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Roberto earns his Spurs with Wembley win


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Whether you think he should be offered the job or not, all Chelsea supporters - and all football fans in general - will concur that Roberto di Matteo has worked miracles since he assumed management of the West London club.

A little more than six weeks has passed since the Italian took the helm of the sinking ship at Stamford Bridge. Since Andre Villas-Boas' dismissal, the club have been in scintillating form; winning nine of the Italian's 12 matches in charge and losing just once in that period of time - yet is that a reflection of di Matteo's brilliance, or more the inadequacies of the previous man in charge?

Whatever di Matteo has done to make the seeds of promise shown all too infrequently under the Villas-Boas regime suddenly shoot into realistic hope of an improbable double of the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League remains the big question, for only further misery was predicted by the media and Blues supporters alike when the Portuguese boss was ousted.

Motivation seems to be the key - so often the 'old guard' of Terry, Drogba and Lampard seemingly let the Portuguese coach down, whereas under di Matteo's tutelage they are once again the key men in the consistent dynamic of Chelsea Football Club, as yesterday's unbelievable Wembley demolition of Tottenham demonstrated.

These players want to play for di Matteo. Villas-Boas came in and left heavy bruises on the egos and subsequently lost the dressing room. Having witnessed first-hand the player power at Stamford Bridge, di Matteo has done the sensible thing and offered his players praise and support in a bid to stay onside with both the squad and the club's owner, Roman Abramovich.

Results like yesterday's may have come too little, too late in the context of Chelsea's season, but with an FA Cup final against Liverpool to look forward to - as well as the slim chance of beating Barcelona and gradually improving hopes of a top four finish - there is the possibility of inexplicably salvaging something from the most disastrous season in the club's recent history.

The Italian cannot take all the credit for this incredible revival in the Blues' collective fortunes, but his impact has certainly been felt both domestically and in Europe. His stock will only continue to rise after he out-thought and out-witted Spurs boss Harry Redknapp in yesterday's Wembley showdown between the two.

Team selection is something that undermined Andre Villas-Boas' attempts to win over the Chelsea players and supporters alike as he opted to leave club stalwarts Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard out in the cold, yet di Matteo's faith in the duo was vindicated as the third- and fourth-highest scorers in the club's history put in inspired performances, netting absolutely outstanding goals in the process.

Branislav Ivanovic's suspension has certainly come at the wrong time of the season, but his replacement, the heavily-criticised José Bosingwa, played surprisingly well and countered the pace of Gareth Bale with a positionally-disciplined performance, whilst favouring John Mikel Obi in the midfield was an absolute master-stroke from the Italian, who could guarantee both a defensive screen and the prospect of keeping Luka Modric quiet with the Nigerian's inclusion.

Roberto's choice to play those two over the seasoned veteran duo of Paulo Ferreira and Michael Essien was also a bold but correct move as the Italian favoured a counter-attacking dimension to his Wembley selection. Big game experience is abundant at Chelsea and di Matteo played to that particular strength.

Furthermore, his substitutions were well-timed and had a positive impact - Gary Cahill was his usual solid self at the back as he replaced the injured David Luiz (one of two sour notes for Chelsea, the other being boos from the Chelsea end during a minute of respectful silence in memory of the 96 who lost their lives at Hillsborough 23 years ago) whilst Florent Malouda capped off a magnificent team performance with a stoppage-time fifth to ensure normal service is resumed as far as Tottenham Hotspur and the Blues are concerned.

The Italian also boasts a considerable air of humility, as opposed to Villas-Boas' rueful Mourinho-esque snarling and frequent touchline rants. Impeccably dressed and dignified on the sidelines, di Matteo already had the fans onside thanks to his FA Cup-winning past with the club, and he may well have an FA Cup-winning future ahead of him, too.

That future - next month's final - was secured in some controversy and ultimately without remorse as the Blues went for the jugular. Tottenham had been outdone by di Matteo's tactical nous and the superior fitness of this Chelsea team.

When Juan Mata's contentious goal was awarded by Martin Atkinson, the game was over for Tottenham. They had troubled Chelsea, but the defensive discipline they had shown in the first half had been shattered by the desperate need for retaliation. Redknapp went 4-4-2 and suddenly the Spurs midfield was flooded as di Matteo - through his midfield General, Frank Lampard - took the game by the scruff of its neck. Chelsea had the advantage of an extra man in the middle of the pitch and from that point, it was just a case of how many.

