KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
WEMBLEY: The manner in which Chelsea won the FA Cup – and enhanced the debate over whether interim manager Roberto Di Matteo should be handed the job permanently – displayed both how they can beat Bayern Munich . . . and how they can be beaten in Munich in the Champions League Final.
Chelsea’s form improved formidably after their former midfielder was rushed in after the midterm sacking of manager Andre Villas-Boas. Russian owner Roman Abramovich is reported to have approached Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Laurent Blanc but winning the FA Cup was clearly a useful addition to Di Matteo’s cv.
The Swiss-born former midfielder insisted, however, that he is not considering anything beyond the Allianz Arena.
He said: “The question about my own future is irrelevant. I’m pleased with my situation as it is now. Then, at the end of the season, The Boss [Abramovich] will make his decision about what is best for the club and we’ll all respect that.
“I’m very happy for the players. We’ve had a difficult season and a lot of criticism and the players responded to all the adversity we have faced. Our record lately against Liverpool hasn’t been the best but we did very well for the majority of the game and scored two very nice goals.
“AVB should get some credit for this victory because he started this run in the FA Cup.”
No clubs have met as often over the last 20 years as Liverpool and Chelsea. Their Anfield meeting on Tuesday – coincidentally the clubs should have met in the Premier League this past weekend – will be their 32nd in all competitions. Chelsea capitalised on that familiarity by scoring early in each half through Ramires and Drogba.
But just when they looked poised for a repeat of their five-goal demolition of Tottenham in the semi-final so they were betrayed by their veteran legs and season’s fatigue.
Liverpool, desperately poor until then, brought on big Andy Carroll up front and he scored a superb goal to set up a lively last halfhour. Kenny Dalglish’s men raised the tempo of the game, forged forward and had Chelsea rocking.
The decisive moment came in the 82nd minute when Carroll claimed an equaliser after keeper Petr Cech pushed his header against the underside of the bar. However, TV replays showed the ball did not cross the goal-line and Chelsea surved to claim their fourth FA Cup in six years.
They extended various other records along the way:
Drogba scored a record fourth goal in four winning FA Cup Finals and his eighth goal in seven Wembley finals (including three in the League Cup);
Ashley Cole collected a record-extending seventh winner’s medal;
the magnificent John Terry became the first captain to raise the Cup four times for one club; and
Di Matteo became the first scorer of an FA Cup-winning goal to win as a manager in more than 80 years and the third Italian manager in three years to win the Cup (after Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini).
All very impressive. But Bayern’s spies will have left Wembley satisfied in the knowledge that Terry and Ramires will miss Munich and that they can exploit an ageing Chelsea’s vulnerability in the last halfhour.
FA Cup Final
Chelsea 2 (Ramires 11, Drogba 52)
Liverpool 1 (Carroll 64)
HT: 2-0, Att: 89,102. Ref: Dowd
Chelsea: Cech – Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole – Mikel – Ramires (76. Meireles), Mata (Malouda 90), Lampard – Kalou, Drogba.
Liverpool: Reina – Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique – Spearing (55. Carroll) – Bellamy (Kuyt 78), Gerrard, Henderson, Downing – Suarez.
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