Chelsea embarrassed by an inspired Bradford City in the FA Cup
LONDON -- Three thoughts from Chelsea's embarrassing 4-2 defeat to League One side Bradford City at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup fourth round Saturday.
1. Bradford shock sorry Chelsea
Jose Mourinho said he would be in disgrace if he lost this tie. Such a fate now awaits him. "I am ashamed," he admitted straight afterwards, also affirming that this was the worst defeat of his managerial career with a simple "yes" when the question was asked.
Two goals clear, then 3-2 down, then 4-2. Bradford made Chelsea's chase of trophies on four fronts become three. It was surely the most embarrassing result for Mourinho in his association with Chelsea.
Amid the plaudits to fully deserving Bradford, there is the concern that Chelsea are vulnerable. Mourinho fielded a second string, and disgrace was the price of his tinkering.
What looked a cruise became clueless as a League One team carved great holes in a Chelsea defence that is becoming a sincere weakness. As at Tottenham on Jan. 1 where the side lost 5-3, and Liverpool last week in a 1-1 Capital One Cup first-leg draw, it folded.
Mourinho attempted to gain off-form centre-back Gary Cahill confidence by playing against opponents less likely to rip him with raw pace, but this was an even more worrisome showing.
It had all started so well for Cahill. His 21st-minute conversion of an Oscar corner reminded of a famous Gianfranco Zola goal in 2002 against Norwich in this competition. Like Cahill, midfielder Ramires celebrated his goal with noticeable relief. Bradford, though, swiftly scored through Jon Stead.
That produced a frisson of worry that eventually became disaster. Mourinho's arrival on the bench minutes before the second half began was a pertinent image of dissatisfaction. As his team idled further at the beginning of the second half, he became a brooding, muttering presence on the touchline.
Andreas Christensen, a teenage prodigy from Chelsea's much-heralded youth set-up, was given a horrid afternoon at right-back. Filipe Morais, who scored Bradford's second, was once in Christensen's shoes as a junior Blue, even turning down a contract extension offer from Mourinho in 2007. Here was a moment of revenge on a manager whom he says never gave him a chance.
Youngsters like Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek did not join Christensen. Instead, Mourinho called on big guns in midfielders Cesc Fabregas, Willian and eventually Eden Hazard. The Belgian arrived just before Andy Halliday scored Bradford's third goal. There were eight minutes to play, and seven extra minutes added on. Bradford doubled their lead, sending Chelsea humiliatingly, disgracefully out.
2. Bradford burn brightly
Mourinho had a formula for avoiding upsets at home to smaller clubs. It brought success during his previous tenure in charge. In 2006 and 2007, Huddersfield Town and Macclesfield Town were given a full-on charm offensive before departing defeated. Huddersfield lost 2-1, and bravely, while Macclesfield, down to 10 men, and level for all of 75 seconds, lost 6-1.
Macclesfield's players that day recall how Mourinho clapped them from the field, and then offered further congratulations in the dressing room. Only two weeks ago, Newcastle caretaker boss John Carver was the recipient of a multitude of embraces and platitudes, and smilingly accepted a 2-0 loss.
Bradford, finalists in the League Cup final two years ago, did not play as if they intended to be the latest entrants to the slaughterhouse. They were not nearly so accepting of their fate. Manager Phil Parkinson did not play Mourinho's game.
A loud and lusty group of 7,000 fans had travelled from West Yorkshire clad in claret and occupied the entire Shed End of the ground. Premier League Saturdays at the Bridge can often be quiet affairs, but these visitors got the home fires burning, too.
Their team was industrious, and might even have scored before Cahill's goal. Stead's strike was a moment of Bradfordian beauty that stopped Chelsea, two goals up, beginning a cakewalk. Parkinson did not do too much buddying-up to Mourinho. A game face was retained, as he patrolled the sidelines.
When Petr Cech had to dive full length to save an Andrew Davies header, belief burned through the Bradford contingent. They were not overawed, and Davies' chance came from a corner when a Halliday shot had been blocked by a Chelsea defence having to get through more work than expected.
It would be by no means the final hurrah from Bradford. As Parkinson congratulated his players, there was no handshake waiting from Mourinho.
3. Odd men out?
Striker Didier Drogba was made captain for the day and fancied a goal. He has not scored since Chelsea lost at Newcastle on Dec. 6, while Mourinho has been able to get full use of a fit Diego Costa, his starting striker. One first-half effort rolled back the years. Piling down the left flank, he cut inside and ripped an effort that bolted towards goal, only for Bradford goalkeeper Ben Williams to pull off a fine full-length save.
Mohamed Salah, heavily linked with a loan-to-permanent transfer to Roma this week, took his place on Chelsea's wing, where he has been rarely sighted in the near 12 months he has been a Blue. Loic Remy, another man whose duties have been on the fringe, played right of a three-pronged attacking unit, with the Egyptian the other side of Drogba.
At first, Drogba looked to be enjoying himself, but his partners rarely looked comfortable. At one point in the first half, the Ivorian played a through pass that both chased down, and then got in each other's way.
Salah provided the assist when Ramires scored Chelsea's second in the 39th minute, while Remy looked a little frustrated by having to cut in to shoot, and initially looked sharper than Salah. That said, the Frenchman was at fault when Bradford captain Stephen Darby robbed him of the ball to set up an attack down the flank as the visitors built up an early period of momentum in the opening stages.
Andre Schurrle, another whose departure is reported to be part of the equation that will bring Colombian flier Juan Cuadrado to the Bridge, was missing with sickness. He and Salah, eventually subbed off, look like odd men out as Mourinho attempts to reconfigure, while Remy may end up in a similar boat. His performance did not convince, either.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.