Chelsea bid farewell to Hiddink
Chelsea 2 Blackburn Rovers 0
Emotions ran high at Stamford Bridge for the second successive match but instead of the anger and frustration which marked the conclusion of Chelsea's Champions League campaign the mood was one of sadness and gratitude.
Yesterday marked the beginning of Guus Hiddink's long goodbye as the Dutch caretaker took charge of Chelsea for the last time at home. He signed off with a comfortable victory, goals from Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka only hinting at Chelsea's superiority, and the fondest of farewells.
Throughout the afternoon a banner adorned the Matthew Harding Stand reading "Thanks Guus", sentiments that were echoed in the match programme by John Terry and Bruce Buck. The chairman also wrote that the club hoped to make an announcement about their latest new manager "sooner rather than later".
The supporters then made it clear their belief that no such appointment should be required. Chants of "One Guus Hiddink" gave way to "We want you to stay", at which Roman Abramovich was seen laughing. The owner, and the expected next manager, Carlo Ancelotti, were then given something to ponder as the choristers broke into a pointed refrain, "You can stick your Ancelotti up your arse."
Hiddink had by then risen from his seat to give a stiff, slightly embarrassed, bow. During Chelsea's post-match lap of honour he was less restrained, dancing up a guard of honour with the former player Roy Bentley, who was celebrating his 85th birthday.
Quite what Avram Grant would have made of this is anybody's guess. Like Hiddink he took over mid-season as the club reeled from a high-profile management departure. From a lower position he oversaw a second-placed Premier League finish (Hiddink's Chelsea will come third) and lost the Champions League final on penalties (Hiddink reached the semi-final). Yet he was barely tolerated by the fans.
"I've only been here a short time and I did not expect something of this magnitude," said Hiddink. "It was a big surprise. I thought it would be respectful, but not more. I have had second thoughts, third thoughts [about staying] but I have to leave. I feel sadness, but that is the reality. I am committed to the adventure in Russia."
Unlike Grant, Hiddink may finish the season with a trophy, the FA Cup. Chelsea are favourites to beat Everton at Wembley on 30 May and Hiddink gave his first-choice team the chance to rehearse. Only Michael Ballack, hit by flu, was absent. They were impressive, but Everton will provide more demanding opposition than Blackburn, who had relaxed after their safety was assured by Saturday's results.
In the fourth minute no one challenged Jose Bosingwa as he drove forward. No one was marking Anelka when he received the ball on the right. And Keith Andrews was too slow to pick up Malouda who met Anelka's cross with a header. Unlike his predecessors Hiddink has found a way to partner Didier Drogba and Anelka, and to draw consistently good performances from Malouda, without compromising the club's defensive strengths.
With Rovers, already injury-hit, losing both centre-halves it could have been a rout. Paul Robinson prevented that with a string of excellent saves but could not prevent Anelka drilling in his 18th league goal from Drogba's lay-off.
Hiddink, having noted Chelsea need to acquire more depth, and younger legs, this summer, concluded that he could return after the 2010 World Cup. "You cannot predict the future, but we'll see what happens when I leave Russia." Something else for Ancelotti, and any managerial target, to consider.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Essien, Mikel, Lampard; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Di Santo, Sinclair, Belletti, Mancienne, Stoch.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Andrews, Nelsen (Doran 43), Givet (Khizanishvili h/t), Warnock; Tugay, Grella, Villanueva; Diouf, Samba, Pedersen (McCarthy 65). Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Mokoena, Treacy, Olsson.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Chelsea Bosingwa. Blackburn Doran, Khizanishvili.
Man of the match: Anelka.