Confidence levels too high among the bar brigade

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The Independent Football

The first fans began leaving the Cadogan Arms just after Fernando Morientes' strike nestled in the back of the Chelsea net. That left room for those punters who had been locked out of this pub on the King's Road, but when they were let in they were hardly being allowed the best of the night's action.

Prior to the Spaniard's equaliser for 2-2 confidence levels had been running high - perhaps too high - given the open nature of this Champions' League semi-final. Understandably Chelsea's first European semi-final in nine years had aroused massive interest in West London and that showed itself in this locale less than a mile away from Stamford Bridge.

However, this cross-border confrontation was not going to get in the way of some more parochial issues. There were choice words reserved for Edouard Cissé who played for West Ham for all of about five minutes last season but these London rivalries are difficult to forget even on a night like this.

"We've got to win, my mate's got £120 on it," was the prediction of one Blues fan. His partner in crime chimed in with: "If we get to 2-0 early then we're in with a chance.'' That particular supporter clearly knew his stuff as Frank Lampard's close-range strike followed Jesper Gronkjaer's brilliant 22nd-minute goal.

Lampard's goal ignited the Cadogan to such an extent that even the Everton and Celtic fans who were spotted in the throng must have felt that Chelsea could do what had been seen as undoable. Yet the chants at the interval of "Chelsea Chelsea" lacked the imagination of most of the Londoners' play in the first half and above all of Gronkjaer's spectacular and speculative opener.

There was no doubt that Joe Cole had merited his place according to those assembled in the pub although his early slash at goal hardly merited much in the way of self-belief. Indeed, the early mood before kick-off was initially one of "Forty per cent confidence". Yet, strangely, on a night when emotions and above all opinions were thick on the ground, one fan's reaction of shrugged shoulders and a murmured "who knows" was definitely out of sync.

The banks of four who were neatly positioned in front of the giant screens could arguably have come in useful as Chelsea seemed to relax before half-time. No sooner had Lampard scored with Chelsea's fans exultant than Hugo Ibarra had pulled one back for the French and the locals were incredulous.

The sense of deflation was masked by hopeful pleas to the television gods that Ibarra had been offside or, closer to the truth, had used his hand. Either way, there was an awful lot mulling over something fizzy and preferable alcoholic during the 15-minute break.

The reaction when Gronkjaer shot over six minutes after the interval with the same left foot that had conjured up that special goal earlier on was perhaps more indicative of the locals' feelings about the Dane.

There were no Monaco fans visible in the Cadogan and if they were present they were wisely keeping their allegiances to themselves although as the match ticked on with the visitors' victory ever more likely they could probably have got away with a modest "allez allez" as the atmosphere turned from lukewarm to freezing cold.

The sense of resignation in the increasingly deserted pub may be matched soon by the official resignation of Claudio Ranieri. But the locals here believe he should be given another shot. As one still sober fan called Justin observed: "If you had given us second place in the Premiership and a Champions' League semi-final we'd have taken it and the fans at Stamford Bridge would tell you the same."

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