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Coventry 0-2 Chelsea


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Coventry City 0-2 Chelsea F.C.

March 7 2009, FA Cup Quarter Final, Ricoh Arena, Coventry

Alex celebrates scoring the second goal for the visitors.

Michael Essien returned following six months out with injury after Didier Drogba and Alex scored to send Chelsea into the FA Cup Semi Finals.

After rounding Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, Didier Drogba put the Blues on the road to Wembley with a brilliant left-footed finish from an acute angle. The Ivorian's third goal in four games was followed by a professional rearguard action by the Blues, with skipper John Terry in formidable mood at the heart of the Chelsea defence. Their complete dominance throughout the game deserved a second goal, and it was provided when Alex lashed home following Ricardo Quaresma's stunning cross from the wing after a brilliant counter attack.

The Chelsea boss will now see his side go to Wembley next month for an FA Cup Semi Final - a feat achieved by the blues for the third time in four seasons. Hiddink showed his intent by fielding his strongest possible eleven, and an unchanged line-up from the team that earned a victory at Fratton Park against Portsmouth. The team was buoyed by the return of both Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien, the latter out for over 6 months with anterior cruciate damage.

Chelsea's desire was unquestionable throughout the game, and their attitude seemed to indicate the players were more than up for the challenge of Coventry, as Drogba almost scored within two minutes. Following indecisive defending from Sky Blues captain Dann, the Ivorian stole and ball and fashioned a half chance from a tight angle, but his strike was inches wide of Westwood's post.

Frank Lampard then found Salomon Kalou, who chested the ball down expertly for Michael Ballack, who smashed his shot into the home support. It was a decent opportunity for the German international, but the opening exchanges indicated that the game would be an interesting and enjoyable affair, with the masked Leon Best firing wide for the home team.

But it only took 14 minutes for the team from West London to make the breakthrough, and it was the in-form Didier Drogba who found the net. Capitalising on some haphazard defending from the opposition, Drogba burst into the penalty area before rounding Keiren Westwood, and fired confidently into the back of the net. The away fans erupted in delight as the eccentric atmosphere of the Ricoh Arena faded to nothingness. It was a deserved opening goal for the visitors, and Drogba's third in four games signals that the Ivorian might just be somewhere near his best once more.

Alex then headed over under pressure from a Lampard corner from the right, before Ballack had another effort go wide of the target. Coventry did create half a chance when Best cut inside Alex, but the hefty presence of the Brazilian saw the home side's most influential player shoot well wide of Cech's goal. Ballack had a shot blocked bravely on 30 minutes after Bosingwa and Lampard had created some space for the German, but the so far elusive second goal seemed a certainty.

There were chances to kill off Chris Coleman's side, but they were chances that went begging. Lampard first had a freekick well saved by Westwood, who, despite his diminutive stature for goalkeeping standards, did well to tip the ball over the crossbar, before Kalou poked wide of the mark with an effort from the edge of the area. Drogba curled an effort wide after the effective Lampard had cut inside his marker, but the strike was inches wide of the upright.

Ricardo Quaresma came on at half-time for Kalou, whose decision-making had been poor at times. The Portuguese winger added some more natural width to the Chelsea attack, but the hosts seemed more fired up at the beginning of the second period as they made an ultimately vain attempt at making it a more even contest.

But the biggest cheer of all from the Chelsea faithful came as Michael Essien returned from knee ligament injury and six months out on the sidelines. His every touch cheered, the Bison immediately added more steel to the Chelsea midfield as John Mikel Obi was hauled off ahead of Tuesday's crunch class in Torino with Juventus.

Cech had to be at his best to palm away a Coventry cross and Alex did well to overt danger by heading away, before a long throw from Aron Gunnarsson evaded two Sky Blue jerseys at the far post. Coventry had enjoyed a decent spell at the start of the second 45, but in response, Michael Essien had showed the football world what it had been missing when he beat three players with some nimble footwork before eventually being tackled at the death by Dann.

Drogba and Alex required treatment after a clash of heads, and both were forced off the field of play as Gunnarsson prepared another long throw. However, as the two returned onto the pitch, Michael Ballack's clearing header found its way to Malouda who broke away at pace through the midfield. Playing in Quaresma, the Portuguese fired a low cross between the defence and the goalkeeper for Alex, who wasted no time in firing home for his second goal of the season. There were celebrations all round on the Chelsea bench, and with Hiddink deeming it job done, hauled off Drogba and brought on di Santo with the unenviable task of Juventus clearly apparent in his thoughts.

Malouda played in Lampard with 11 minutes to go but his shot was saved well by Westwood, who raced off his line quickly, to his credit. The Chelsea number 8 then drilled a shot wide when 25 yards from goal, before Clinton Morrison wasted a number of chances; first firing wide after Alex failed to clear, and then weakly firing straight at Cech as the home side looked for a way back into the tie.

But the game was won, and a sixth consecutive win means that the Blues go into the match with Juventus in excellent form. A fourth clean sheet under Guus Hiddink underlines the fact Chelsea's defences woes are now far behind them, and another professional display from the Blues means that even Sir Alex Ferguson must be worrying.


The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match award goes to...


11. Didier Drogba

Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry ©, A Cole; Ballack, Mikel (Essien 64), Lampard; Kalou (Quaresma 45), Drogba (Di Santo 79), Malouda

Coventry: Westwood; Wright, Dann ©, Turner, Hall; Henderson, Gunnarsson, Doyle (Beuzelin 59), Eastwood; Morrison, Best
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