(FA Cup semi-final, Sunday 15 April 2012)
Chelsea reached their fourth FA Cup Final in six years with a ruthless and stylish display against Spurs at Wembley, though the result wasn’t without controversy.
The emphatic win provided the perfect lift for Chelsea before their Champion’s League semi-final first leg match against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. But the game swung in their favour when referee Martin Atkinson wrongly awarded Chelsea a second goal when the ball hadn’t crossed the Spurs goal line.
Before Didier Drogba’s 43rdminute goal Chelsea offered little threat and Spurs were in control of the game. Apart from a free-kick and volley from the striker, both of which missed the goal by a wide margin, and poor control by Juan Mata when put through by Salomon Kalou, chances for Chelsea were rare.
At the other end, John Terry had to clear a header off the line and a cross from Van der Vaart hit the post after eluding the Adebayor. Then came Drogba’s seventh goal at Wembley, and it was something special. With his back to goal and defender William Gallas behind him, Drogba controlled a long ball forward from Frank Lampard on his chest, then spun right to evade Gallas and shot powerfully left-footed beyond the reach of Carlo Cudicini.
Just four minutes into the second half came the controversial second goal. A shot by Mata was pushed wide by Cudicini and from the resulting corner the keeper saved again, this time from a David Luiz header. But the ball was still in play and eventually fell to Mata, whose shot went into a crowd of players on the line, including Chelsea captain Terry. The ball didn’t appear to cross the line but the officials gave a goal.
Only seven minutes later Spurs pulled a goal back when Adebayor was put through by Parker, only to be brought down by the on-rushing Petr Cech. But the ball ran clear to Bale, who tapped the ball home – had he not been there it would have been a penalty to Spurs and a red card for Cech.
Had the second Chelsea goal not been awarded this would have been the equaliser and the dynamics of the game could well have been very different. But, in truth, Chelsea were in the ascendancy at this point and with each attack they looked menacing, stretching a ragged Spurs defence at will.
Despite their superiority, Chelsea’s third goal didn’t arrive until the 77thminute. But it was another classy goal. Mata fed the ball forward to Ramires, who slipped in behind two Spurs defenders before coolly chipping the ball over Cudicini and into the net.
Four minutes later and Chelsea were 4-1 up after a superb free-kick by Lampard. From easily 30 yards out from goal, his well-placed strike dipped beyond the diving Cudicini and into the far left of the net.
By the time substitute Florent Malouda scored Chelsea’s fifth goal deep into added time – finishing a one-two with Mata by tapping the ball under Cudicini – the Spurs end of the stadium was already deserted.
This was a ruthless win by Chelsea. For periods of the game they were not the slicker or more fluent of the two teams. But when they attacked it was with great efficiency and their finishing was clinical, showing no mercy.
Chelsea will now meet Liverpool in the final at Wembley on 5 September – their fourth final in six years. They won the last three. All have been with different managers! Before that game they face the might of Barcelona in the Champions League – and will probably be without the services of David Luiz, who was stretchered off the Wembley pitch with a hamstring injury.