Chelsea completed the first half of a cup double under the Wembley arch and denied Liverpool the chance to secure their own with a 2-1 victory in the FA Cup final.
Kenny Dalglish’s team will be left wondering what might have happened had Andy Carroll’s header eight minutes from time had been adjudged to have crossed the line (the spectre of goal line technology haunting the aftermath of yet another match) but the real question is why it took them so long to turn up for the game.
It seemed that it wasn’t just Liverpool fans whose journey to Wembley was delayed by the closure of the M40 because for the first 65 minutes Liverpool weren’t in the match. By that time they were already two behind.
It was only following the introduction of the much-derided Andy Carroll, who had a fantastic game, 10 minutes into the second half that a woeful Liverpool were enlivened. But in the end it was too little too late.
The opening 45 minutes were all too easy for Chelsea. Formalities out of the way, the two teams spent the first 10 minutes feeling themselves into the game and then a catalogue of Liverpool errors, which exemplified much of their efforts, gifted the opening goal to Chelsea.
Jay Spearing, one of the Red’s two holding players, failed to control the ball and it fell, instead, to Juan Mata who found Ramries racing towards Liverpool’s goal. Jose Enrique had the chance to challenge for the ball or, at worst, do the cynical thing and bring Ramires down. He did neither and the Chelsea man had the time and space to power into the Liverpool’s area and shoot after which came the final mistake.
Ramires’ shot, while strong, was straight at Pepe Reina’s legs and the Spaniard made a weak effort to save instead directing the ball into the net.
Liverpool were briefly roused from their creative slumber pressing forward for a quick equaliser but their efforts came to nought and Chelsea were able to see the game out to the break with minimal effort.
The second half started much the same and when Frank Lampard fed Didier Drogba the Ivorian did what he does best, hitting it low through Martin Skrtel’s legs across Reina’s into the far corner. It has his eighth goal in nine Wembley appearances for the club and it looked like game over.
However, Dalglish made an immediate switch bringing in Carroll for Jay Spearing and the big Geordie made an instant impact causing and just eight minutes after coming on he grabbed his second goal in consecutive Wembley appearances. A little shimmy befuddled John Terry and Carroll made no mistake with a powerful shot into the roof of the net.
With eight minutes to go it looked like he’d taken the game into extra time with a powerful header but Petr Cech somehow managed to get a hand to the ball and push it on to the cross bar after which it bounced out. The Liverpool players claimed in vain that it had crossed the line, but replays show the assistant referee was right in his decision that not all of the ball had crossed all of the line. The Blues then besieged the Chelsea goal but as against Barcelona, Roberto Di Matteo’s team held out for their fourth FA Cup win in six seasons.
In the build up to the game the Liverpool players staked their season on the match. A win would equate to success, no matter what their position on the League they said. This result will require a serious re-assessment. Chelsea, on the other hand, will be focusing on Munich in two weeks and the prize that has so far eluded them.
Subs Not Used: Doni, Maxi, Carragher, Shelvey, Kelly
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Mikel; Ramires (Meireles 77), Mata (Malouda 90), Kalou; Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Essien, Torres, Ferreira, Sturridge.
Did you know… Roberto Di Matteo is the 15th person to win the FA Cup as a player and a manager