Norwich City gave Chelsea a huge scare last night as they took the Champions to penalties in the FA Cup Replay at Stamford Bridge.
This was a game that had everything in terms of high drama.
The woodwork was hit multiple times, there were allegations of diving, a last minute equaliser, two red cards, VAR in disarray and of course, that penalty shootout.
A shootout that Norwich ultimately lost.
Daniel Farke went with a strong team in an attempt to beat the Champions and for me, that was absolutely the right way to go.
Yes, we have a very tough game on Saturday against Sheffield United and the Blades` players and staff will have enjoyed watching City strain every sinew for 120 long minutes, last night, but the Canaries came within an inch of beating their illustrious opponents.
Every one of Farkes`s men played their part and all were at the top of their game. Chelsea were better than they had been in the first game and pushed City back in the opening 30 minutes before City gradually realised they could get something out of the game.
They visibly grew in confidence after Oliveira`s clever shot, with the outside of his boot, struck Caballero`s cross bar in the first half. Despite that though it was level at the break and the second half was where all the drama came.
Batshuayi scored from close range after some rare lax defending, just about the only threatening thing he managed all night and Josh Murphy struck a post shortly after.
Pedro got booked for a shameful dive and then with £70m Morata on for Batshuayi, Chelsea looked to run the clock down.
With literally the last knockings of the game, Timm Klose curled in a wonderful cross from the left wing (!) and Jamal Lewis headed in off the post to take the game to extra time.
Even Farke, later admitted he didn`t know why Lewis was there but we were all glad he was. At just 19, it`s been a fairytale rise to prominence for Jamal and yet again, he was unflustered by the likes of Pedro and Willian.
In extra time, first off we had another booking for diving as Willian went over Klose`s leg in the box. The ref thought he`d dived, everyone else, with the aid of replays thought it was a penalty.
In Mr Scott`s defence, Willian was already going over before contact was made and I suspect that influenced the decision. Afterwards, Timm Klose said he thought it was a penalty.
VAR wasn`t called for and the ref watching it decided it wasn`t clear cut – Alan Shearer called the system a “shambles” afterwards. He might be right.
Pedro then got a second yellow for scything down Wes Hoolahan and was rightfully given a second yellow and sent off. After that we had the second red card of the game with only a couple of minutes remaining for Morata.
The ref judged he`d dived and booked him. His ferocious verbal barrage then persuaded Mr Scott to reach for the red card.
Full time and we were going to penalties.
While Antonio Conte raged at the referee and anyone else who`d listen. Daniel Farke calmly martialled his men in a huddle.
You will know how this turned out. Chelsea won the shootout after Caballero saved the first penalty from Nelson Oliveira. It wasn`t a bad penalty as such, it was on target and with power – but it was at a nice height for the Argentinian, who guessed the right way.
Angus Gunn had no chance with any of the Chelsea penalties and all the remaining City pens were well struck and went in. It kind of casts Oliveira as the villain but he wasn`t.
He had a decent game and did little wrong throughout the night, holding the ball up and he also very nearly scored in the first half from a snap shot.
Special mentions as well for the whole back five, who were excellent, Angus Gunn and Wes Hoolahan, who played a Rabona cross and also nutmegged Kante, before the French enforcer dumped him on his backside – Wes` smile as he got up was priceless, that knowing look between professionals. Everyone, to a man, was terrific.
The downside now is that the team will be very tired from this exertion in the run up to Saturday but I`d say that City were right to give it a proper go. We weren`t badly beaten, which could`ve happened with a weaker team and the confidence gained from this performance could be a nice shot in the arm.
We`ll see what happens, one thing is for sure though, the sort of run we went on after losing to Arsenal cannot happen again.
Well done to all involved last night.
ON THE BALL CITY!