Didier Drogba came once again to haunt Arsenal as his goal sent Chelsea to the FA Cup final after Lucasz Fabianski made the error in judgment in rushing out for winner.
Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Hindsight is a wonderful thing (though looking back at the game does not bring the most pleasured of memories) but whatever one thinks of Wenger’s team selection, Arsenal were undone by two avoidable goals rather than Chelsea’s brilliance.
Chelsea’s first goal came after Malouda had sneaked behind Eboue, cut inside and shot past Fabianski’s near post. The Polish keeper would have been disappointed to allow the ball to beat him though credit must go to Malouda for a well struck shot. For the second, and ultimately the winner, Fabianski would have been kicking himself as he made the incorrect decision to come out for a brilliant Lampard long ball being challenged by both Silvestre and Drogba. There was still much work to be done for the striker but the Polish goalkeeper made Drogba’s mind up for him, and the Ivorian aptly rounded and finished into an empty net.
The Pole has a penchant for coming out and as early as the third minute, showed his intentions as he was beaten to a header by Drogba though rookie left back Gibbs was on hand to clear the ball away from going into an empty net.
Amidst all the doom and gloom the Gunners actually started the better but their passing game was always going to suffer on a terrible Wembley pitch. Wenger opted for a 4-5-1 and early on, Arsenal played with much fluidity as Diaby and Van Persie were able to switch positions, with Fabregas dictating. Theo Walcott was a menace down the right flank and the England winger got the first goal, his left foot volley taking a deflection on its way and the bounce in front of Cech was enough to beat him.
Hiddink reacted to the goal and dropped Ballack into the deep-playmaker role, pushing Essien up and Lampard behind Drogba. As a result Chelsea were able to pressure the Arsenal defence high up the field, denying them of the chance to pass the ball out to one of the midfielders. Lampard was at the heart of everything while Fabregas was increasingly deprived of the ball.
Not playing Arshavin wasn’t the problem; (although Arsenal would have been more potent with him) Wenger should have been more proactive, having waited 75 minutes to make his first substitution while at no time was there a switch to the 4-4-2 when it looked Arsenal needed it. Wenger was concerned with playing two central midfielders against three although Van Persie is capacbke is dropping back if required. Adebayor was desperately lacking support with the forward having proved most effective that he plays best with someone close to him.
The Blues were the better side but had Arsenal kept their momentum going against a not very special Chelsea side, it could have been a different story. As it was, Drogba came up with the goods once again for Chelsea having scored 8 goals in 9 games against the Gunners. The dream for a cup double may have been denied but with the Arsenal still in the Champions League, there is still much to be optimistic about.
Man of the Match: Frank Lampard – The England midfielder was at the heart of everything for Chelsea and provided the drive to their improved performance after going behind.
Arsenal: Fabianski (5), Eboue (5), Toure (6), Silvestre (6), Gibbs (7), Walcott (8), Fabregas (7), Diaby (6), Denilson (6) (Nasri 86), Van Persie (6) (Arshavin 75), Adebayor (5) (Bendtner 83).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Vela, Ramsey, Song.
Booked: Denilson, Toure.
Goals: Walcott 18.
Chelsea: Cech (6), Ivanovic (6), Alex (7), Terry (7), Ashley Cole (6), Ballack (6), Lampard (8)*, Essien (6), Malouda (7), Anelka (5) (Kalou 82), Drogba (8).
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Carvalho, Di Santo, Mikel, Belletti, Mancienne.
Booked: Ivanovic, Ballack, Drogba.
Goals: Malouda 33, Drogba 84.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||6|
|2||Shots off Target||8|