Tony Banks: The view from Chelsea

'Football fans will rejoice for Ranieri'
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The Independent Online

I went to the first leg but I gave my ticket away for the second leg because I really didn't believe we would beat Arsenal. I'd rather play Real Madrid, Manchester United or a team from the planet Zog than Arsenal, I have seen them beat Chelsea so many times over the years. We hadn't beaten them in the League since the early 1990s but I feel slightly shamed now not to have gone. I was brought up by my father to hate Arsenal.

I went to the first leg but I gave my ticket away for the second leg because I really didn't believe we would beat Arsenal. I'd rather play Real Madrid, Manchester United or a team from the planet Zog than Arsenal, I have seen them beat Chelsea so many times over the years. We hadn't beaten them in the League since the early 1990s but I feel slightly shamed now not to have gone. I was brought up by my father to hate Arsenal.

The only thing that made me feel marginally optimistic is every team has a bad run within a season. Arsenal haven't had one yet and they were coming into this match on the back of two draws and a defeat so there was just a possibility they were at the beginning of a bad run and the wheels could fall off their season.

I watched it at home with other friends who didn't want to make the journey because we felt we were going to lose.

The first goal came psychologically at the very worst moment for Chelsea. We'd been under the kosh for most of the first half. Although there weren't that many shots on goal, Arsenal looked more dangerous. When Arsenal scored it meant we were in real difficulties - I was pretty depressed.

It also meant we had no choice but to go out and attack them. I think Ranieri's substitutions in the second half were inspiring. In the end Arsenal ran out of legs and when Thierry Henry was substituted you knew something was seriously wrong with Arsenal.

At that point, if there was any psychological mind battle going on, Ranieri was winning it. We ended up so much stronger than Arsenal we could have scored more goals in the end. The way they had us on the ropes in the first half, we had them in the second. As soon as we scored the equaliser, we were up for it big time.

We were thinking "we've got them because we're really pushing up hard now". Ranieri's substitutions were totally correct. He knew the weaknesses in his own team as well as in Arsenal. The new legs were on, the pressure was on and you saw Wayne Bridge was still running fresh and fit. As soon as we equalised we were there for victory and I was very very confident at that point.

In the end our hunger to win was greater than theirs and, having lost their previous match, it could very well be time for the wheels to fall off for Arsenal. If they lose to Liverpool at the weekend, Chelsea are in there. I wouldn't bet against Chelsea getting the double on them. It's an amazing turnaround in both teams' seasons in the last week.

I think football fans around the country would have rejoiced for Claudio Ranieri, because the treatment of him has been nothing short of disgraceful.

Seeing him very emotional and crying at the end of the match indicated this was a great win for Ranieri. If the Chelsea board don't publicly back him for this season and next, they deserve to go.

In the lounge room, three of us were Chelsea and one was Arsenal. Of course I was jumping up and down when we scored the second time. It was the sort of evening you didn't think you were going to live to see. I lived to see it and I survived and I'm now looking forward to a trip to Monaco. I won't be watching that one from my living room.

Tony Banks MP was sports minister between 1997 and 1998.

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