Shaun shines as Chelsea stay on course for treble
Wright-Phillips was hailed as "magnificent" after the midfielder made the most of a rare start to play a central role in Chelsea's advance into the last 16 of the FA Cup.india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 12:00 IST
Shaun Wright-Phillips was hailed as "magnificent" after the midfielder made the most of a rare start to play a central role in Chelsea's advance into the last 16 of the FA Cup.
Goals from Arjen Robben, Frank Lampard, Hernan Crespo and John Terry secured a 4-1 fourth round replay win over Premiership rivals Everton, a result that left reigning English champions Chelsea, already 15 points clear at the top of the Premiership and through to the knockout phase of the Champions League, on course for a treble-winning campaign.
But it was the performance of Wright-Phillips which caused the greatest joy among the Stamford Bridge faithful.
The former Manchester City player had been a peripheral figure since his 21 million pounds move to London.
And there was a growing belief that Wright-Phillips's arrival at Chelsea had done permanent damage to the England international's hopes of making it into the squad for the World Cup finals in Germany in June and July, especially when manager Jose Mourinho ruled out a January transfer window loan move.
However, he sent out a reminder of his ability to Sven-Goran Eriksson with a series of scintillating runs, one of which created the first-half penalty that gave Chelsea a 2-0 lead after Lampard scored from the spot.
Wright-Phillips's display was as much a testament to the character of the 24-year-old adopted son of former England striker Ian Wright as his skill— a view endorsed by Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke.
"Shaun was absolutely magnificent tonight," said Clarke. "I'm delighted for the boy. It's been a tough time for him but his attitude in training has been first class all the way through the season."
Clarke, standing in for Mourinho at Wednesday's post-match press conference, admitted that Wright-Phillips' failure to secure a regular starting place in the Chelsea team had begun to affect his confidence.
"It got to the stage when bringing him off the bench for ten minutes, with his confidence, probably wasn't the right thing for him," former Chelsea defender Clarke explained.
"In the conversation between Shaun, the manager and the coaching staff, we decided the best thing would be to wait until he had the chance to start a match and play 90 minutes.
"This reminds everyone why we paid that amount of money for him."
Even before kick-off Everton were in trouble when keeper Richard Wright turned his ankle in the warm up.
With first-choice keeper Nigel Martyn already nursing his own ankle injury, manager David Moyes was forced to turn to FA Cup debutant Iain Turner.
"You don't want to lose anybody when you are playing this side, especially a goalkeeper. But I thought he (Turner) acquitted himself well and he's a good prospect," Moyes said.
One consolation for Everton was that, according to Moyes, an X-ray of Wright's injury had not revealed any significant damage.
That was more than could be said for their defence in a match where the visitors were lucky to be only 3-0 behind at half-time.
Like many a beaten Cup manager, Moyes sought solace in the league where, after a rocky start, Everton have now risen to 12th.
"Our league form has been good and we want to keep that going. The second-half performance was more like it."
Everton did eventually get on the scoresheet 18 minutes from time thanks to Mikel Arteta's penalty following Robert Huth's handball.
But barely three minutes later Chelsea captain Terry smashed in the fourth to set the seal on a last 16 home meeting with League One leaders Colchester, on top of English football's third tier, and a somewhat less daunting prospect than Barcelona, the Blues' opponents at the same stage of the Champions League.
First Published: Feb 09, 2006 12:00 IST