Sunday, April 11, 2010

Great Chelsea through Drogba, Malouda and Lampard

**Goals from Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda secured Chelsea's place in the FA Cup Final after the Blues beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Wembley.

Aston Villa went into the game hoping they wouldn’t face a repeat of the 7-1 battering they took at the hands of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in March, with Chelsea wanting to extend their unbeaten streak to five games by seeing off Martin O’Neil’s side at Wembley to book their place in the FA Cup final.

Both Richard Dunne and James Milner recovered from Achilles injuries in time to feature in Martin O’Neil’s starting eleven, with Milner replacing Fabien Delph in Villa’s midfield.

Carlo Ancelotti made only one change to the side that has beaten both Villa and Manchester United in the past fortnight, bringing in Didier Drogba to replace Nicolas Anelka up front for the Blues.

Play in the opening minutes was hindered by the slippery surface at Wembley, with Aston Villa having the better of the play early on, pushing forward well and forcing Alex to concede a corner, which failed to find a Villa player after Downing had sent the ball in from the right-hand side.

But Chelsea soon managed to find their feet and created a couple of chances, with Alex failing to convert a header from a corner before Brad Friedel easily grabbed on to an effort from Joe Cole.

With fifteen minutes on the clock Stiliyan Petrov played a good ball to Milner who found himself in space just outside the box, striking well from distance and seeing his shot fly past Petr Cech’s outstretched arm but also past the post.

Seconds later Aston Villa may have felt they should have had a penalty, with Gaby Agbonlahor being impeded inside the box by John-Obi Mikel, but referee Howard Webb allowed play to continue, waving away Villa players shouts for a spot-kick.

With half an hour gone Chelsea began to take control of the game, though a lack of real pace and a number of misplaced passes meant that the Blues failed to find a way through the Villa defence, who dealt with Chelsea’s attacking moves comfortably.

With Carlo Ancelotti becoming increasing frustrated Chelsea stepped it up a gear, with Florent Malouda sending a dangerous ball into the box allowing Drogba to fire towards goal before Stephen Warnock slid in to make a crucial block, denying the Ivorian striker a semi-final opener.

As the half-time whistle blew Villa will have felt the better of the two sides, looking dominant in the opening minutes and creating the better of the chances throughout the half. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Chelsea, with Carlo Ancelotti’s side looking the more dangerous of the two in the closing minutes of the first 45.

Just after Howard Webb got the second-half got underway Villa had a great chance to get themselves in the lead, with Stewart Downing sending a corner into the middle of the box from the right-hand side, allowing Carew to get his head to it, but the Villa front man couldn’t hit the target, sending the ball narrowly wide of the left-hand post.

But it was Chelsea who’d take hold of the first ten minutes of the second-half. With the London side having 65% of the possession in the opening stages and coming close to getting a goal when Deco fired wide from just outside the area after a Chelsea corner was scrambled away from the Villa box.

With half an hour left to play Villa had another chance to put themselves in the lead when Agbonlahor took a quick throw in the final third which found Ashley Young, but the England-hopeful couldn’t convert his chance after breaking into the box, firing directly towards Cech who made an easy save.

Minutes later Chelsea made their first substitution of the tie, with Joe Cole coming off and being replaced by Salomon Kalou.

With 65 minutes gone Chelsea got themselves in front, when a poor clearance by Richard Dunne fell to John Terry outside of the box, who took a shot which looked to be going wide before Drogba intercepted and fired past Friedel and into the bottom corner to give his side a 1-0 lead.

Ten minutes later Chelsea made another substitution, this time Deco was the man to make way with former Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Ballack coming on to replace him.

Minutes later Carlo Ancelotti made his third and final substitution of the evening, taking off goal-scorer Drogba and replacing him with Anelka.

With just ten minutes to save the tie Martin O'Neil made his first change of the game, bringing off Carew and replacing him with England international Emile Heskey.

Villa will have felt they could have got much more from the game and had Howard Webb awarded them a penalty in the first-half things may have been completely different.

With 90 minutes almost up Chelsea extended their lead after Malouda fired a shot into the bottom corner from close range after substitute Ballack sent a brilliant cross into the box.

In extra time Frank Lampard further increased Chelsea's lead, firing in from deep inside the area after latching onto a well-placed ball by Anelka.

The win kept Chelsea's hopes of doing a domestic double alive, with the Blues progressing to the final to face either Spurs or Pompey.

Teams Line-Ups :

Aston Villa : Friedel, Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Petrov, Milner, Downing, Young, Carew (Heskey 82 '), Agbonlahor.

Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Terry, Alex, Zhirkov, Mikel, Joe Cole (Kalou 65 '), Lampard, Deco (Ballack 76'), Malouda, Drogba (Anelka 79 ').

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