A sound performance from Chelsea was not without its controversy as a rash tackle from John Terry on England teammate James Milner received equally rash comments from Martin O’Neill in a post match interview. “It was a horrendous challenge on an England team-mate. I have spoken to the doctor who says he’s a very lucky boy.” The manager was outraged further by referee Howard Webb’s verdict to “avoid” big decisions, his dismissal of Gabriel Agbonlahor’s penalty claims were dubious to say the least. Jon Obi Mikel’s inexperience was evident as his clumsy challenge brought the Aston Villa striker down 12 yards out. Mikel has been integral to Chelsea’s last two campaigns but his tender age remains a constant thorn to his progress in such a role where ability to read the game and make key decisions is essential. The Aston Villa manager felt his side were treated unfairly in their last Wembley encounter as Nemanja Vidic was not dismissed for his last man challenge.
Regardless of decisions that should or shouldn’t have been, Chelsea after a shaky first half, performed strongly in the latter stages as a jaded Villa side began to run out of the energy and enthusiasm that served them so well up to the opener from Didier Drogba. Further misery was piled on a deteriorated Villa as Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda converted late on to secure progress to the FA Cup final in successive seasons. Despite what will seemingly appear as a comfortable win, there were poor performers amongst the Chelsea ranks as once again Deco was not afforded the time he so desires on the ball. The Portuguese midfielder was quickly closed down and unable to impact upon proceedings a feat often associated with the former Barcelona man’s performances in the English game.
Alternatively Joe Cole was impressive under the watchful eye of Fabio Capello, his creativity almost sneaking the ball past Brad Friedel, and his persistence to retain possession was admirable. However Carlo Ancelotti axed the midfielder on the hour mark to a chorus of boos from the Chelsea faithful who were clearly disheartened by Cole’s exit. An exit made more shocking, when the inept Deco was awarded further pitch time to showcase his weakness on and off the ball. The introductions of Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou failed to effect the game although Michael Ballack provided a wonder ball for Florent Malouda to effortlessly divert pass a diving Friedel.
Manchester United’s lack of firepower was no doubt an unexpected yet gratefully received failure to win, as Chelsea now have the chance to extend the lead to four points. However they must take full advantage of United’s slip up in order to fully capitalise. A victory over Bolton is crucial especially considering Chelsea must still face away games at Spurs and Liverpool. Manchester United this week face local rivals Manchester City who have been on top of their game of late. A tough game for United could see Chelsea run away with the league had the Reds fail to conquer the Blue of Manchester in the upcoming derby.
Bolton are a rugged side set to put 10 men behind the ball in order to make it difficult for Chelsea to play on Tuesday night, however the Londoners home form has been unbreakable this year and a victory should be on the cards against Owen Coyle’s men. Didier Drogba departed after scoring a crucial goal in the FA Cup semi-final and should therefore warrant a start ahead of Nicolas Anelka, although tinkering can be expected when playing two games in quick succession of one another.