Date:Sunday April 15 2007
Blackburn Rovers suffered the heartache of an FA Cup Semi Final defeat to Chelsea on Sunday but we can be prouder than ever to say we follow Rovers and can all hold our heads VERY high.
Firstly, before anything else I would like to congratulate Chelsea. I know it is painful for us but they won so we have to tip our caps. No one can dispute that they are a superior team overall but on this particular occasion I can't say they were the better team and won't say they were the better team. It WAS as close as I always thought it would be. For most the week I thought it was 50:50, it could quite literally go either way, and it could have. We voted 51% to 49% in Chelsea's favour in our poll, so we all knew how close it could be, and so it proved. I hope that Chelsea go on and beat Manchester United in the Final now as we can at least go on in the knowledge (not that it's of any comfort now!) that we were beaten in BOTH domestic Cup's this season by the eventual winners.
Now back to point of this article, for the most part of the opening 43 minutes (it's important to note it wasn't the full 45!) Chelsea looked odds on winners and Frank Lampard's 16th minute strike looked like it wouldn't be the last. Mark Hughes got a message across to the lads near the end of the half and David Dunn's effort as half time approached, turned away well by Petr Cech sparked life into a team that looked otherwise nervous of such a huge match.
Whatever Sparky said to the lads at half time had the desired effect and we showed the watching world just what we see most weeks, a performance of the highest order and a performance FAR above the "bully boys" label we have held for so long. Jason Roberts (with his first goal for Rovers) brought us level and then after there only looked like being one winner before the referee ended the 90 minutes. But for Cech in the Chelsea goal, a post and Morten Gamst Pedersen sending his header agonisingly wide when unmarked in the dying minutes (this will haunt me tonight when I eventually get to sleep!) we would have.
Extra time could have still seen the game go either way but Chelsea got the break, another fine last ditch challenge from Stephen Warnock (who looked done for after putting his body on the line, as Aaron Mokoena had asked earlier in the week) looked like it might have cleared the danger but Chelsea showed why they are the team they are, the midfielders were arriving at the right time and Michael Ballack broke our hearts with ten minutes of the game to play and we couldn't recover.
I worried that the incident when Mokoena refused to return the ball to Chelsea when Cech had put it out for a throw in might over shadow a great game and a wonderful Rovers performance, but surely Chelsea would have done likewise had roles been reversed?!?!
So, our FA Cup hopes are again quashed at the Semi Final stage and with it surely our hopes of European football next season have gone, but although it is little comfort for us now we can take great pride in defeat and although some don't share the opinion you can have a heroes in defeat tag, we certainly were just that on Sunday! EVERY player should what Rovers are all about and more than did us proud.
ANYONE who still doubts just how far Blackburn Rovers Football Club have come (we REALLY do play football like this most weeks) under Mark Hughes, since the days when we were bully boys I guess literally fighting for our lives, should watch this game again. If you still choose to keep viewing us with such distain and would rather see this as a "one off performance" then all I can say is keep your views of us and I will fully agree with and second sasman's thoughts from before the Semi Final and you can just get stuffed!
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Date:Sunday April 15 2007
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