The man. - via www.uefa.com
Well, since Graham did the tough bit, and did it better than I ever could, I'm left with just the task of commemorating Lamps' latest achievement in my own small way. Seriously, if you haven't read Graham's article yet, forget this one and go read it immediately. This post is meant to be a look at the day Lamps took the record as a whole, one we'll never forget. This is why we wake up at odd hours or stay up late, or spend all of the money: to see history happen.
The sun rose over Villa Park at 5:18 that morning, and few suspected what events would be in store before the sun set again. It was a day of destiny, and as temperatures rose to nearly 10 degrees Celsius (50 F), the rain should have been a fair warning to the Villans that darker times were ahead. Having neared certainly in staving off relegation, however, the fools were ignorant in their bliss. Chelsea had failed to secure a Champion's League place against their London rivals in the midweek game, and this match was the more likely chance of those remaining for winning the three points they needed to assure UCL play next season.
The fated destination for destiny. - via premiersoccerchat.com
Frank Lampard Jr. was slated to start the game. He hadn't always been selected by Rafa Benitez to start in Chelsea's pivot, but since Jon Obi Mikel was carrying a knock and Oriol Romeu hadn't quite recovered for a return to action, it was practically a forced decision to put him in the side. However, one did get the sense that this could be his last chance to surpass the record he had neared in recent weeks. Aston VIlla was the sacrificial lamb to be led to the slaughter.
However, as I said before, the Villans just weren't getting the message. You have to applaud their spunk, if nothing else. The men in magenta and sky blue were giving it their all, and bossing Chelsea up and down the pitch. The skies had opened, but the soaked ground seemed to be affecting only the footing of the visitors from London, who saw their hopes of a Champion's League spot slipping along with their players. The goal that came from the big Belgian leading the Villa line seemed inevitable, and Blues supporters anxious for the future in more ways than one. And as Chelsea's first red card was shown, one thought, this nightmare may be far from over.
But much like the 19th of May, 2012, this day had been written in the stars long, long ago. When hope had all but faded, and the light had all but gone out in the eyes of Roman Abramovich, a man stepped forward to save us, to take his rightful place among the greatest legends of the club. Whether you missed the game or simply want to relive it, here for you now is that man's spectacular contribution, play-by-play in video form (yet another spectacular video from our very own, Chelsea RDM). Below it you will find my commentary, along with my imagined thoughts of what must've been going through the legend's mind as he journeyed toward history.
Inside Frank's head: Walking out onto the pitch after warmups in my umpteenth ceremonial march, I feel two things equally. First, the inevitable nervous energy that comes before every match (a welcome and familiar feeling) and second, a disturbing thought that this could be the last time I make such a procession for this club I've come to love. Who knows what this summer could hold? There have been times when I've thought the best thing might be to pack up and head for L.A. Better to burn out than fade away, right? Maybe I'll retire.
Rubbish. I dunno what I'd do with myself.
Video time mark - [0:08] Kickoff. Autopilot engaged.
[0:13] Okay, I wasn't really ready for that throw in. Oh, well, that worked out okay. On with it then. An audacious forward ball doesn't come off, but the result is still positive for Chelsea
[0:21] I hate defensive duties, but that went well. Lamps tracks back to regain possession for Chelsea.
[0:29] Here we go, easy passing. In the groove now.
[0:42] A quick pass from Ramires wasn't meant for Lampard, but he's unable to get out of the way of it. What the? Oh hell. Sorry mate, I wasn't expecting that.
[0:50] Frank dribbles on the edge of the box, looking for space to strike, but then kicks it out to a teammate to retain possession. Could this be it? Hmm.. no, better to play it safe and keep the ball.
[0:55] Phew, that was hectic, but it turned out okay. The ball bounces around crazily with no one really able to control it, but Chelsea, with Frank's help, comes out on top.
[1:07] A long ball doesn't quite make it up to Ba, who is not working hard enough for the Blues. Disappointing.
