19 April 2009

FA Cup semi final (EPL)

Arsenal 1 - 2 Chelsea

Didier Drogba scored a late winner to send Chelsea into the FA Cup Final at the expense of Arsene Wenger's young Gunners.

Drogba kept his head when Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski lost his six minutes from time, strolling round the Poland international after charging on to a long ball from man of the match Frank Lampard before gleefully tapping into an empty net.

For Wenger it must have been another nasty reminder of what might have been given he had the chance to sign Drogba from Le Mans in 1998, only to spurn the opportunity.

Although Andrey Arshavin went close in stoppage time, there was no way back for Arsenal, allowing Chelsea to claim capital dominance, while also quietly keeping them on track for the Treble.

And, as almost a side issue, there is bound to be a further clamour for Guus Hiddink to stay on as manager beyond next month, although it had not looked too good for the Dutchman earlier on.

Having conceded seven goals in a week, the last thing Petr Cech needed was to see another flash past him in slightly dubious circumstances.

In fairness, Cech was not the only one culpable. Nicolas Anelka was caught on his heels as Kieran Gibbs nipped past to reach Emmanuel Adebayor's neat pass.

Gibbs' cross was decent, allowing Theo Walcott to let fly with a first-time volley that flicked off Ashley Cole's hand.

The deflection did alter the direction of the ball. Yet the feeling persisted that the Cech of three years ago would have kept it out.

Walcott's goal was just reward for a sparkling start. The young England star was the pick of an Arsenal side whose movement was a joy to watch, even if their end product was not always the best.

Denilson and Abou Diaby had been asked to anchor midfield. Yet they still found time to push forward. Indeed, with a bit more composure, Diaby might have found the net himself.

In contrast, Chelsea were ponderous, their general experience costing them the liveliness that ran through Wenger's side.

Unfortunately, Arsenal in their present form are a flawed concept.

For a start they persist in passing the ball around in tight spaces inside their own penalty area when, in Adebayor, they have the perfect target for a more agricultural clearance. More pertinently, they do not have significant strength in depth.

True, the Gunners' bench today contained Arshavin, Samir Nasri and Aaron Ramsey. In other areas they were lacking, specifically goalkeeper.

In all probability Manuel Almunia would not have been involved at Wembley even if an ankle injury had kept him on the sidelines.

Only yesterday, Wenger expressed his faith in Fabianski.

It looked more like blind optimism judging by the Pole's first-half performance.

On his 24th birthday, Fabianski was the one handing out presents, setting the tone barely two minutes into the game when he lost out in an aerial duel with Drogba, Gibbs forced to chase back and hack off the line as the Ivorian's header was about to bounce in.

Fabianski was then fortunate to escape when he failed to get behind a fierce shot from Florent Malouda that skimmed under his body before flashing across goal.

It all pointed to an equaliser, which duly arrived when Malouda cut inside Emmanuel Eboue and beat Fabianski at his near post, although it was hard to quibble with the Frenchman's accuracy.

Anelka hit a post after robbing Diaby inside the Arsenal box just before half-time and Chelsea continued to look the more likely scorers after the break, even though their opponents were, in patches, the better team.

An acrobatic clearance by Alex may have denied Walcott, who was involved in a fascinating duel with England team-mate Cole, but it fell perfectly for Robin van Persie, who could only fire disappointingly over.

Anelka was off target with a header at the other end, before Lampard volleyed an excellent chance wide from Drogba's cross.

Through all this, Fabianski had been relatively stable.

All that changed six minutes from the end when he inexplicably raced out of his area as Drogba brushed off Mikael Silvestre to reach Lampard's long ball.

What should have been a 50-50 duel turned into a walkover as Drogba skipped round Fabianski and tapped Chelsea into the final, where they will meet either Manchester United or Everton on May 30.

- credit to espnstar.com


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