Chelsea beats Liverpool 2-1 to win FA Cup
WEMBLEY, England (AP)
Four goals in four FA Cup finals, and now four winners' medals for Didier Drogba.
Cementing his status as Chelsea's player for the big occasions, Drogba clinched a 2-1 victory over Liverpool on Saturday to prove his enduring value to the team at the age of 34.
''He is my hero,'' midfielder Frank Lampard said. ''No striker I have ever played with has scored so many important goals in finals.''
In fact, no player has ever scored in as many FA Cup finals as Drogba.
''That's the reason why I came here, to win trophies and to make history with the club,'' said Drogba, who joined Chelsea in 2004. ''The result is great for us, for the fans, for the club. Our fourth FA Cup final, fourth win, fourth trophy.''
But it could be his last FA Cup as the Ivorian's contract expires at the end of the season.
''He's not 65. He's a top professional,'' Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said when asked about Drogba's future.
Drogba scored his eighth goal in eight games at Wembley in the 52nd minute of the 131st final of the competition, with Chelsea already leading through Ramires' deflected 11th-minute strike.
Drogba slotted the ball through defender Martin Skrtel's legs and into the net after being fed by Lampard as a lethargic Liverpool posed little threat.
That was until Liverpool substitute Andy Carroll breathed life back into the game when he pulled one back in the 64th after teasing his way around Chelsea captain John Terry.
Chelsea had to survive a late, intense Liverpool onslaught, with Carroll believing he had equalized when a close-range header was swatted away on the goal line via the crossbar by goalkeeper Petr Cech.
But the referee waved away Liverpool's appeals for a goal, with replays indicating that the entire ball did not cross the line.
And Terry went on to become the first captain to lift the FA Cup four times with the same club.
''It's fantastic, it's what we live for,'' Terry said. ''At times people have slated us as too old, past it or not together but as a team we come together and unite when our backs are against the wall.''
As they have been for most of the season. Chelsea's freefall, though, was halted after Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas as coach two months ago until the end of the season.
While Chelsea is still languishing outside of the four Champions League qualification places in sixth place in the English Premier League, the team can win the European Cup for the first time by beating Bayern Munich in two weeks.
''I'm very happy for the players because we've been heavily criticized this season and we've got the trophy and have the chance for another one,'' Di Matteo said. ''It's been a difficult season but the players have made the club proud. It's been hard work but we came through it.''
Di Matteo, who also won the FA Cup twice as a player for Chelsea, is making it increasingly difficult for the club not to extend his contract.
''He has been brilliant,'' Lampard said. ''He has turned the club around.''
Liverpool had hoped the return of Kenny Dalglish in January 2011 would similarly rouse its faltering fortunes.
But while the Reds won the League Cup in February, their Premier League form has been even worse than Chelsea's - sitting eighth - and they didn't even play in Europe this season.
Dalglish suggested his team's inability to make an impact on Saturday until midway through the second half was a sign of its inexperience.
''We were excellent for the last half hour, but the game lasts for 90 minutes,'' he said. ''You can't give a team like Chelsea a two-goal head start. It's credit to our lads that they went close to an equalizer after Andy scored, but they had left themselves too much to do.
''I don't think the first hour was a reflection of the quality of the players we had out there ... these players will get better and benefit from this experience - they've been in two cup finals in this season.''
Liverpool gifted Chelsea the opener after a pair of mistakes. Jay Spearing initially gave the ball away in midfield to Juan Mata, who set Ramires free to charge toward the Liverpool goal.
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina was beaten too easily at his near post by Ramires when a shot was deflected in by the goalie's knee.
It was a reflection of a shoddy first-half performance from Liverpool, which struggled to break through a Chelsea back four including Ashley Cole, who went on to win his seventh FA Cup final, with the first three coming at Arsenal.
Despite scoring the semifinal winner and being Liverpool's most expensive player, Carroll was dropped in favor of Luis Suarez up front, but the isolated striker struggled to make an impact.
Carroll, though, netted after just 10 minutes on the pitch to make it 2-1.
Stewart Downing's tenacity down the left flank paid off, challenging Boswinga before the ball fell to Carroll to lash it into the net.
''Until they scored it was very, very comfortable,'' Lampard said. ''They bombarded us and it was hard to deal with.''
But Chelsea clung on to win the world's oldest knockout competition for a seventh time.