Chelsea eased into yet another FA Cup Semi-Final with a routine 2-0 home win against Stoke City. The English duo of Frank Lampard and John Terry supplied the goals either side of the interval.
Carlo Ancelotti brought Alex back into the starting eleven to help cope with Stoke’s aerial threat, whilst Paulo Ferreira and Salomon Kalou also returned. The first opportunities of the game were Stoke’s. A Delap long throw was flicked on by the visiting captain and former Chelsea player Robert Huth only for Sidibe to head over from right in front of Hilario. Stoke came much closer to scoring after a quarter of an hour when another Delap throw was inadequately cleared. The ball fell invitingly to Dean Whitehead and his well-struck volley beat Hilario before being dramatically cleared off the line by Mikel.
That was about as good as it got for the Potters, as Chelsea began to assert their home dominance. The ever-dependable Branislav Ivanovic had a decent shot deflected wide, whilst a powerful Drogba effort found a similar fate. Anelka created a chance for himself out of nothing but drove his left-foot shot wide with only Sorensen in the Stoke goal to beat.
Chelsea’s pressure paid off after 34 minutes. A Malouda corner was not dealt with and Terry laid the ball back invitingly to Lampard, lurking on the edge of the box. His powerful shot weaved its way through a packed penalty area and with the aid of a slight deflection flew past Sorensen. Chelsea almost doubled their advantage just before the break. Following excellent link-up play between Malouda and Ferreira, the latter supplied a decent cross which was met on the run by Drogba, his volley well parried by Sorensen.
Chelsea really stepped up their game at the beginning of the second half and did add a second after a flurry of chances in quick succession. Drogba did magnificently to control a long-ball and turn Huth, before supplying a perfect cross for strike partner Anelka. The Frenchman looked certain to score but his header was well saved. From the resulting corner a powerful Alex header was destined for the top corner until Andy Wilkinson flicked it over for another corner. This time Chelsea did find the net, with Lampard’s corner powerfully met by John Terry. The captain celebrated by pointing to his armband in triumph, at this stage the game looked dead and buried and the Blues supporters could start to ponder their route to Wembley in April.
Chelsea could and probably should have added a couple more goals before the game’s conclusion. Lampard tested Sorensen with a trademark, swerving long-ranger. Anelka and Kalou both had very presentable one-on-one opportunites, but the former’s effort went wide and the latter’s was well saved. Hilario was called into action in the dying stages, saving well from the lively Ricardo Fuller in the game’s final action.
So Chelsea wrapped up another FA Cup victory and march back to Wembley to play Aston Villa in a repeat of the 2000 Cup Final. A win there will see us enjoy a third Cup Final in four years, a remarkable feat. For now, though, attentions turn back to other commitments with two big home games to follow, against West Ham and Inter Milan in the League and Champions League respectively.