Chelsea books FA Cup final ticket
Defending champion Chelsea returned to the FA Cup final on Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa that left Villa manager Martin O’Neill furious with referee Howard Webb.
Didier Drogba scored on a ball from John Terry in the 68th minute and Florent Malouda side-footed home a right-wing cross from Michael Ballack in the 89th. Frank Lampard knocked in the third in injury time after a Chelsea breakaway.
In the final May 15, Chelsea will face the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between Tottenham and Portsmouth.
Villa controlled much of the game but caved in during the final stages.
Although Chelsea beat Villa 7-1 in a Premier League meeting two weeks ago, Carlo Ancelotti’s team failed to recapture that form. Currently leading the Premier League, Chelsea was still on course to complete the league and cup double.
Ancelotti said he was not yet thinking about doing both.
"We are happy to be in the final of the FA Cup," said the Italian, in his first season in English soccer. "We have five games in the Premier League. We have to look at it game by game and prepare well. We have to pay attention to every game. I don’t like to speak of ‘ifs.’ If is not really true.
"We are very close to winning but we haven’t won anything yet."
A minute after James Milner’s low shot from just outside the area flashed past the Chelsea post, Villa could have had a penalty in the 16th.
John Obi Mikel challenged Gabriel Agbonlahor, who went down as he spun toward the goal. But Webb waved away Villa’s penalty appeals, causing O’Neill to rage at the officials.
The Villa manager believed his team should have a penalty and that Chelsea captain Terry should have been sent off for a foul on James Milner.
"I thought we fought very strongly and I’m incredibly disappointed for the players," said O’Neill.
"We should have had a penalty. The Chelsea players – we knew by their reaction it was a penalty. The referee was a few yards from it but chose to ignore it.
"John Terry’s horrendous challenge on an England teammate – James Milner is tremendously lucky that his career is intact. It’s a straight red card; the referee’s straight in front of him and he’s given him a yellow card. These are incontestable decisions."
The notorious Wembley pitch, which has been re-laid several times since the stadium was rebuilt, caused frequent problems with players slipping and forced to change their shoes.
Villa defender Stephen Warnock blocked a 12-yard shot from Drogba and Joe Cole forced a near post save from Brad Friedel as Chelsea threatened. But it was a game full of misplaced passes as Chelsea struggled to break down a well-organized Villa defense.
John Carew was close to giving Villa the lead from Stewart Downing’s corner early in the second half but his glancing header flew past the far post.
Chelsea sent on Salomon Kalou but went ahead thanks to a piece of good fortune.
Malouda’s badly directed corner was poorly cleared to Terry, whose left-foot drive appeared to be going wide but was turned in by Drogba from six yards.
Villa sent on striker Emile Heskey late in the game but it was 2-0 in the 89th when Malouda arrived at the far post to knock in Ballack’s cross.
Lampard’s third came in the third minute of injury time after Chelsea had cleared a Villa move and the midfielder, who scored four goals in the 7-1 league victory, was left unmarked to shoot from 12 yards.