Saturday, May 15, 2010

FA Cup - Chelsea win Double as Pompey miss chance

Didier Drogba's free-kick gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over Portsmouth in an extraordinary FA Cup final at Wembley.

Drogba's strike came three minutes after Portsmouth's Kevin Prince Boateng saw a penalty saved by Petr Cech, while Frank Lampard also missed a spot-kick late on.

Carlo Ancelotti's first season at Stamford Bridge ended in glory as Chelsea won their first league and cup Double - a feat beyond even Jose Mourinho.

It was Drogba's third FA Cup final goal, after his exploits against Manchester United in 2007 and Everton in 2009. And on a day of landmarks, Ashley Cole won a record sixth FA Cup - three with Arsenal and three with Chelsea, all since 2002.

Portsmouth won the pre-match battle by a landslide. While their fans were out in force waving flags an hour before kick-off, the Chelsea end was half-empty until the traditional strains of 'Abide With Me' coaxed them off the concourses and into their seats.

The team was not so slow to get going, as Chelsea hit the woodwork five times in an amazing first-half onslaught. First Lampard struck a dipping 35-yarder that left David James totally stranded and clipped the outside of the right-hand post on 14 minutes. Then Drogba had two chances, both charged down superbly by Aaron Mokoena as Portsmouth put bodies on the line to protect their goal.

A minute later came a glorious opportunity for Portsmouth's Frederic Piquionne, who had most of the goal to aim at as he redirected a powerful Boateng volley, but shinned it to the only place where Cech could save it.

Chelsea responded by squandering an open goal of their own - an even more incredible miss. Ashley Cole dribbled to the left byline, drew James and laid the ball across to Salomon Kalou who somehow shot against the crossbar from three yards.

Next it was John Terry's turn to rattle the frame of Portsmouth's goal, as he headed a Florent Malouda free-kick onto the bar.

On 38 minutes Drogba battered a long-range free-kick that James pushed on to the bar. The ball dropped down and bounced away.

Drogba celebrated but the referee's assistant somehow correctly judged from 50 yards away that the ball was only three-quarters over the line. Shades of Geoff Hurst in 1966, but this time there was no goal. How Chelsea must have longed for a Russian linesman.

Drogba was at it again four minutes later, chesting the ball down and shooting low against the left-hand post from close range. He reacted by punching the goal frame. For once, the Ivorian's frustration was perfectly understandable.

Amid the madness, Michael Ballack sustained an ankle injury that forced him out of the game and could make him a doubt for Germany's World Cup campaign.

Portsmouth started the second period stronger, and within 10 minutes had the chance to pull off a remarkable reversal. Aruna Dindane danced into the box and the substitute Juliano Belletti brought him down with a crude challenge. Penalty.

The pressure was too much for Boateng, who hit a weak penalty low down the middle - Cech could hardly fail to save with his legs.

The punishment was swift and devastating. Chelsea hit the post a sixth time when Drogba struck his free-kick on 59 minutes, but this time it was en route to the back of the net.

The Portsmouth wall parted in the face of the Ivorian's dipping strike, and a wrong-footed David James could not prevent the ball finding the bottom-right corner.

Boateng pulled his shirt over his head, unwilling or unable to witness the almost immediate consequence of his blunder.

Lampard should have put the result beyond doubt on 88 minutes when he was brought down by Michael Brown, but shot wide of the left-hand post.

Although there was no late flourish from a Portsmouth side now destined to be broken up, they said goodbye to the big time in defiant fashion.

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