After seeing his team lose to Everton in midweek, and struggle for 45 minutes against Championship side Cardiff on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti had clearly had enough. With the scoreline 1-1 he gave his failing team a Continental version of the hairdryer treatment during the half-time break on Saturday, shouting at the players in a curious, furious mix of Italian and English.
The sight of a potty Ancelotti going puce in the face clearly had its desired effect, as Chelsea won the second half 3-0 to ease their way into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Ancelotti's tirade came as a shock to John Obi Mikel, who admitted afterwards the only time he had seen the Chelsea manager so angry was after a 2-2 draw with Cypriot whipping boys Apoel Nicosia in December.
"When we went back into the dressing today the manager was crazy, so we went into the second half knowing what we had to do. He went mad at us," Mikel said. "We knew we could do better. But we came out in the second half and that's what we gave him. He shouted at us in English and Italian, everything. When he's mad he mixes everything up. He was not happy. Normally he's pretty laid back. But when things are not going right, that's when he goes a bit mad."
Ancelotti's rage is something that so far has been kept in private. The Italian is not one of those managers, like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger, who are apt to lose their composure on the touchline during the game. Ancelotti's rage is usually expressed in a dismissive wave of the hand and a turn away in disgust rather than a rant at the match officials, although he did recently admit to abusing Howard Webb after Chelsea lost 2-1 at Manchester City in December.
His calm exterior however belies a fierce competitor who is not afraid to give the multi-millionaires in his dressing room a piece of his mind. Milan players, including David Beckham, warned the Chelsea players that Ancelotti was capable of volcanic explosions of temper after the Italian's move to Stamford Bridge from San Siro in the summer.
It was Joe Cole who paid the price for Ancelotti's anger, the England midfielder withdrawn and replaced at the interval by Salomon Kalou after a disappointing 45 minutes playing wide right in an attacking trio. The substitution raises several questions about Cole's role at Chelsea.
He is 28, in his prime, yet he cannot find a settled role under Ancelotti who seems increasingly to lack faith in Cole's ability to deliver. It is starting to look doubtful that Cole will make England's World Cup squad. The former West Ham man is also out of contract in the summer and Chelsea are playing tough over his contract negotiations.
Ray Wilkins, Chelsea's assistant manager, accepted that Cole may be trying a little too hard to impress after returning in the autumn from a cruciate ligament injury. "It could be the case, especially when he plays here [at Stamford Bridge]," Wilkins said. "He is an entertainer and the supporters love to see him do his stuff. For individualists like Joe in possession of the ball, it is a confidence thing. If certain things don't go right then it is just one of those things. But we have no problems with Joe whatsoever."
The incomparable Didier Drogba set Chelsea on their way in the second minute with his 23rd goal of the season, following a superb pass from Mikel. Cardiff however forced their way back and equalised when Michael Chopra, unmarked in the penalty area, headed past Henrique Hilario. Following Ancelotti's half-time rant, Chelsea turned up their game and won with ease. Michael Ballack, who barely misplaced a pass all afternoon, scored from Drogba's pass, and then Daniel Sturridge and Salomon Kalou made the game safe.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Hilario; Ferreira, Alex, Carvalho, Zhirkov; Ballack, Mikel, Lampard; J Cole (Kalou, h-t), Drogba (Borini, 88), Sturridge (Malouda, 78). Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk) Ivanovic, Matic, Bruma.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Marshall; McNaughton, Gerrard, Gyepes, Kennedy; Burke (McCormack, 78), Rae (Blake, 75), Wildig (Taiwo, 90), Whittingham; Chopra, Boothroyd. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Quinn, Feeney, Mathews.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).
Booked: Chelsea Alex, Carvalho; Cardiff Chopra, Gerrard.
Man of the match: Drogba.
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