Chelsea vs Manchester City: Frank Lampard lingers to bid fond farewell to Stamford Bridge

The Calvin Report: The midfielder professed his love for a 'club which becomes you once you've played for it'

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The Independent Football

Fate decreed that the final seconds of Frank Lampard’s career in the familiar surroundings of Stamford Bridge were spent grappling with John Terry. Once the whistle blew, the fevered synchronicity of a typical corner-kick gave way to a mutual embrace which revealed the contradictions of a schizophrenic occasion.

These were the History Boys in the equivalent of late middle age. Terry had been fallible in the build-up to Manchester City’s equaliser; Lampard was restricted to a 15-minute cameo appearance on a night his former club cemented their position at the top of the Premier League. Lampard lingered, and was the last to leave the pitch. He placed his hands above his head and applauded those who remained. It was an act of genuflection which summoned images of the poster which once punctuated the walk to the stadium. It featured Lampard’s profession of love for a “club which becomes you once you’ve played for it”.

He will not be easily excised from the record books, which proclaim him as arguably Chelsea’s greatest player. Only the token eccentric denied him his due. One could only wonder at the lonely hours which a middle-aged man filled with a piece of cardboard and a felt-tip pen. He paraded around the West Stand with a placard which proclaimed: “Lampard. You are not a legend any more. You are a traitor to Chelsea FC and Chelsea fans.” Sad, simply sad.

The subject of his ire found the perfect perspective. “From a personal point of view it was a bit of a strange day,” Lampard said. “ I was a bit nervous but I was delighted with the reception from both sets of fans.”

 

Everyone knew the subtext of Jose Mourinho’s decision to indulge in one of those strangely eloquent silences, which scream different things to different audiences. Referees, FA blazers, TV pundits, armchair critics and laptop moralists were all supposedly excoriated by his reticence.

He remained uncommunicative, safe in the knowledge his primary aim, recreating the siege mentality with which he is so comfortable, was easily achieved. He turned a disconcerting majority of Chelsea fans into Pavlovian dogs of war. Goaded and castigated for a lack of support at strategic moments this season, they were finally praised. “We are a team,” Mourinho said through his favoured medium,  the programme notes.  “I love these players.  I love this club.”

Unsurprisingly, they responded to his unspoken invitation to celebrate the club’s outlaw status. Stamford Bridge was emotional charged. The wit and wisdom of the brain surgeons in the Matthew Harding Stand could be distilled in a single word, starting with the letter “c”.

It was directed towards Jamie Redknapp in the Sky studio, yet it was pantomimic rather than threatening. The bile of Liverpool’s visit in midweek was diluted. There was none of the venom of a London derby against Tottenham, or against City’s neighbours, United. City are just mildly irritating. The ritual abuse signalled the importance of the occasion rather than the nature of the competition.

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David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea

The Premier League may be marginally off the pace in terms of the Champions League, but a record 26 broadcasters were at the Bridge to record the latest episode of a soap opera that links Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. The estimated global audience, 650 million, will dwarf the 160m for Sunday night’s Super Bowl.

All eyes were on Mourinho, whose midweek clash with Brendan Rodgers signalled the end of a fine bromance. Since Manuel Pellegrini has an absurdly high boiling point, he was never going to be a willing dance partner in the technical areas. They shook hands sharply, and kept their distance.

The Chelsea manager was hyperactive, yet referee Mark Clattenburg, outstanding throughout, was measured in his tolerance. Mourinho’s mood shifted with the rhythms of an intense match shaped by the failings of the two captains. Vincent Kompany seemed at times questionably cautious, Terry was similarly guilty.

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Remy scores to put Chelsea ahead

The Homecoming, promoted as a feelgood movie for our age, will win few awards. The plot was strong, but the dramatic content was minimal. Lampard, though, left them wanting more. On occasions such as this, that is not a bad strategy.

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