For seven minutes late in the second half the long journey to Stamford Bridge had been gloriously worthwhile for 6,500 Huddersfield Town fans and their team after an equalising goal rocked Chelsea. But joyous anticipation of a replay and a possible humiliation of the country's champion team was wrecked with nine minutes left as Eidur Gudjohnsen sidefooted the winner to restore normality.
Still, Jose Mourinho thought enough of Huddersfield's gallantry to shake hands with each of their players as they trooped off, and they were all invited into the home dressing room and given souvenir shirts.
"Their spirit was fantastic," he said. Having retained only two of the team who beat West Ham, he was forced into throwing three top men, Arjen Robben, Paulo Ferreira and Asier Del Horno, into the fray and it was the trickery of Robben which set up the winner.
On a soft pitch which cut up readily, Chelsea had dominated the first half. The pace and power of the England Under-21 striker Carlton Cole regularly embarrassed Huddersfield and he deserved the 12th-minute goal which emphasised this superiority. However, the star of Chelsea's afternoon was the diminutive 20-year-old French midfielder Lassana Diarra in his first start since joining from Le Havre last summer. "Diarra was my best player," Mourinho confirmed. "He has Makelele's qualities defensively and Essien's qualities with the ball. I have told him that for our next game he will be in my squad of 16."
So belligerently did Huddersfield start on the pitch where the club had won the FA Cup in 1922 that they could have been in front. The left-back Danny Adams made ground down the left to cross low and Carlo Cudicini did well to save from Huddersfield's most consistent performer, Gary Taylor-Fletcher.
The first-half fall-away after that high moment was spectacular. Their manager Peter Jackson admitted: "For three minutes we were on top, but never got a kick after that because we showed them too much respect."
Diarra had already tested Phillip Senior in the Huddersfield goal before Damien Duff set up the opening score, sliding the ball inside to Carlton Cole. Though his shot was blocked by Taylor-Fletcher, the ball rebounded into the air and the Chelsea striker reacted fastest to nod in.
Chelsea, and particularly the over-anxious Shaun Wright-Phillips, proceeded to waste plenty of chances, though Senior's tip-over of Carlton Cole's forceful header was a fine save.
Urged by Jackson to compete more forcefully in the second half, Huddersfield complied to such an extent that the winning of a corner brought an anticipatory roar from their followers and the unease of the home fans escalated. Nathan Clarke and Martin McIntosh were not far off the mark and, after Duff had brought another excellent block from Senior, Ricardo Carvalho had to clear off the line.
On came Robben for Duff but before he could make any impact Huddersfield were level. A precise through ball from the substitute Michael Collins produced a shot from Taylor-Fletcher hard and low and good enough for Cudicini only to delay its progress into the net.
Huddersfield's joy did not last long, as Chelsea upped pace and commitment markedly and the League One team had no answer to Robben's brilliant, mesmerising run into the penalty box which was ended by the invitation to Gudjohnsen to spoil the visitors' day. For them it was back to reality. "Now we have to bounce back," said Jackson, "and get three points against Scunthorpe on Tuesday."Reuse content