It was probably the best FA Cup final since the new Wembley opened in 2007 and certainly the most tense and gripping.
Chelsea edged out Liverpool by 2-1, but the last half hour was all Liverpool and Chelsea were hanging on in the closing stages.
But for the first hour, Chelsea were the better side, comfortably able to handle anything Liverpool could throw at them. The problem was, Liverpool didn’t seem capable of throwing much at John Terry and co. until they brought on the ponytail (the worst hair since Venison, according to one Merseyside banner).
Ah yes, banners. “Expose the lies before Thatcher dies”, said one that was unfurled just before kick off, presumably a reference to the Hillsborough disaster.
Chelsea went ahead after 11 minutes with surprising ease, Ramires running on to Mata’s through-ball and his finish was low and firm. Half the stadium went silent, the other spiralled into raptures.
Liverpool were second best throughout the first half, with Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing having dreadful games. Didier Drogba was a constant handful for the Liverpool defence while his opposite number, Luis Suarez, was completely starved of chances.
When Drogba put Chelsea ahead on 52 minutes, set-up by Frank Lampard and fired in despite the attentions of the otherwise impressive Skrtel, it looked as though Chelsea would stroll to victory. Certainly, the Liverpool fans – who had spent much of their time hurling racist abuse at Chelsea’s former Reds Torres and Meireles as well as Drogba, (which may explain the unsatisfactory approach by the club to the Suarez affair) seemed to think all was lost. How they can label Torres “Judas” when his sale brought £50m to a cash-starved club is something of a mystery.
But then, enter Andy Carroll, the £35m misfit. He made all the difference with his aerial threat. In fact, within nine minutes of arriving, Carroll sidestepped John Terry, turned him inside out and shot high into the roof of Peter Cech’s net. If Carroll had started, the game may have had a very different pattern.
It made for a tense finale, and in the 83rd minute, extra time threatened as a Carroll header was pushed onto the bar from Cech, bouncing on the line. Liverpool’s players and supporters turned away in triumph, but it was not a goal – another Geoff Hurst moment at Wembley! For Chelsea, they may just have been paid-back for that controversial goal in the Champions League in 2005!
Chelsea came again in the closing couple of minutes and held on to win – their fourth FA Cup in six years. Terry’s fourth as skipper – a record – Ashley Cole’s seventh as a player – another lanmark – and Drogba’s third FA Cup final winner – and fourth goal in a final. A day for records….and making history. As for Liverpool, their chants of “you’ve got no history” has a ring of “Living in the Past”. Perhaps they should adopt Jethro Tull’s song as their theme tune in preference to “You’ll never walk alone”?