Saturday 24 March 2018

Video: Cech pushes Blues over line

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 1


Chelsea survived a Liverpool fightback to lift the FA Cup for the third time in four years, Andy Carroll's excellent second- half goal setting up a close finish but not quite turning the game.

The Liverpool centre-forward thought he had done exactly that with a powerful header from Luis Suarez's cross 15 minutes later that Petr Cech appeared to claw back from across the line, but though the Liverpool bench celebrated, referee Phil Dowd let play continue, correctly as it turned out.

Two of the FA Cup sub-plots did not even start the game. Didier Drogba's excellent Wembley scoring record saw him preferred to Fernando Torres, left on the bench against his former club, where he was in close proximity to Carroll.

After an opening 10 minutes that were cagey even by cup final standards, the game burst into life with a goal before either side had constructed a proper move. Jay Spearing gave the ball away to Juan Mata on halfway and paid a heavy price for his carelessness when the Chelsea forward raced away to supply Ramires, who held off Jose Enrique with surprising ease to beat Pepe Reina at his near post with a confident early shot.

Liverpool appeared stunned, and Steven Gerrard was lucky to get away with a scything tackle on Mata before Suarez attempted a shot from the halfway line and missed the target so badly the ball went out for a throw.

If it was not quite the lightning strike with which Roberto di Matteo stunned Middlesbrough after a matter of seconds in 1997, the present Chelsea manager must have been satisfied to take an early lead and stop Liverpool attempting to choke the game.

Liverpool still played quite cautiously after going behind, with Suarez an isolated figure up front and Craig Bellamy not quite functioning as a link between midfield and attack. On the rare occasions they did threaten the Chelsea penalty area, Suarez and Stewart Downing were both guilty of giving the ball away again, and though Gerrard made a couple of typically determined runs, he was not in the game enough to exert any sort of control.

Amusingly, during the interval, the first-half highlights on the big screen featured nothing from Chelsea except the goal that had put them in front. Liverpool featured more often, which was an odd but accurate reflection of an uneventful 45 minutes.

Gerrard began the second half with a surging run into the Chelsea area, only to end up on the floor in a vain attempt to win a penalty. Chelsea responded by going straight down to score their second, Drogba scoring his eighth goal at Wembley. The move was a familiar one, though it still seemed to take Liverpool by surprise. Frank Lampard threaded a carefully weighted diagonal pass forward for Drogba to take, turn, and find Reina's bottom-left corner with a low shot.

Suarez brought a save from Cech as Liverpool tried to hit back, and Kenny Dalglish sent on Carroll for Spearing after 55 minutes.

Just as it began to look as if Chelsea would be able to increase their lead at will, Liverpool made a game of it with a fine goal from their much-maligned substitute. Carroll's goal was much better than the one he scored in the semi-final -- in fact he finished with such conviction he almost made his £35m fee look reasonable.

Controlling the ball in the area then sending John Terry first one way then the other, the centre-forward made space for a shot with his left foot and crashed the ball past Cech in front of the Liverpool fans.

Dalglish's side enjoyed their best spell after that, playing with real self-belief and managing to bring Bellamy more into the game, though when Gerrard galloped onto a Carroll knock-down and attempted what would have been the most spectacular of equalisers, he could not keep his shot down and the ball nearly ended up in Wembley's second tier.

Chelsea were suddenly having to do all the defending, as Suarez saw a shot tipped round a post and Carroll headed over, and at least a game that had failed to produce any excitement in the first half had turned into an absorbing contest. Carroll's goal-line controversy added further spice, and he came closer than anyone to taking the game into extra-time in the closing seconds, when it took a terrific block from Terry to stop his goal-bound shot.


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