Stamford Chidge & Jonathan Kydd are joined by Chelsea authors Mark Meehan and Mark Worrall to look back at Chelsea’s 2003-04 season.
In part two we pick up the story in the New Year and as is traditional the focus was on the FA Cup. It took a replay to get past Watford and then a fraught 1-0 win away to lowly Scarbrough before a 5th round tie against our nemesis Arsenal. Jose Antonio Reyes two goals in the second half make it four years in a row that Arsenal knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup. Sickening, and made worse by a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the League days later. Would we ever beat Arsenal? At that moment it seemed unlikley.
Meanwhile, Chelsea were progressing to the Champions League quarter finals courtesy of a 1-0 win away to Stuttgart Chelsea’s 16th away win of the season and a new record. But who would their opponents be? Arsenal of course!
Chelsea drew the first leg at home 1-1 in a cagey affair where Desailly was sent off. But could Chelsea do what no team had managed to do this season and beat Arsenal? In one of the most dramatic and memorable matches in the club’s history, Chelsea won 2-1 with Wayne Bridge’s winning goal (that sent us out of control) three minutes time meaning 17 games of hurt were now over. Arsenal players were on their knees and in tears and disbelief at the final whistle. Claudio Ranieri was in tears too and we were ecstatic. Joyous.
The casualty of our European success was the league where a 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough, a 3-2 defeat away to Villa and 0-0 draw at home to Everton ended our title hopes. It all came down to the Champions’ League semi-final, against unfancied Monaco, managed by former blue Didier Deschamps.
In the away leg, under pressure Ranieri who had been called a ‘dead man walking’ for several weeks now, completely lost the plot. Not helped by having to play Ambrosio due to Cudicin’s lengthy spell injured and some extraordinarily bizzarre substitutions when we should have held out for a 1-1 draw, the 3-1 defeat left Chelsea a mountain to climb in the second leg. This proved to be the case although Chelsea were unlucky to concede a goal thanks to Ibarra’s hand on the stroke of half-time when 2-0 up and looking good. Ulitmately Chelsea and Ranieri had blown it in the first leg.
A good 1-1 draw and a 1-0 defeat of Leeds to relegate them was enough to secure Chelsea’s highest league position since 1955, but this was not enough for Abramovich as Ranieri’s walk came to an end a few weeks later.