CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE at Wembley: Chelsea crushed Tottenham 5-1 to reach the final of the FA Cup but the focus was on one man – not Roberto DiMatteo, but referee Martin Atkinson after he controversially awarded Chelsea’s crucial second goal.
Chelsea had been leading thanks to Didier Drogba’s rifle of a shot in the first half after spinning past William Gallas. Up until then Spurs had been pressing to open the scoring with a header from Van der Vaart cleared off the line by John Terry, and Van der Vaart again hitting the post.
But the crucial moment came on 48 minutes – after a scramble in the box from a Chelsea corner Juan Mata shot towards goal and the ball fizzed near the line before being cleared – however Atkinson decided that it had indeed crossed the line.
Furious and astounded Tottenham players surrounded the referee and linesman – but it was Atkinson alone who stood by his original decision. TV replays suggested the ball had not crossed the line. It was a second controversy in a week for Atkinson after he ‘missed’ Mario Balotelli’s red-card-worthy foul on Arsenal’s Alex Song in the Premier League.
Just minutes later Spurs looked to have found renewed impetus from the error when Adebayor was sent through the middle by Parker only to be brought down in the box by Petr Cech. However the ball fell to Gareth Bale who slotted home the advantage to make it 2-1.
The search for an equaliser from Spurs did leave themselves open at the back and they were duly punished on 74 minutes when the impressive Mata lifted a ball over the Spurs defence to an on running Ramires who cutely dinked the ball over Cudicini.
That goal took the wind out of Harry Redknapp’s side and not even the introduction of Jermain Defoe could prevent a thunderous free-kick from Frank Lampard minutes later to make it 4-1 – Though Cudicini could arguably have positioned himself better for it.
The rout was completed in the final seconds of the match as another killer ball through the heart of the Spurs defence released Malouda who slotted the ball into the back of the net to set up an eleventh FA Cup final for Chelsea against Liverpool on 5th May at 5.15pm.