[1:24] Desperate to get back from one down, Chelsea are trying to push forward with force. Hazard plays a clever pass to Lamps, who tries a similar trick to flick it on to Ba, who is unable to latch onto it. Ah, son of a... Of course MY clever pass doesn't come off.
[1:31] Little short passing here... We've got to get back in this match.
[1:48] Little long ball there... I love those. Nice to see my mates getting out wide in support.
[1:53] A coming together of bodies could spell danger, but the whistle isn't blown and both players arise unharmed. Oomph. Ah, well done, ref. You get a thumbs up.
[1:57] Better luck next time, my friend. The ball comes into Lamps, who shows he's still got a burst or two left in him as he jukes the Villa marker out of his jock strap.
[2:10] Lamps rises up to put the ball back into the danger area, but his header finds only pink and blue. Bollocks.
[2:25] Lampard stands over a free kick, and every fan in the stadium is on their feet to see if this will be the epic 202nd goal and the match's equaliser. The shot passes the wall with blazing speed and is almost enough to make it past keeper Brad Guzan (uninterestingly, Guzan is American), who comes up with a great reflex save to push it onto the post. Damn. 202 will have to wait.
[3:21] Hazard feed Lamps on the edge of the area, but the Englishman's quick turn and shot are rendered futile by the big body of a Villa defender. Close again. This is the day; I can feel it. We can win this match, and we need to.
[3:28] Okay, don't get ahead of yourself. Lampard again looks to use his head to get the ball forward, and almost gifts the opponents a counter. Luckily, Frank is able to get back in time to help, and clears the ball from danger, but only to find a Villa player. The pressure is rising on Chelsea, who haven't put away a chance yet, and have let "the Claret and Blue" grow into the game and become the dominant force.
[3:40] Ramires has just seen red and the Blues' morale is at the bottom of the Marianas trench. Lamps plays a quick pass to his outlet, Mata. Okay, okay, we'll just hold them off until halftime, and then we can regroup.
[4:10] David Luiz is a comforting defensive presence on the pitch, but Chelsea are struggling to get the ball forward, and Aston Villa are pouring on the pressure. Lamps plays a ball over the top, looking for Mata, but it doesn't find the diminutive Spaniard. Where did we go wrong? We need a goal as soon as possible to turn this around.
[4:28] Come on, lads. Come on. Chelsea have been under constant pressure. Frank is part of a good attacking move, but it comes to nothing in the end.
[4:42] Benteke has just been sent off, and Hazard, Azpi, and Mata working together down by Villa's corner flag. A few clever exchanges and Hazard is able to wriggle into the middle, where he does what he does best. The midfield man pulls it over to his left foot and strikes the ball firmly and truly, putting it beyond Guzan before the keeper knows what happened. YES! Okay, not too much. Respect for Bobby. And mum, this is for her. Alright now, settle in boys, we've still got three points to get. Come on! One more; we need one more.
SIDE NOTE: I love Lampard so much for this. Having put away the goal that accomplishes a personal milestone and by all standards a career-defining moment, there is nothing selfish about his celebration. He runs to the crowd, points with both hands to the sky to remember his late mother. He otherwise contains himself, knowing that Bobby was surely watching, and wanting to honor the man. He then runs back to kick off again, motioning to the fans that they needed to keep it going, and encouraging his teammates with his voice. Respect.
I think Frank was probably looking for his dad in the crowd. This point was for him. - via i.dailymail.co.uk
[6:02] Frank gets back to do his defensive duties, and wins the ball for Chelsea. The momentum is with us now, so let's get another one.
[6:33] Lamps stops a counter and then after getting the ball back from Azpilicueta, sends it up to Ba, who falls down rather unceremoniously.
[6:43] With his first touch, he lobs the ball Ba's direction again, this time resulting in a Chelsea throw-in. Frank is starting to drive the game and get Chelsea back into it.
