Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Anelka Seeks Redemption for the Biggest Miss of His Career; Chelsea Striker Goes into Tomorrow's Quarter-Final Still Haunted Three Years after His Penalty Pain of Moscow

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Anelka Seeks Redemption for the Biggest Miss of His Career; Chelsea Striker Goes into Tomorrow's Quarter-Final Still Haunted Three Years after His Penalty Pain of Moscow

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Johnson

OVER the past 15 years, it has been hard to ignore Nicolas Anelka but the Frenchman is worried Carlo Ancelotti will do precisely that for Chelsea's biggest game of the season tomorrow night.

It seems throughout his professional career Anelka has been trying to right the wrongs he has been known for off the pitch. However, now he hopes he will be given the opportunity to make amends for perhaps his biggest disappointment on it.

The 32-year-old has waited for a chance of redemption against Manchester United in the Champions League since 2008 and privately he will be praying Ancelotti does not stand in his way in their quarter-final.

When football fans think of Anelka, the first thing they usually remember is his reputation for being 'Le Sulk' or his controversial exit from the France World Cup squad last summer, rather than the man who officially cost Chelsea the chance of winning European club football's greatest prize for the first time.

Most people only associate captain John Terry with the miserable penalty shoot-out defeat by Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the rain-soaked final in Moscow three years ago.

While the England defender missed the spot kick that would have won Chelsea the competition, many forget that it was Edwin van der Sar's save from Anelka, who had only joined from Bolton for [pounds sterling]15million a few months before, which actually ensured the trophy went to Old Trafford.

Anelka didn't do himself any favours with Chelsea fans when he later admitted he did not want to take a penalty in the Russian capital. A week after the final, he told L'Equipe: "I was on the bench for 110 minutes and the coach [Avram Grant] brought me on after warming up for no more than a minute. Then he asked me whether I wanted to take one of the penalties.

"Absolutely not, I said. I had to play as a wing-back and now he wanted me to take a penalty?" In an interview with Standard Sport a few months later, he confessed how the pain of Moscow was driving him on to succeed in a Chelsea shirt.

"The penalty miss was more difficult for me than John," he said. "John is a big player for Chelsea, he has already done something for the club by helping them win so many trophies.

"I am new, so it was more difficult for me. I try not to think about it, but it's very hard.

"Even if I had scored that penalty I still would feel I have something to prove."

Anelka has been quietly living with the agony of that mistake ever since and doing his best to make amends.

He won the Golden Boot after finishing top scorer in the Premier League in 2009 and last season played a major role as the club claimed the Premier League and FA Cup Double, but you get the impression it is still not enough, not for him or his manager.

Now Chelsea come up against Manchester United again, with the first leg of their huge last-eight tie being played at Stamford Bridge, and Anelka looks forward to the chance to exorcise his demons. …

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