Chelsea held on to secure a 7th FA Cup despite a late Liverpool comeback.
Ramires opened the scoring in the first half beating Reina at his near post before Drogba added a second minutes after the interval.
Andy Carroll was a surprise absence from the Liverpool starting 11, but the striker came off the bench to reignite Liverpool’s hopes of a comeback.
Just minutes before the final whistle Andy Carroll thought he had levelled the scores, but Peter Cech superbly clawed away the striker’s back post header. Carroll and a number of Liverpool players protested the ball had crossed the line but referee Phil Dowd waved play on with replays showing the decision was inconclusive.
Both teams went in to the game having had very inconsistent seasons, Liverpool have fared poorly in the league and have become known as a cup team having already won the League Cup earlier in the season. As for Chelsea, interim manager Roberto Di Matteo has revitalised Chelsea’s season which looked to have hit a dead end. The Italian has seen his team reach Champions League final having seen off Barcelona over two legs and reach the FA Cup final having beaten Spurs in last month’s semi final.
The Premier League’s two most expensive strikers could not make the starting 11 as Carroll, who scored the winner against Everton in the semi final, could only make the bench and Torres was denied a start against his former side.
Chelsea started brightest and opened the scoring with just 11 minutes on the clock. Liverpool youngster Jay Spearing was caught in possession in midfield and Ramires broke free of Jose Enrique’s weak challenge allowing the Brazilian to strike the ball past Reina at his near post, but Reina should have done better.
Liverpool responded instantly but could not find a way past Ivanovic as Johnson’s cross fell to the Welshman but his volley was well blocked by the Chelsea defender and the blues survived.
Di Matteo’s men looked comfortable as Liverpool rarely threatened. Suarez looked isolated and failed to link up effectively with Gerrard who was constantly dropping deep in order to cover Spearing and Henderson who were ineffective.
After the interval Chelsea soon doubled their lead. Talisman Didier Drogba scored his fourth FA Cup final goal after Lampard escaped Jay Spearing in the middle of the park and released Drogba who controlled well and fired a low strike through the legs of defender Skrtel and past the helpless Reina.
Spearing was eventually withdrawn and replaced by Carroll who immediately stamped his mark on the game. Downing closed down Bosingwa’s clearance and the ball kindly dropped to the striker whose smart turn evaded Terry before firing a left footed strike past Peter Cech putting Liverpool back in contention.
With Carroll’s physical presence causing problems in the Chelsea defence, Suarez was left with too much room and the Uruguayan tested Cech with a low strike as Liverpool piled on the pressure.
And then the controversy, Carroll’s header at the back post was fantastically tipped on to the bar by Cech, but the Liverpool striker wheeled away in celebration adamant that the ball had crossed the line. But after much deliberation Phil Dowd waved away the Liverpool protests and Chelsea survived to clinch their 7th FA Cup.
Chelsea thoroughly deserved the win and will be hoping to replicate their performance in 2 weeks time when they take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, as for Liverpool King Kenny got his tactics wrong by not starting Andy Carroll. Henderson and Spearing were overwhelmed in the heart of midfield, Suarez was too isolated and Bellamy rarely threatened.
The win for Di Matteo will surely enhance his chances of becoming the permanent Chelsea manager, but will Roman agree?