Rafael Benitez announced a changed side from the dismal XI that started against Swansea midweek. Marin in for Mata. JT back, Dave rested, Ivan back to right-back, Bertrand and Cole on the left, The Coward Torres up front, Oscar and Ramires and Lamps also in. On paper a team more than capable of beating most in the Premier League and certainly making short work of the minnows at Brentford, another South West London side.
The game started out fairly well for Chelsea, as Ashley Cole nearly found Fernando Torres in front of goal just minutes into the game. Oscar did well to pick out Cole on that attack, and he fashioned another chance just several minutes later when he went just wide of opening the scoring. Brentford settled into the game as the half wore on though, and started to show a little bit on confidence in attack. The trio of Fernando Torres, Marko Marin, and Ryan Bertrand also looked exceptionally sloppy with the ball, something that the Brentford defenders couldn’t have failed to notice. As Chelsea continued to wastefully give the ball away, the Brentford attackers pushed further up the pitch.
It was probably of little surprise to most when Brentford managed to take the lead about five minutes from halftime, as Chelsea had been exceptionally poor from about the fifteenth minute on. Frank Lampard had a silly giveaway at the edge of the 18-yard box, and Ross Turnbull simply parried the shot into the path of a Brentford attacker. Just like that, Chelsea were down at the break after managing just 2 shots on target in the first 45 minutes (Brentford managed 3).
The start of the second half would see Juan Mata brought on for the woeful Marko Marin, and Chelsea’s attack would improve almost instantly. Oscar moved to the wing, while Mata took up his usual place behind the ghost of Fernando Torres. Oscar would still drift centrally though, and managed to create a beautiful goal to level the game just ten minutes into the half. The Blues were looking much better after the Mata substitution, and even looked likely to eventually produce a winner against the mighty Bees of Brentford. They’d not find that second goal very quickly though, as the attack was mostly limited to Mata and Oscar with the occasional run from a pivot player. Not surprisingly then, Brentford would go back on top with about 20 minutes left to play when the Bees scored from the penalty spot.
The Chelsea center backs did a poor job with Tom Adeyemi, allowing him to get behind them and one on one with keeper Ross Turnbull. The backup predictably made a mess of it, sliding in at full speed without ever really having a chance to get the ball. Adeyemi leapt over Turnbull and avoided a pair of broken legs, but the penalty was awarded despite the lack of contact and Turnbull was given a yellow card. Frankly, it could easily have been red for a reckless and dangerous challenge, and Turnbull was certainly the last man back that prevented a goal scoring opportunity. If a card was going to be produced and a penalty awarded, the only question should have been whether or not a three game ban would have been coming as well.
Chelsea still (technically) had eleven players on the pitch, and Benitez would alter those eleven as Chelsea chased the game. His next move would involve swapping right back Branislav Ivanovic for right back Cesar Azpilicueta, a like for like substitution that screamed of managerial genius at work. Azpilicueta nearly managed to provide the leveling assist though, as his cross to Ryan Bertrand was headed wide when he easily should have scored.
That would be Bertrand’s last involvement, as he was pulled in favor of Demba Ba with just under ten minutes left to play. The move would pay off almost immediately, as Ba and Torres would combine for the leveler. Torres would chest the ball down to a Brentford defender, but Ba would fight through the player and manage to push the ball back to Torres. One excellent strike later, and the game was level at two.
Chelsea were denied a clear penalty in stoppage time that probably would have seen them put this tie to bed, but Frank Lampard would not be given a chance from the spot and we’re now looking at a replay at Stamford Bridge. I suppose that’s better than being eliminated from the competition, but adding yet another fixture to Chelsea’s already crowded schedule was not at all what I was hoping for.
Brentford not having played competitively at Stamford Bridge since 1946. But Chelsea have stuttered under Benitez at home. Sixty-seven years after they lost 3-2 in SW6, Brentford will not be seeking vengeance; but they could make life decidedly tricky once again for Rafa. If we will win the replay, we will travel to Middlesbrough in the fifth round of the cup after they beat Aldershot Town 2-1 in the fourth round.
- Brentford v Chelsea: Highlights and Pictures from Griffin Park (soccerwithoutlimits.com)
- Brentford v Chelsea – live! (guardian.co.uk)
- Torres denies brave Brentford (skysports.com)
- Brentford 2-2 Chelsea: Match report, pictures and video highlights (thesun.co.uk)