Be honest, no one saw this coming did they? Chelsea stormed into their fourth FA Cup Final in six years by hammering rivals Spurs at Wembley. Putting aside all the ‘ghost goal’ controversy, the headline of this story is that Chelsea were simply too strong and too powerful for Harry Redknapp’s side.
Roberto Di Matteo maintained his magical relationship with the national stadium as five different scorers put Spurs to the sword. It was a Didier Drogba masterclass that sent Chelsea on their way, the Ivorian bringing down Lampard’s high ball, held off and turn rolled William Gallas before unleashing an unstoppable drive past another former Blue in the Tottenham goal, Carlo Cudicini.
The goal actually came when the northern Londoners were in the ascendancy, with Rafael Van Vaart just starting to have a real effect on the game, having seen a header brilliantly cleared off the line by John Terry, the Dutchman also curled in a wicked cross that just evaded Emanuel Adebayor and slapped against the post.
The first twenty minutes of this showpiece semi-final looked like it might go the same way as the league encounter at the Bridge in March, with both sides unable to create many clear cut opportunities. It was Di Matteo’s side who did create the first real opening, Salomon Kalou catching Kyle Walker in possession before bearing down on the exposed Spurs back line. The Ivorian showed rare coolness in possession and played a brilliant pass inside for Juan Mata, who had charged from midfield, but the Spaniard couldn’t gather the ball in and Tottenham were off the hook.
It wasn’t until Drogba’s stunner that the Blues had another real sight of goal. The frontman, preferred to Fernando Torres, had already caused panic in the Spurs defence once when chasing another high-ball, but failed to connect with his attempted volley. Two minutes before half time it was a different story however, Drogba outmuscled Gallas and chested down Lampard’s pass. The Ivorian then turned the defender with a flick off the outside of his right boot, before smashing inside Cudicini’s near post with his left. It was the seventh time in seven games that Drogba had scored at Wembley, as the man for the big occasion we shouldn’t have been surprised.
The goal seemed to rattle Spurs and into the second half Chelsea continued to gather momentum, and just four minutes after the interval the lead was doubled. David Luiz saw his header saved by Cudicini, Terry and King piled in on the dropping ball, and in the ensuing scramble Juan Mata appeared to slot the ball home through the pile of bodies. The Spaniard wheeled away in celebration and referee Martin Atkinson, after a short pause, awarded the goal.
TV replays however showed more than a hint of controversy as the ball appeared to be cleared off the line by Benoit Assou-Ekoto. The supposed injustice forced Spurs into action and Gareth Bale pulled one back just seven minutes later as the game stretched. Redknapp threw on Jermain Defoe to try and find the equaliser, and Chelsea seized the extra space in midfield and were ruthless in their attacking play.
First, Juan Mata clipped a delightful pass into the path or Ramires who lifted home over Cudicini. More than worth a mention is a brilliant tackle by Gary Cahill, on for the injured Luiz, on Bale that started the move for the goal.
Next came the game’s second stunner as Frank Lampard unleashed a near unstoppable free kick from thirty yards. The England international’s strike dipped and swerved away from Cudicini before nestling in the bottom corner. This, coming just four minutes after Ramires’ effort, ensured Chelsea of their place alongside Liverpool on May 5th, and the Tottenham end of Wembley duly emptied.
There was still time for Chelsea to put the icing on the cake in stoppage time as Juan Mata was again the architect, this time playing in Florent Malouda to slip under the keeper.
It wrapped up a stunning afternoon for Roberto Di Matteo’s side and was the perfect warm-up for the Champions League clash with Barcelona on Wednesday. The Blues are coming to the boil at the right time of the season, and although Barca will be a different proposition to Spurs, momentum is a great weapon to have.