[6:51] Luiz passes into Lampard in the center of the pitch, but the English legend fails to turn his turn into anything more than loose possession. Don't get hasty.
[6:57] Lamps does well to keep possession and move the ball out to Mata before the defense has reset. He's been playing quick passes for a while now, trying to keep everyone from dawdling on the ball. John Terry gets carted off in the 76th minute, and the armband is passed to Lampard. A leader by example, the new captain has to show his team what the meaning of hard work and determination is.
[7:00] Frank gets into the box to put himself on the end of a header, but he puts the free effort wide. Lampard is displeased. GERDDERMITSONOFABIRCHFERKMESIDEWAYS! Okay... back to it.
[7:24] Coming over to make a play on the ball, Lamps is at first very happy when he sees the counterattacking opponent kick the ball away from himself and then flop over. Problem solved. However, despite next to no contact with the individual, Lampard is booked for his "dangerous play". You've got to be kidding me.
[7:45] Azpilicueta's cross comes to Frank, who sends in a bullet from just outside the box, but Ba proves he would've been more effective on the bench by keeping it from reaching goal. Damn it!
[7:51] The oldest man on the pitch shows a bit of tiredness in the 85th minute, when he doesn't control a sharp pass into his feet. Damn it again! We're running out of time!
[7:54] Then, glory. Hazard to Lampard, Lamps back to Hazard, and the world's cleverest Belgian plays a dazzling one-two with Cole to make fools out of two defending Villans. Eden crosses it back from near the end line, and the world's best goal-scoring midfielder follows his nose to a tap-in, a Champions League berth, and the number one spot on Chelsea's all-time top goalscorers list. And the crowd goes wild. YESSSS! YESS! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! 203! Thank you, dad! Thank you, mum! Thank you Chelsea, and all my wonderful teammates! And kudos to you Bobby, for setting the bar so high. I've done it! I've really finally done it!
[9:28] But the task was not yet finished. With seven minutes of added time, Rafa Benitez calls his captain over to discuss some final tactics. The boys from the Bridge will need to hang on to be sure of victory. The battle was not over. Now is the time when Champions prove their worth. We've been here before, and we can do this again. Let's hold on, boys! Hold fast with me.
[9:40] Frank puts the ball clear to settle the game once and for all. There till the end, Chelsea's top goalscorer made sure they had what they needed for next season, even though he may no longer be part of the club's writing of history by then. But he has made his share of history today, no doubt.
Celebrations ensue on the pitch and around the world. "Nothing will beat winning the Champion's League final in Munich last year," he says later in an interview, "but this is another great day." He called Bobby Tambling as soon as he got back into the tunnel, and the two exchanged words of reverence for one another. He joked about his booking and thanked several parties after the match, including the fans, his parents, and his teammates. He confessed that he wanted to stay for another year, but also said the club had been wonderful in taking care of him:
"The club have always been great to me and hopefully that can happen. The way we're playing as a team, it's great to be a part of it with exciting young players and I want to stay. I love putting the kit on. From the minute I came to leaving the pitch today. I want to continue doing that."
- Frank Lampard, BBC Sport
I, for one, want him to continue doing that as well. I'll echo Graham on this: sign him up, Roman. Here's a great video I found combining several of his interviews with the footage from great goals over the course of his career. I hope you'll enjoy it.
In my mind, Frank is Chelsea's greatest player of all time. Bobby Tambling agreed. Whether he stays or goes, I'll support the club, but the day Lamps hangs up his cleats will mean a time of mourning for me. He's a gentleman and was -without a doubt- world class in his prime. He sealed Champions League for us next year, and I believe he has more to offer in the days to come. We will see. Love you, Frank. You're beyond a legend to us.
This will be the last post I put out for a while. I'll try and get a Mourinho analysis up once the news comes up, but it's a busy time of year for me, and nobody pays us to put this work in :/
Up the Blues!