The Guus Hiddink juggernaut continued overnight, as Chelsea defeated Arsenal at Wembley, thereby securing their spot in the FA Cup Final. Chelsea came from behind strongly, winning 2-1, Theo Walcott’s opener made redundant by goals from Florent Malouda and the revitalised Didier Drogba.There were just two changes from the side that drew 4-4 in the incredible Champions League match in midweek, with Nicolas Anelka preferred wide on the right to Salomon Kalou, subbed off in the first half in the match at Stamford Bridge. Alex continued in central defence, meaning that John Terry returned in place of Ricardo Carvalho, whilst Ivanovic continued at right back with Bosingwa still injured. Talk of Cech being dropped turned out to be inaccurate; he made his 50th appearance of the season for club and country.
In the early moments there was a scare for Arsenal, as the ‘keeper Fabianski made an ill advised foray outside of his area. Drogba beat the Pole to the ball and headed goalwards, however Kieran Gibbs was quick enough to race back and clear off the line.
As Chelsea started warily, Arsene Wenger decided that attack was the best form of defence, an astute observation given the shakiness of the second choice keeper Fabianski. This mindset saw Arsenal take the lead in the seventeenth minute, courtesy of the bright young winger Walcott. Kieran Gibbs’ cross found its way to Walcott, whose first time finished beat Cech in goal, via a crucial deflection off former Gunner Ashley Cole.
Chelsea responded by taking control of the game, with the midfield trio of Essien, Ballack and particularly Lampard outstanding, the precocious talent of Fabregas being completely nullified in the process.
The equaliser, when it came, was no surprise. A floated cross field ball from Lampard picked out the excellent Malouda, who produced a right footed finish that flashed past Fabianski at his near post, a replay that won’t please the Polish ‘keeper. Nonetheless, it was an adept finish from Chelsea’s French winger, and a valuable equaliser at that.
Almost immediately the Blues went close to taking the lead, through the ever dangerous Anelka. Winning possession from Diaby on the right hand edge of the area, our top scorer curled a left footed shot against the base of the far post with Fabianski well beaten again. Ivanovic and Ballack were then booked towards the end of the half.
The central defensive axis of Terry and Alex were exceptional again, and may well have laid claim to being the preferred choice for Hiddink, who coached Alex whilst at PSV Eindhoven in Holland. However, Walcott did skip past Terry on one occasion, but Van Persie’s shot was wasteful as he blazed over.
Chelsea had a decent shout for a penalty turned down after Silvestre appeared to handle in the area whilst challenging Drogba. However the referee turned away the appeal. Denilson was then booked for touching the referee after a decision went against Arsenal a few minutes later.
Rather belatedly, Andrei Arshavin was introduced in place of the quiet Robin Van Persie, whilst a few minutes later the introduction of Kalou took place, Anelka the man replaced. Simultaneously, Nicklas Bendtner replaced Emmanuel Adebayor who was ineffective throughout.
And so followed the Chelsea winner. Drogba’s eight goal in matches against Arsenal guaranteed Chelsea’s passage to a ninth FA Cup Final, and when it came it was created by the outstanding Lampard.
The best midfielder in the world launched a long ball over the top, to which Fabianski made another ill advised rush out of his area. Again, Drogba beat the Pole to the ball, bringing down the pass expertly, before finishing neatly with his left foot. The Ivorian was booked for removing his shirt during the celebration, but it mattered little, as Alex’s last ditch block prevented Arshavin from sending the tie to extra time.
Full time, and Hiddink’s stay extended until the final day of the season. With the way the interim manager has transformed Chelsea in his two month stay, nothing could make the players of fans happier.
Chelsea(4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry (c) A Cole; Ballack, Essien; Anelka (Kalou 82), Lampard, Malouda; Drogba.
Coach Guus Hiddink
Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Fabianski; Eboué, Touré, Silvestre, Gibbs; Denilson (Nasri 85); Walcott, Fàbregas, Diaby, Van Persie (Arshavin 75); Adebayor (Bendtner 82).
Manager Arsène Wenger
Referee Martin Atkinson.