Stunning strikes from Chelsea old boys Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba helped Chelsea book their place in the FA Cup final, but it is the performance of another man – referee Martin Atkinson – which will dominate the headlines.
Atkinson’s woeful decision just four minutes into the second half effectively killed the tie as it left Spurs needing to chase the game and wide-open to the counter attack. The score line was not a fair reflection of a game in which the losers had had the better of the opening 45 minutes.
But it was Chelsea’s second goal which proved the pivotal moment. David Luiz’s header from Lampard’s corner was brilliantly saved by Carlo Cudicini. The ball, headed clear by Ledley King, was then rifled by Juan Mata into a cluster of players on the line. The ball didn’t appear to come close to crossing the line but Atkinson gave the goal. It was a huge moment which changed the momentum of the game. At one down Spurs had a chance, at two, it became an outside one.
“It was a massive decision,” said Spurs captain, King. “I find it hard to believe the referee could make the decision from where he was standing. At two-nil down it’s obviously going to be a tough game against Chelsea.”
Even his opposite number John Terry admitted after the game that he thought the ball had hit him and not crossed the line. Shame he didn’t share his thoughts with Atkinson at the time, choosing to wheel away in celebration instead. On the day Ashley Young was accused of cheating by winning a penalty for Manchester United with a dive, was Chelsea celebrating a goal they knew hadn’t crossed the line any different?
Tottenham were briefly given hope seven minutes after Mata’s strike when Gareth Bale calmly put the ball into the back of the net following a Petr Cech foul on Emmanuel Adebayor but even this was shrouded in controversy. Having played the advantage, should Atkinson not have gone back and shown Cech a red? Probably not, but not to show a yellow seemed overly lenient.
Left chasing the game Spurs were found wanting at the back and Ramires all-but-sealed the tie turning in Mata’s pass 13 minutes from time. Lampard made no mistake with a free kick four minutes later and Florent Malouda.
Their league form having recently taken a turn for the worse, a dispirited Spurs side will leave Wembley with their season in danger of ending in tatters and Harry Redknapp seeming anything but a
Amid all the controversy, it’s easy to forget that the controversy before the match when a vocal minority of supporters chanted abuse through the minute’s silence in memory of the Hillsborough victims.
When the game did get underway, Spurs made the early running having a chance cleared off the line and hitting the post before Didier Drogba opened the scoring with a wonder strike just before the break. Receiving a long ball from Terry with his back to goal he turned his former Chelsea team mate William Galas with easy before firing a left-foot shot past another ex-Blue Cudicini. It was a goal worthy of winning any game and it’s a shame it didn’t win this one. Had it done so we might have been able to talk about football for a change.
Chelsea: (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Luiz (Cahill 58), Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires (Malouda 83), Mata, Kalou; Drogba (Torres 84). Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Torres, Malouda, Meireles, Sturridge, Cahill.
Did you know… Chelsea have won their five previous Cup games at Wembley.
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