Resilient Chelsea lift FA Cup

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Football News

Chelsea survived a late Liverpool onslaught and a controversial goal line decision to win the 2012 FA Cup final at Wembley.

The Blues went two ahead through Ramires early on and a Didier Drogba second half strike, before substitute Andy Carroll pulled one back half an hour before the end.

However, much of the talk surrounding the game will be about a Carroll header that could have been over the line, but was not given by the assistant referee.

Questions over the success of Liverpool’s season will be posed after comments before the game by players, but Roberto di Matteo is half of the way to an unlikely and astonishing double with the Champions League final coming in two weeks.

Chelsea made the breakthrough after only ten minutes when Jay Spearing gave a sloppy ball away in midfield; Juan Mata played the marauding Ramires in, who surged past Jose Enrique and Pepe Reina will be disappointed he could not keep out the Brazilian’s near post finish.

Dalglish’s side responded brilliantly, however, and a Glen Johnson cross fell to Craig Bellamy but the winger’s shot was blocked by Branislav Ivanovic in front of Petr Cech.

After a positive initial response to going behind, Liverpool could not get their passing going as Luis Suarez became increasingly isolated up front.

Spearing and Jordan Henderson in the centre of the pitch were unable to exert any discernible influence on the game and were prone to giving the ball away.

The Merseysiders best opportunities came from Stewart Downing and Enrique on the left but their deliveries were poor and they continued the apparent penchant for sloppily giving away possession.

Chelsea, meanwhile, were content to stay solid at the back and Juan Mata was causing problems when on the ball, but Roberto di Matteo’s were set up to hold onto their lead.

It made for a dull first half and neutrals would have been hoping for more of an exciting spectacle come the second period.

Dalglish sent his men out with renewed energy and good work on the right from Bellamy forced a corner, but delivery was poor and they once again could not get any momentum going.

Chelsea counter-attacks were becoming more frequent and Ashley Cole was finding space on the left, which meant Mata was causing more problems.

On 52 minutes Didier Drogba made his first contribution to the game and did what he has a habit of doing in FA Cup finals.

Picking up Frank Lampard’s pass just inside the box, the Ivory Coast captain turned and fired through Martin Skrtel’s legs to make it 2-0.

Liverpool were in danger of being steamrollered in the fifteen minutes after the break and they looked rattled as the Blues went in search of a third.

They almost had it when a poor headed clearance by Johnson hit Drogba’s arm, but referee Phil Dowd didn’t give it and the Ivoirian’s shot was slashed wide when the game should have been over.

Dalglish responded by bringing on Andy Carroll for Spearing, which gave Liverpool more of a presence next to Suarez but left them in danger of being overrun in midfield.

The Scot’s decision was vindicated in the 63rd minute when the £35million man got his side back into the game.

Downing did well to close down a Bosingwa clearance that ricocheted to Caroll in the box, the former Newcastle United man twisted and turned John Terry before firing high into the roof of the net.

It was a brilliant finished from a man who has been much-maligned since his move to Anfield and it energised his team-mates into finding a much higher tempo.

Suarez was finding more space playing in and around Carroll, which meant the Reds were holding onto possession much more effectively in the final third and Bellamy was seeing more of the ball to reign in Cole.

It was the Welshman’s cross that was picked up by Downing and sent back in for the onrushing Gerrard, but there was no fairytale this time as his volley went high and wide.

Liverpool’s renewed vigour was causing Chelsea to drop deeper and the control they were exerting for much of the game disappeared.

Carroll come close again on the end of Johnson cross but headed over, though the Blues were tiring quickly and finding it difficult to contain the Liverpool wide men delivering crosses for the big forward.

He thought he had the equaliser in the 81st minute after getting on the end of a Suarez dinked cross three yards out but Cech palmed it onto the underside of the crossbar.

Carroll wheeled away celebrating a goal but the linesman did not concur and Liverpool protestations waved away.

Replays suggested it could have been over but it would have been a difficult call for the assistant referee to give – there was significance in the facty it was the same end where Chelsea were wrongly awarded a goal against Tottenham in the semi-final.

Di Matteo’s side were holding on for dear life in the dying minutes, both Terry and Ivanovic made important clearing headers from dangerous Downing crosses.

Carroll had another chance to level when the ball fell to him inside the area on 91 minutes, but his poor shot was blocked by Terry.

Liverpool failed to mount any pressure in five added minutes and a Gerrard foul on Drogba ate up valuable seconds and Chelsea were able to run down the clock.

Reina had a moment of madness as he came out of his area to meet a long ball but only managed to drop it to the feet of Kalou, but the forwards shot at the open goal was tame and straight at Skrtel.

It didn’t matter in the end as Dalglish’s side could not get the ball back to mount a final hurrah and Di Matteo sprinted onto the pitch in elation as the final whistle blew.

It was another resilient performance from this Chelsea side, winning the first of what would be two fantastic achievements considering the state they were in a couple of months ago.

There will be controversy over the Carroll goal that never was, but Chelsea proved once more their desire and determination meant they would not be denied.

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Didier Drogba
John Terry
Steven Gerrard
FA Cup

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