Liverpool and Chelsea set up North v South FA Cup Final
Chelsea 5-1 Tottenham
There’s a thin line between success and defeat; there’s a thin line between a good season and a dismal one.
For Spurs fans, the width and breadth of all lines, proverbial or literal, will seem inconsequential, as it appears goals can now be awarded without even crossing the most important line of all – the stretch of white paint between a ‘keeper and his net.
Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final will be remembered joyously as a classic encounter for the blue clad players and supporters at Wembley.
It bore all the hallmarks of a history making performance: plenty of goals, talismanic performance, good luck dressed as fate, and the muted dejection of neighbourly rivals. The Lily Whites may just look back at this evening’s game as the encapsulation of a season gone bad.
The match started at a busy but unproductive pace, with both sides seeking to make strong starts and assert themselves on the game.
Chelsea and Spurs crossed swords as the battle in midfield commenced from the very first whistle. With both teams flooding the centre of the pitch, it was always going to be a war of passers and grafters.
Tottenham were the first to create any real danger, utilising the pace of Bale and Lennon to tear at Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole.
Although they appeared threatening, Spurs failed to trouble Chelsea. The Blues would eventually get a grip on the game, rushing Spurs into mistakes, forcing the North London club into errors, ceding possession and territory on many occasions.
Harry Redknapp would soon feel aggrieved as his side looked to be on the verge of taking the lead, only to be foiled by a swift Chelsea attack that culminated in one of Didier Drogba’s great goals.
Latching onto a pass, the muscular Ivorian held up the ball with his former teammate, William Gallas, on his back, spinning instinctively onto his left foot to power in a delightful half volley past Carlo Cudicini.
The strike was against the run of play, but fans accustomed to the power play of Didier Drogba will be used to such wonder goals, as the half volleyed technique mastered by the forward has become a signature move for the Stamford Bridge cult hero.
The goal was reminiscent of the striker’s terrific goal against Liverpool a few seasons ago. It ensured Chelsea went in at half time one-nil to the good.
Spurs were shell-shocked by the score, after putting in a good shift. Redknapp would have hoped for a quickfire response fromr his side but his plans were thwarted as Chelsea appeared even more hungry for the fight, going for the jugular as soon as the referee whistled for the second half to start. Spurs” evening would then take a turn for the worse.
A dangerous ball was whipped in from a Chelsea corner, David Luiz latching on to power a header at goal. Cudicini saved the effort, the ball bounced back into the 6 yard box, with John Terry vying to knock home the rebound.
It was Juan Mata, though, who made contact with the ball, shooting at goal only to be denied by Benoit Assou-Ekotto. In a strange series of events, Chelsea players wheeled away in celebration and appeal, indicating the ball had crossed the line.
The referee Martin Atkinson agreed, awarding Chelsea a decisive second goal.
Tottenham were incensed, and invigorated by their own indignation, launched an attack soon after kick off, beating Chelsea’s high line, as Emmanuel Adebayor went one-on-one with Petr Cech, who then proceeded to take down the Togolese forward, leaving an open-goal for Gareth Bale to tap home an easy finish.
It all seemed set for Tottenham to gain a moral equaliser, and perhaps, victory, turning on the pressure on an under-fire Chelsea back four.
As Spurs sought an equaliser, Harry Redknapp decided to take a gamble, throwing on Jermaine Defoe for Rafael van der Vaart, converting Tottenham’s five man midfield to a 4-4-2 formation.
Sadly for Spurs, this opened the floodgates, as Chelsea ceased the opportunity to overpower their opponent’s midfield – resulting in a rout.
Some might argue it was not a 5-1 game, others might say Chelsea didn’t put in a 5-1 performance, however, Florent Malouda, Frank Lampard and Ramires would be quick to remind all watching that they did in fact score, making today’s game a 5-1 win for the Blues. Once more, on to Wembley.
Liverpool 2-1 Everton
For one striker, this was a game of redemption. For one defender, this was a match of dejection.
In spite of all his hard work and solid performances at the back for Everton, Slyvan Distin’s timely blunder will live long in the memory, undermining his contributions this term.
Despite a torrid few months living in the dumps, his reputation seemingly in the trenches, Andy Carroll will be sailing on cloud nine, netting the all important winner for his under fire side.
While most neutrals and keen observers of Merseyside derbies past will be hard pressed to find anything more polarised than two sets of fans divided across a set of clashing colours (Liverpudlian red and Evertonian blue), the contrasts provided by the two halves of engrossing football should be cited as an even more striking antithesis than that raised by the differences between Anfield and Goodison Park.
Everton were fantastic in the first 45 minutes of the tie, dominating possession, winning 50-50 battles, and attacking Liverpool’s goal.
As a result, Everton deservedly took the lead, pressing the Reds’ back four into a costly blunder that allowed Nikica Jelavić to put the Toffees in the lead. Everton were good value for the lead, but then, the second half arrived.
Roused by a crucial half-time team talk, Dalglish’s men started the second 45 with plenty of intent, hassling their local rivals, pressing, and running at the Everton backline.
Stewart Downing wreaked havoc down the wings, and with the introduction of Craig Bellamy, it appeared only a matter of time before the Reds equalised.
Unfortunately for Distin, Liverpool gained parity via a costly mistake by the big Frenchman.
Looking to spray the ball back to Tim Howard, Distin’s weak pass was latched onto by the dangerous Suarez, who finished with aplomb.
It was all Liverpool from then on, and, finally, in the latter minutes of the game, the towering forward from Newcastle scored the all important £35 million winner.