The sorcerer’s apprentice was one of Bradford City’s heroes as he made an emotional return to Stamford Bridge. Richard Sutcliffe reports.
Filipe Morais’s spectacular debut appearance at a stadium he once called ‘home’ was nine years in the making.
Bradford City’s quite remarkable Cup triumph was one to savour for all football fans and not just those of a claret and amber persuasion.
For Morais, however, beating the club where he spent several years as a youngster without making the grade ensured the fourth-round victory was that little bit more special.
“I have finally played at Stamford Bridge and I have scored,” said the 29-year-old an hour or so after helping the Bantams make history.
“Nine years it has taken me but it was well worth the wait. This truly is a dream come true for me. I can only thank God and my family for helping me achieve this.”
Morais, born in Portugal but who moved to London as a toddler, was an apprentice at Chelsea during Jose Mourinho’s first spell at the helm of the club.
Famously, the winger turned down his fellow countryman when a contract extension was offered in 2006. Morais was 20 at the time and determined to make his own way in the game.
First-team opportunities had been hard to come by. He had played in Mourinho’s first game as manager, a friendly at Oxford, shortly after the former Porto chief’s arrival in England.
But the closest he came after that to making his Blues bow was when Huddersfield Town came to the Bridge in the FA Cup.
Morais was promised he would get on if the tie was safe, but that never proved to be the case thanks to a battling display from Town as Chelsea squeezed through 2-1.
A nomadic career followed, City becoming his 10th club when Phil Parkinson brought the winger north last year. But he never forgot those days in west London, which is why Morais felt so emotional before his first return to the club where it all began.
“Coming back was great, though beforehand I just tried to focus on the match,” he said. “I didn’t want to be overcome by all the emotion.
“I had a lot of time here and they moulded me as a kid. Jose Mourinho is a nice man. It was good to see him again. I came out of the tunnel when we arrived and he started screaming my name.
“I was trying to get in the zone and didn’t know where to look. It was a bit awkward. I wanted to focus and yet he was having a laugh and a joke with me.”
Mourinho may have been all smiles ahead of kick-off, but that mood had darkened considerably by full-time. Chelsea were, according to their manager, a “disgrace” and their performance “unacceptable”.
Despite his anger, Mourinho did find time to visit the away dressing room and congratulate Parkinson’s men.
Morais was one of several heroes in the City team, it being his 75th-minute goal that brought parity to the tie and set up the frantic finale that saw history made. The goal meant so much, the winger admits, that his pre-match plan not to celebrate if he scored was abandoned.
“I could see Billy Knott was going to shoot and that is when I decided to gamble. It was risky, because if they had then broken we would have been a man down. But I thought I would give it a go. It was a gift from God. The ball came straight to me.
“Because of the incredible save Petr Cech had made in the first half (from Andrew Davies), I knew I had to get the ball right in the corner. It meant that no matter how big the goal looked, I had to still slot it in the corner. And then the emotions took over.
“Before the game, I didn’t think I was going to celebrate. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Chelsea.
“They moulded me as a young player and I respect that. But, my emotions were running so high, that as soon as the ball went in, I couldn’t stop myself.”
On knocking out his old club, Morais added: “The only word you can use about that is ‘wow’. I still can’t believe it. We created history by beating such a powerful team at their ground.
“Chelsea don’t lose very often. But we thoroughly deserved it. The achievement is incredible. Look at the resources they have got.
“I admit I was devastated when the board went up to show seven minutes (stoppage time). I thought, ‘Is this a joke?’ But then Yeatesy popped up with a great goal and that meant there was no way back for them.”