Much of the talk in the build up to the game was centred around the importance of winning the FA Cup in the modern era, compared to Premiership and Champions League glory (and money). The 131 year old tournament’s reputation was further damaged not only by the FA’s decision to again move the date forward, meaning that the final is not the end of season showcase it traditionally was, but also by their decision to move the kick off time to later in the day.
To the Chelsea and Liverpool teams and supporters though, the old competition still retained its glitter. For Chelsea, after that famous victory over Barcelona and a place in the Champions League final, it was a chance to win the first piece of silverware in what could be a famous cup double. This, in a season, that only a few months ago, threatened to be the most disappointing of the Abramovich era. For Liverpool, faced with their lowest league position since they re-entered the top flight in 1962, it was a chance for some glory other than the League Cup win scrambled over championship side Cardiff.
The two teams lined up with £85 million of striking talent on the bench in the shape of Carroll and Torres, and the match got off to a fairly subdued start. Liverpool controlled most of the possession but without looking dangerous, and Chelsea were happy to let them have it, as the two teams felt each other out. It all changed on the 10th minute though with Ramires robbing Spearing of the ball in midfield, before advancing into the box and beating a wrong-footed Reina on his near post. It was fitting reward for Ramires who has been one of Chelsea’s players of the season and scored that sublime goal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and unfortunately is suspended for the Champions League final.
Liverpool now had to open up more and Suarez attempted to repeat his 45-yard goal against Norwich last weekend, but this time was well wide. The rest of the half followed fairly uneventfully, Liverpool offered little creatively, except a couple of crosses from Downing on the left wing, and Chelsea were happy to let them advance and sat on their lead without too much trouble.
The second half started much the way the first had finished until the 51st minute when Drogba picked up a pass into the box from Lampard and finished well, shooting across Reina into the far corner. That was Drogba’s eighth goal in nine Wembley appearances and it put Chelsea firmly in the driving seat. In response Liverpool took off Spearing, who had been poor for Liverpool in the middle of the field, and introduced Andy Carroll. Twelve minutes later he displayed some clever close control in the box to go past Terry and thumped the ball into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
The goal inspired Liverpool and they upped the tempo and started to dominate the game, with Carroll in particular worrying the Chelsea defence. With less than ten minutes to go Carroll felt he had the equaliser after a towering header seemingly beat Cech’s attempt to keep it out when he pushed it onto the bar. The Liverpool players were insistent that it had crossed the line, with Suarez in particular berating the linesman and earning a yellow card for his troubles. It seemed Chelsea were going to get the benefit of another controversial goal line decision following the ball that never crossed the line against Spurs in the semi-final. Replays however suggested that the whole of the ball had not crossed the goal-line, in which case not only was it a superb save by Cech, but an equally good decision by the officials.
Liverpool kept pressing, with Carroll putting in perhaps his best performance in a Liverpool shirt, but without making any clear cut chances, and deep in injury time it was Chelsea who give Liverpool a scare when Reina rushed out of his goal area and lost the ball but Liverpool managed to scramble clear.
That was the last of the action and seconds later the final whistle blew to give Chelsea incredibly there fourth FA cup title in the 6 years since it has been played at the new Wembley. For Liverpool it was utter disappointment with Dalglish looking understandably upset on the touch line. They had pretty much banked on the cup double putting some gloss on their season and now they are left with some serious questions to ask about the side and maybe the manager.
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