal 23-minute cameo with an injury-time dive under the challenge of Robbie Elliott causing the defender to be dismissed for a second yellow card.
The England winger was one of seven changes Jose Mourinho had made to the team beaten by Fulham on Sunday. Ordinarily, that might be put down to squad rotation but so abject was the performance that several players could consider themselves dropped. Wright-Phillips, hauled off after 25 minutes at Craven Cottage, will have fallen into that category.
Newcastle, heavily beaten by Liverpool the same day, had fewer cards to shuffle. With three centre-halves injured or suspended, the caretaker-manager, Glenn Roeder, was forced to pair the rookie Peter Ramage, who had spent most of his Premiership career at full-back, with Elliott, normally a left-back. This pair did not take long to be exposed.
From Damien Duff's corner Terry, leaving Ramage trailing, struck a low drive. Shay Given may well have saved but Nolberto Solano, on the post, stuck out a foot and inadvertently diverted the ball between the goalkeeper's legs, and in. It was arguably an own goal but, more fairly, Terry's fifth of the season, a meagre tally given his dominating presence at set-pieces. From that moment on there seemed little doubt that Chelsea would join West Ham and Liverpool in tomorrow's semi-final draw.
Newcastle had not won at Stamford Bridge since 1986, when Roeder was playing for them, and had conceded 15 goals in their past four visits. But they did not succumb meekly like Birmingham City the previous night and Chelsea did not appear in as clinical a frame of mind as Liverpool had been at St Andrew's.
This, at least, gave Carlo Cudicini a rare opportunity to show his class. The goalkeeper, who presumably feels occasional cup outings such as this one, and healthy remuneration, are sufficient compensation for his second-string status, had to leap full length to palm away Lee Bowyer's 16th-minute snap shot. A few years ago it would still have been a goal for Shearer was following up but Terry got there first.
Newcastle were given further chances through the indiscipline which has crept into Chelsea's defending, but Newcastle's makeshift defence continued to struggle at set-pieces. Immedi-ately after the restart, Joe Cole forced a good save at the near post from Given. Then Eidur Gudjohnsen dribbled through with evident intent only to spoon his shot over. With Newcastle's defence being stretched to breaking point Craig Moore, one of Graeme Souness' summer signings, was introduced for what was, unbelievably, his debut.
With Newcastle weathering the storm, tensions rose. Drogba, Shola Ameobi and Moore were all booked, and Elliott could have been dismissed, following an ugly scramble for a loose ball which had become lodged under Cole.
Duff later made way as Chelsea, having flaunted their riches on Budget Day by putting £74m of talent on the bench, introduced Wright-Phillips. With the home side counter-attacking at will he should have settled the issue but blazed over. It will have done the player no favours.
Chelsea (4-1-2-3): Cudicini; Geremi, Carvalho, Terry, Del Horno; Makelele; Gudjohnsen (Essien, 75), Lampard; Cole (Crespo, 75), Drogba, Duff (Wright-Phillips, 67). Substitutes not used: Cech (gk), Huth.
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Given; Carr, Ramage, Elliott, Babayaro (Moore, 55); Parker, Bowyer; Solano (Emre, 69), Dyer, Ameobi; Shearer. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Faye, Clark.
Referee: S Bennett (Orpington).Reuse content