Roberto Di Matteo’s short spell in charge has already delivered its first piece of silverware. The Blues interim boss has led his side to four wins and a draw in the FA Cup – and has an identical record in Europe. If the 41-year-old can guide the Stamford Bridge outfit to their first Champions League crown then Roman Abramovich surely has to hand the Italian the position permanently. For Chelsea, Saturday’s win caps a dominant spell in England’s premier cup competition – it is their fourth FA Cup success in six years and they join Liverpool as seven-time winners. The Blues still also have the chance to become only the second team to win the FA Cup and Champions League in the same season after Manchester United’s memorable treble in 1999.
Andy Carroll’s impact was the sole consolation in a disappointing performance by Liverpool. The 23-year-old replaced Jay Spearing in the 55th minute and handed the Merseysiders the initiative in the second half. The England striker, who moved to Anfield in a record £35m deal in January 2011, scored his fourth goal in the FA Cup this season, equalling his Premier League tally. He showed neat footwork to deceive John Terry and halve Chelsea’s advantage with 27 minutes remaining. The former Newcastle United forward bullied the Chelsea back four and could have snatched a late equaliser for Liverpool. Luis Suárez’s chipped pass reached Carroll at the back post but Petr Cech produced a full-stretch save to deny the Reds a leveller, despite Liverpool claiming that the ball had crossed the line.
Ramires is fast becoming Chelsea’s big-game hero after his tenacious first-half goal spurred his side on to victory. The Brazilian midfielder outmuscled and outpaced José Enrique and showed superb composure to place his finish past Pepe Reina. It was the 25-year-old’s third goal in six games, with his other strikes coming at the Camp Nou in the Champions League semi-final and a smart finish against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup last-four. Ramires brings energy to an otherwise ageing Chelsea team and his willingness to burst forward but also complete his defensive duties render the former Benfica midfielder a valuable commodity to Di Matteo’s side. Didier Drogba, meanwhile, deserves a mention after becoming the first player to score in four FA Cup finals with his 52nd-minute strike to double the Blues’ lead. Cup finals are a happy hunting ground for Chelsea and the Ivorian.
Liverpool’s season has been hampered by injury to Lucas Leiva and coupled with Charlie Adam’s absence since March, Kenny Dalglish has been forced to rely on inexperienced duo Jordan Henderson and Spearing to partner captain Steven Gerrard in midfield. The duo struggled to cope with their experienced rivals Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Ramires. Spearing carelessly conceded possession for Chelsea’s first goal and it was a common theme throughout a torrid 55 minutes for the Liverpool youth graduate, who was replaced by Carroll. Henderson, signed from Sunderland in a £20m deal last summer, struggled to find any passing momentum and the England Under-21 international was content to play the ball sideways or backwards, lacking any penetration. It left Suárez starved off possession and suited the Blues’ defence who held a high line, with Liverpool lacking conviction going forward.
Enrique’s form has been indifferent this season, mirroring Liverpool’s performances in the Premier League. The Spanish defender made an impressive start to his career at Anfield following a £7m transfer from Newcastle United last summer. A dominant display in the Reds’ 2-0 victory at Arsenal earned Enrique rave reviews back in August. However, much like Liverpool’s top-four challenge, his level of performance has dipped since the turn of the year and the defender was at fault for Queens Park Rangers’ winner at Loftus Road back in March. Chelsea’s first-half opener saw Ramires brush off the attentions of Enrique and place his effort past Reina – the Liverpool goalkeeper should have prevented the midfielder’s tame effort at the near post. It capped a disappointing end to the season for both Spanish players, who have much to prove moving forward.
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