It was to be a pageant. It was going to be magical and hugely entertaining. It would restore morale and put Chelsea back where they belonged. No effort, in preparation, had been spared.
The English Champions had been having a rough time of it, but rehabilitation was at hand. They were playing host to the Premier League Patsies, Aston Villa. When the tournament was played last year it was a rout and the mob had gone home happy, their blood-lust slaked by claret and blue sacrifice.
The libretto for this year’s event was an overstrung piece involving the visitors showing more resistance than was their practice of late – after all, without a worthy enemy, where was the glory? But in the end the Villans’ would succumb, the final blow to be delivered by the strutting Captain-at-Arms, John Terry.
This coup-de-grace would come within a minute or two of the final curtain, allowing a massive release of tension and the opportunity to parade their triumph around the arena, mocking their rivals in their grief.
The goal-celebration, itself, had been carefully orchestrated and would take several minutes. It involved the manager as well as the players and joy at Stamford Bridge would be unconfined. It would continue through the night and prudent men would lock their wives and daughters away for fear of carnal submission to the triumphant army.
Their Russian patron, notorious for his reflexive dismissal of failure, would be satisfied and all would be well.
They watched the ball drift between Petr Cech and the goal post. It took an eternity. This is not real and it is not happening.
If it’s not real why are the Villa wheeling away in celebration, why are the Brummies on the terrace demented in their ecstasy? Why was their American owner in the arms of his Chief Executive? Terry’s face froze as he watched the progress of the ball. He didn't remember this in the script. As the reality sunk in his head dropped and he became slack-jawed at the horror. It wasn’t fair.
In truth, Ancelotti and his ailing, arrogant squad had ignored a vital element. Aston Villa was a team composed of warriors and were not content to be bit-part players. Every man was a hero, every man gave his all.
They would not submit.