Chelsea FC lift the FA Cup final in Wembley after two great finishes from Ramirez in the opening eleven minutes and Drogba in the opening six of the second half. Andy Carroll managed to get one back for the Reds and had one disallowed, but his efforts were not enough to defeat the UEFA Champions League finalists and sixth place side Chelsea FC.
Chelsea were the dominant side in the first half as Liverpool scrambled to reach any kind of consistency in their play, a reflection of their frustrating form this season.
In the opening minutes, the Reds were the ones in possession but it didn’t take long for the boys in blue to prove to them that Wembley was their turf. In the sixth minute, Johnson had one of Liverpool’s more promising attacks, but he was quickly broken up by three Chelsea defenders. He was dispossessed and Liverpool’s opening possessive play was brought to an end.
On the counter attack, Ramirez caught Jose Enrique wrong footed. The Spanish defender committed to the through ball from the Chelsea midfield, but it found the feet of Ramirez first. Using his impressive place, the Brazilian striker took the ball into the Liverpool penalty area and put it past Pepe Reina. Reina’s positioning was all wrong. He got a hand on it, but there was too much pace on the ball and it ricocheted into the back of the net to give Chelsea the 1-0 lead with just eleven minutes gone.
The Reds tried to counter through skipper Steven Gerrard but they relied too heavily on him and he was not able to beat the entire Chelsea backline. Liverpool had a great chance in the 12th minute after they had managed to work their way into Chelsea’s penalty area but Bellamy’s spectacular volley off of a deflection from a Chelsea defender was followed by an equally stunning save from Petr Cech.
As Chelsea began to settle into possessive play to keep Liverpool at bay, the game began to fall into a slow pace. If it weren’t for the roar of the fans, one wouldn’t have no idea it was an FA Cup final. When either team gained possession of the ball, they were not willing to risk dispossession to get it up the field, something Liverpool have been criticized for this season.
Mikel saw the first yellow of the game in the 36th minute after he brought down caught Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard. He was late to the scene, slide tackling hard in an attempt to turn a 50/50 ball into an 80/20 in his favor. Unfortunately for him, Gerrard beat him to the ball and his tackle caught the English midfielder late and hard on his ankle, earning himself a place in Phil Dowd’s book.
As the half came to a close, neither side seemed very inspired. Liverpool did better to get up than they had for a good portion of the half, but Chelsea were the dominant side. At the whistle for halftime, Chelsea had the 1-0 lead thanks to the strike from Ramirez in the eleventh minute.
Chelsea were on the attack immediately in the second half too, Ashley Cole nearly opened up a great goalscoring chance for the Blues but his effort was snuffed out by Reina. Liverpool seemed a little more lively than they had been in the first half but the game was very much the London side’s.
With the second half underway, it took Didier Drogba just six minutes to find the back of the net. The legendary Chelsea striker hit home in the 51st minute after he got on the end of a fantastic through ball from Lampard. Liverpool gave the in-form Drogba too much space and failed to shut him down, instead giving him an open invitation for a shot on goal. He took it and placed a shot nicely through the legs of Skrtel and past Reina.
Chelsea had the 2-0 lead and Liverpool were starting to lose their drive. In an attempt to shake things up in the 54th minute, Dalglish pulled off Spearing in the center midfield to replace him with Andy Carroll, choosing to take a gamble with the young English forward.
It turned out to be a good gamble. Andy Carroll found himself in possession of the ball in Chelsea’s penalty area in the 62nd minute. After taking a few neat touches around John Terry, Carroll slammed the ball past Cech into the roof of the goal, shaking the net and giving the faithful Liverpool travelling fans something to cheer about.
With the scoreline at 2-1 and Liverpool back in the game, the Reds were revived. For the remainder of the half, they dominated impressively, securing themselves multiple corner kicks and keeping the Chelsea defense on their toes. They thought they had done it in the 82nd minute when Carroll created another chance for the Reds, this time Cech was able to come, but there was question as to whether or not the ball crossed the line. The man in the middle held the only opinion that mattered, and Phil Dowd said that the ball had not crossed the line.
Liverpool were not ready to back down. They continued to push up for the remainder of the half and for the four minutes of extra time, but it was too little too late for the Reds and the disallowed goal proved to be costly for them. In the dramatic closing minutes of stoppage time, the ball was back in Liverpool’s half. Chelsea didn’t put the nail in the coffin, but the match was theirs to win and when the final whistle sounded, Roberto Di Matteo was able to celebrate his first trophy as the Chelsea manager after winning in his time as a player for the Blues.
The FA Cup high will hopefully follow Chelsea to Munich on the 19th when they face off against Bayern Munich in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final.