Chelsea continued their remarkable form at Wembley Stadium with their fourth FA Cup win in six years against Liverpool on Saturday.
Despite Andy Carroll pulling a goal back in the second half, the Blues lifted the trophy after a 2-1 victory which was the perfect warm-up for their Champions League final on May 19th with Bayern Munich.
The Chelsea team and interim manager Roberto di Matteo were all smiles after ending a season in which they had been heavily criticised with one cup and another big final on the horizon.
"We have been heavily criticised this season but we have won this trophy and we could win another one," Di Matteo told ITV Sport after the triumph.
"It's a unique situation to be able to win the FA Cup as a player and then help the team to win it. I feel honoured. I think we deserved to win, we scored two very good goals."
Despite a strong performance from Chelsea it was another game that will be remembered for a contentious decision.
Carroll looked to have equalised late on with a fierce header but the linesman judged that the ball had not fully crossed the line. Further TV analysis did little to clear up the decision which could have gone either way.
"If the ball was behind the line I couldn’t have put it outside. I am sure I was not behind the line. I knew it from the first moment so I think he got it right," goalkeeper Petr Cech said on the incident.
"I love playing at Wembley so I really enjoyed it. It is a fantastic win for Roberto di Matteo as well."
Ramires on hand again
Chelsea gained the lead in the 11th minute after Jay Spearing gave away the ball to Juan Mata in midfield. Man of the match Mata played through Ramires who fired past Pep Reina at the near post.
It was Ramires' second valuable goal in the last two weeks. The Brazilian helped Chelsea reach the Champions League final with a crucial goal against Barcelona.
Chelsea doubled their lead after the break when Frank Lampard found Didier Drogba who calmly slotted the ball into the net.
The goal meant Drogba continued his remarkable form under the Wembley arches. The Ivorian has scored eight goals in eight Wembley appearances and is the only player to have scored in four FA Cup finals.
Chelsea and Drogba continued to probe forward with another couple of good attempts on goal. Mata lifted the ball and flicked it expertly on to Drogba but on this occasion the in-form striker was unable to find the target.
However, Liverpool brought the game back to life in the 64th minute when substitute Andy Carroll completed a neat step over and thundered the ball home.
Despite a difficult season for Carroll, it was his fourth goal of Liverpool's FA Cup campaign.
The goal increased the tempo of the match with Carroll asserting his strength over the pitch.
Liverpool fought their way back into the game with Craig Bellamy racing down the wing and Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt working hard up front.
It was all one-way traffic towards the Chelsea goal in the last twenty minutes.
Did it? Didn't it?
However, a cup final is never really complete without a controversial decision from officials clouding the result.
On this occasion it centred on Carroll whose header in the 82nd minute looked to have crossed the line. Carroll spun off in celebration but Cech's parry had done enough to leave officials unconvinced.
In the dying minutes Liverpool fired in cross after cross, corner after corner, however, lacked the final touch.
Liverpool surged forward in extra time but Chelsea's defence was resolute, obviously benefitting from the tough shifts put in against Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final.
The Reds finished the stronger side in front of their loud travelling contingent, but the equaliser never came.
"At times people have slated us, we are too old, we are past it, but when the chips are down we unite and come together," Chelsea captain John Terry told ITV Sport after the match.
However, the ultimate test of Chelsea's unity is just around the corner.
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|Denis G. Rancourt|