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Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea


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Arsenal 1 - 2 Chelsea F.C.

Saturday 18th April 2009, FA Cup Semi Final, Wembley Stadium, London

Arsenal-CechandTerry.jpg
Petr Cech and Chelsea captain John Terry celebrate at full-time.

Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba scored to send Chelsea through to their second FA Cup Final in three seasons.


Theo Walcott opened the scoring for Arsenal when his deflected effort wrong-footed Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, but Florent Malouda's magnificent equalising goal saw Chelsea restore parity before the half-time interval. After dominating for long periods of the second half, the Blues secured a return to Wembley when Didier Drogba latched onto Frank Lampard's brilliant lofted ball, rounded Arsenal shot-stopper Lukasz Fabianski and slotted the ball home to delight Blues boss Guus Hiddink.

The win means that the Dutch tactician will bow out of his role as interim manager of the club on the 30th of May as Chelsea return for a showpiece final against Everton, after the Merseyside team dispatched Premier League leaders Manchester United 4-2 on penalties following 120 minutes of stalemate. And with Everton Chelsea's next opponents on Wednesday evening, the Blues may be able to gain a psychological advantage over their opponents should they defeat the Toffees in a crucial top six encounter.

With John Terry returning following European suspension, Ricardo Carvalho was relegated to the bench as Brazilian defender Alex continued at the heart of Chelsea's defence. Branislav Ivanovic retained his right-back position after another imperious performance on Tuesday against Liverpool, and Nicolas Anelka's match-turning performance earned him a recall to the side; Salomon Kalou dropping to the bench. Arsenal were blighted by a number of defensive injuries, with William Gallas a notable absentee at the back. With Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy also missing, Abou Diaby came into the starting eleven to give protection to young left-back Keiron Gibbs. Andrei Arshavin was available as a substitute.

Chelsea started the better of the two teams, but the Wembley pitch was marking it hard for the players to spread the ball across the field with any conviction. There was some indecision amongst the Arsenal ranks with little over three minutes played when Drogba intuitively headed goalwards after capitalising on defensive ineptitude, but the distance to the goal was too great, allowing Keiron Gibbs to clear his header from almost 20 yards.

The game was subject to a quiet spell as both teams sized each other up, but it was difficult for both teams to play their free-flowing, fluid football, as the ball bobbled across the poor pitch. After 16 minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor played in Gibbs, who cut back to Theo Walcott. The teenager, who had scored his first Arsenal goal in the 2007 Carling Cup Final, saw his effort deflect off Ashley Cole's arm, leaving Cech helpless as it bounced onto and over his stretching frame.

However, immediately at the other end, Malouda was close to finding the net as his brilliant low drive across the face of the goal crept under the body of the nervous Arsenal goalkeeper and flashed just wide of the post. Frank Lampard then shot weakly from range before Drogba lashed wide from 22 yards. Slowly but surely, Chelsea were in the ascendancy - the Arsenal goal was completely against the run of play.

But with just over half an hour played, the Blues were level, and deservedly so. Lampard played a brilliant pass to Malouda on the edge of the area, and the French winger brilliantly cut inside Emmanuel Eboue before rifling the ball into the corner. It was a superb finish from Chelsea's number 15, who has demonstrated excellent form over the past fortnight. Anelka then hit the woodwork after Malouda had distracted Diaby, who surrendered possession of the ball to Chelsea's top scorer, but his low effort ricocheted off the post.

Malouda, Ballack, Ivanovic and Lampard then all combined to tee up Essien, who stung the palms of Fabianski with a rasping drive. Ballack and Ivanovic then found themselves in the book for lunges on van Persie, who earned Arsenal some much-needed respite. Anelka headed straight at the goalkeeper before the interval as Chelsea seized control of the match.

Robin van Persie was inches away from converting a Walcott cross as the second half kicked off, but the Dutchman failed to make contact as the ball sped across the face of the goal. At the other end, Lampard had an effort deflected behind for a corner and found Fabianski's gloves with a volleyed effort, as the Blues looked to press for a second goal that would surely put the game beyond the reach of their London rivals. Despite taking the lead, Arsenal had offered precious little going forward and were looking uncomfortable defensively thanks to the efforts of Anelka, Drogba and Malouda.

Martin Atkinson then waved away a penalty claim as Silvestre and Drogba wrestled in the area, but it would have been a harsh decision to award a spot-kick, as replays indicated both players had a hold of the other. On 84 minutes, Drogba converted a brilliant pass from Lampard to give Chelsea the lead after rounding the goalkeeper and sliding the ball into the bottom corner. It was another well-worked Chelsea goal that was reminiscent of the Ivorian's finish against Coventry in the quarter-final at the Ricoh Arena.

Alex then blocked a shit from Arsenal substitute Andrei Arshavin before Lampard hacked the ball away in his own penalty area as Chelsea hung on to claim a famous victory. The Blues would be returning to Wembley in just over a month's time, and their endeavour and attitude certainly deserved it.

___________________________________________________________________

The TalkChelsea.net Star Man award goes to...

Arsenal-Malouda.jpg

Florent Malouda, Chelsea F.C.

Coupled with his brilliantly-taken equalising goal, the Frenchman's considerable effort made him an ideal candidate for man of the match.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry ©, A Cole; Ballack, Essien, Lampard; Anelka (Kalou), Drogba, Malouda

Arsenal: Fabianski; Eboué, Touré, Silvestre, Gibbs; Walcott, Fàbregas, Denilson (Nasri), Diaby, Van Persie (Arshavin); Adebayor (Bendtner)
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