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FA Cup final – Chelsea 2-1 Everton

The FA Cup final went pretty much according to how most people thought it would for almost twenty-five seconds! When Fellaini headed across the box and Louis Saha hit an exquisite shot past Petr Cech for Everton to take the lead, those of us who had predicted a 1-0 win to Chelsea started to feel pretty silly!

Planning

The Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink is well known for his organisation and matriculate planning and preparation. However, it is doubtful if even he had planned for what to do if they went 1-0 down inside half a minute.

As it turned out, Chelsea immediately started to dominate possession and dominate the game. Everton battled bravely, but they looked to be facing an uphill struggle right from the moment Chelsea kicked off after the goal.

World class

Chelsea’s left hand side looked absolutely world class with Ashley Cole, later named man of the match, storming down the wing in attack and looking as solid as a rock in defence and Florent Malouda looking like the great left winger that he must have been before he joined Chelsea and produced nearly two seasons of absolute rubbish.

With Mikel, Lampard and Essien probing and Anelka and Drogba looking to be in the mood, it was only a matter of time before Chelsea got back into the game. In fact it took until the twenty first minute until we saw the equaliser. Chelsea worked the ball to Lampard who picked out a pass to Malouda in acres of space on the left. Given time to pick out the right cross Malouda floated the ball in for Didier Drogba to power a header past Tim Howard.

Resolute

The rest of the first half belonged to Chelsea but they couldn’t find a way past a resolute Everton defence. It was noticeable that Everton were playing Chelsea in much the same way that Chelsea had played Barcelona. Knowing they were an inferior team they sat back in numbers and tried to hit Chelsea on the break and from set pieces.

Chelsea again dominated the second half and the only real surprise was that it took them until the seventy first minute to take the lead. When the goal came it was a fine strike from the remarkable Frank Lampard on his left foot. OK, Tim Howard probably should have made a better effort at keeping it out but he has had a fine season and nobody could begrudge Chelsea or Lampard the goal.

Remarkable

Lampard’s goal made it twenty for the season and one hundred goals in five seasons for Chelsea. That is a truly remarkable record for a midfielder.

There was still time for Florent Malouda to open the debate about whether technology should be used to assist referees when he struck an unstoppable shot from thirty yards that hit the underside of the Everton bar and bounced down over the line. There was no way that the officials could give the goal but the TV replays were conclusive.

Rightful

There was also time for Frank Lampard to be tripped in the area by Pienaar and turn round expecting to see the referee Howard Webb awarding the rightful penalty but instead saw himself being given a yellow card for diving.

In the final few minutes when Everton were desperate to fight back with an equaliser they simply couldn’t get the ball as Chelsea gave them a frustrating masterclass in possession football. The final whistle saw great celebrations from the Chelsea players and the usual despair from the losing side, but even the Everton players knew that Chelsea had deserved their victory.

Confidence

The FA Cup is nice to win but it won’t make up for their third place finish in the Premier League and their controversial semi-final exit in the Champions League. It was a lovely way for Guus Hiddink to say goodbye as he heads back to Russia and a lovely way for the club to go into next season under a new manager full of confidence.

As for David Moyes and Everton, they live to fight another day and once the disappointment of defeat has worn off, they will know that they have produced another exceptional season that has confirmed them as the ‘best of the rest’.

Sun 31 May, 2009
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