But did Mata's shot cross the line?

Well, yes.

Regardless of whether it physically went in the net, the referee awarded the goal, ergo it went in. Ignore the whys and the wherefores, Atkinson said 'goal' and the Chelsea end erupted. Certain television replays from specific angles suggested the ball had been stopped on the line whilst some still imagery suggested a significant portion of it was indeed in the net. Either way, the goal was given and instead of realising they had 40 minutes remaining to get back into the game, Spurs let the occasion get to them and they were undone by their own frustrations.

Then there was that penalty decision - or lack of. Adebayor is through on goal, and goes to round Petr Cech who inadvertently brings him down. The penalty is awarded, Cech is sent off and Spurs have a foothold in the game and presumably a great chance to go on and win it, considering the substantial time remaining.

Or not. Cech stays on the pitch because Gareth Bale is on hand to sweep the ball into an empty net. Chelsea retain their full quota and go on to win the game handsomely.

Tottenham supporters were baying for blood, and understandably so. Chelsea supporters can sympathise with any club that is robbed by officials, for it has happened to us Blues more often than most. Yet a red card can only be given if Cech is a; bringing the player down with excessive force, or b; denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. As the tackle was mistimed, and Bale was on hand anyway, Spurs would indeed have had a penalty yet Chelsea would have had all eleven men on the pitch as Redknapp's men continued to chase the game. Therefore Atkinson got at least one of the big calls absolutely spot-on.

It is within those two key moments that di Matteo's men triumphed. Whether by hook or by crook, Chelsea won the match and they won it in style. What the media seem to be failing to pick up on are the four other goals we managed to net yesterday; including a wonder-volley from Drogba, a Lionel Messi-esque lob by Ramires, a 35-yard free-kick that had shades of Cristiano Ronaldo delivered by the right foot of Frank Lampard, and Malouda's composed nutmeg on ex-Blue Carlo Cudicini to round it all off.

Discount the 'ghost goal' if you will - we'd still have done them with a lot to spare.

As for di Matteo - where does he stand? Well, consider the circumstances. Should Roberto lead Chelsea to a fourth FA Cup win in six seasons and a place in the top four, he'll have surpassed the efforts of Guus Hiddink. Hiddink did what he did with minimum fuss with a far superior Chelsea team. Roberto di Matteo has contended with an inconsistent, ageing side, competing against two London rivals who have substantially improved in the three years since Hiddink's short reign, and Manchester City and Newcastle sides that have come to the fore out of almost nowhere.

Yet one such capital opponent has been put to the sword this April, and next weekend another almighty swing may see Arsenal toppled at the Emirates as the Blues look to expand upon their FA Cup and Champions League exploits as the Premier League again takes centre-stage; a competition that is more fierce and competitive than ever.

What di Matteo has done with this squad in these circumstances is nothing short of fantastic. Roberto has once again instilled belief in the fans, which is no mean feat considering the disappointments endured with Villas-Boas at the helm. The Italian's simple approach to life in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat has been methodical and thoughtful, yet with a basic underlying principle of not upsetting the status-quo. It works.

Roberto earned his spurs with yesterday's victory. Should he repeat the trick and somehow get Chelsea into Europe, with an FA Cup triumph to beat, then he surely has to be a contender for the job full-time, right?

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concise report but you haven't given tottenham enough credit. they were better in the firsthalf. our first half performance left a lot to be desired until the King of Wembley showed up. Huge slices of luck when JT cleared off the line, adebayor/vdvaart struck the post. we are doomed if we start like that at the bridge on wednesday

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It isn't a match report, so I'm not going to be talking about Spurs. Its an article about di Matteo demonstrating he is an obvious contender for the job. I guess if you didn't notice that then I should rewrite it :lol:

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He has done very well so far. But for some reason I just don't trust him for the job. He seems to be friendly and I think we couldn't have picked a better caretaker manager at this time. But long-term? He has yet to convince me.

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Nice Article

However, I still don't buy the fact that AVB just wanted to do away with the old guard; he always started Drogba upfront whenever he could, for instance.

Of course.

When AVB played Drogba, he was "stupid for playing him when he's not in form".

When he dropped Lampard for bad performances, "he didn't show him enough respect".

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