CHELSEA (A); THE REVIEW

18/01/18

Not much to talk about here is there? Regulation cup replay against a big boy at home, Norwich succumb to the expected defeat. Well, it didn't work out exactly that way, Ffion Thomas takes you through a night to be proud of...

Random star performer

Well before that 90+4 "what is he doing up there?!" moment, I had Jamal Lewis pegged as my man of the match. Against the Champions of England, at the biggest stadium he will have ever played in, live to the nation on BBC One and in only his fifth start as a professional, the teenager produced a performance of incredible defensive composure under pressure, proving his worth as an athlete by outrunning Chelsea players well into extra time, and, of course, topping his night off with an unstoppable guided header in off the post that any striker would have been proud of. The photograph of Jamal, arms outstretched, running towards the away fans for an imminent mobbing - with fellow youth product Todd Cantwell not far behind - will be up there with the most iconic of recent years.

Moment of the match

This wasn't a game that promised much in the build-up, but as the night got later and later, its moments of excitement came almost relentlessly - so much so as to make the penalty shoot-out almost a staid anti-climax, a shrug-your-shoulders showroom demonstration of technical ability. Wes pulling off a Rabona cross, the Jamal and Josh Show on the left winning the ball back again and again, Zimmerman and Pinto pulling off inch-perfect last-ditch tackles, the ref taking absolutely no shit from the big club on their own patch - each and every one greeted from the away end with a roar and clenched fists.

With hindsight, Oliveira pinging one off the bar and Murphy smashing the post in the 90 minutes are almost sidelines, but they kept the team and fans believing that we weren't far away - and presumably inspired that last burst of inspiration from Timm Klose, of all people, on the left wing, of all places, to drive in one of the best crosses I've seen made in a Norwich shirt in aeons, and Jamal Lewis to head in one of those goals which to celebrate feels like an out-of-body experience, where everything around you suddenly goes very very slow and very very fast at the same time, and the only shame is that there aren't enough hand gestures in the world to fully convey to the home fans just how pleased you are that in one fell swoop your team have done more than the District Line ever could to delay their journey home and knocked the BBC Ten O'Clock News and its five million viewers somewhere into irrelevance. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? It's safe to say that I really, really enjoyed that goal.

Farke watch

What a pleasure it is to have a manager that goes into cup games treating them as an opportunity rather than a burden, and as always, he had a special 'plan' in place. It could be seen as misfortune to have pulled out two of the country's top clubs from our cup endeavours this year, but we've come out of them with, if not progress, then pride, which makes a change. To hand Todd Cantwell a first team debut at Stamford Bridge can only work to drive both his own confidence and that of his U23 compatriots not far behind, but having been given that responsibility throughout extra time, to have the sense to replace Cantwell with a more senior player before he might be forced into premature involvement in a potentially confidence-damaging sudden death penalty situation was just another demonstration of Farke's man-management ability with young players. As the squad is reshaped in the weeks and months to come, as it inevitably must be, that will become an ever more vital asset.

Biggest positive to take

Not embarrassing ourselves in front of the nation was probably all that most of us wanted to ensure from this game, and we certainly went well beyond that. I'm not particularly bothered about being out of the cup on this occasion, but it's reassuring to see that recent performance levels and relative defensive solidity, one individual lapse from Hanley aside, are being maintained week in, week out, right to the very last kick of the game. At the other end we played some lovely flowing, attacking football - the move that led to the Wes Rabona cross one such example - and were probably unlucky to only score one goal on the night.

Weekly whinge

That the national headlines are dominated by talk of VAR this morning. Of course it's a technology on trial and this was a widely broadcast game, with talking points stoked up by managerial comments, but it seems to have completely overshadowed the match in its own right. From my perspective in the away end, with very little idea what was going on regarding video replays, the referee's earpiece or players drawing rectangles in the air, it was one of the most exciting matches I've been to for ages, helped by a referee who was not afraid to make big calls and stand up to a baying home crowd and bench. The drama will settle down the more trials that take place, and the technology will be fine-tuned if it does become a widespread feature of the game, but what shouldn't be forgotten is that football is a sport first and foremost played out in the stadium, not on television.

Atmosphere rating

With tickets priced at a still outrageous lb30 (though it turned out there was plenty of bang for your buck) and the game available on every television in the land, filling 6,000 seats was never going to happen - but it was a good turnout nonetheless in both the upper and lower tiers, with excellent vocal backing and obviously scenes of jubilation just as some were heading to the exits to steal a march on the queues at Fulham Broadway. Indeed, those rush hour delays on the District Line made for a strange pre-match atmosphere for those who did make it in early, but the decision to delay the kick-off for 15 minutes turned out to be a sensible one, with the ground rapidly filling up in that period.

Summary

Another big cup away night in which we could walk away with our heads held high. While ultimately being eliminated means it will have no tangible bearing on the rest of our season, there was plenty here to build on, hopefully without a repeat of the drop in form that followed the trip to the Emirates. Certainly the greater gaps between games in this upcoming period as opposed to that one should have an impact. Nonetheless, this will have been an exhausting effort - I could barely walk afterwards and I was just watching it - and with a day's less rest than a typical midweek on top, it will be even more ridiculous than usual if sections of the Carrow Road crowd on Saturday do their usual half-time trick should we, heaven forbid, go in a goal down. So much to be proud of here though - and that late, late goal was one of those rare moments that makes you keep going back.


While you're here. Two things; first, did you know we have a new podcast? It's available via iTunes and Soundcloud. Alternatively you can just listen to it in your browser via our podcast page. Jack Reeve from Talk Norwich City was our recent guest as we debated the latest talking points regarding NCFC.

Second, to keep AlongComeNorwich advert free and to help us fund additional initiatives aimed at improving the Carrow Road atmosphere, we occasionally produce exclusive t-shirts/merchandise.

This time we've produced garments celebrating our rightful place as the Pride of Anglia. As always, we take no profit from these and put all the revenue back into the site and things we can all enjoy.

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