Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 3: match report
There is something about Didier Drogba in this competition at this venue. He scored in the semi-final and the final last year and he did it again, his instinctive finish the goal that effectively sent holders Chelsea into the final. With Aston Villa chasing the game, Chelsea added two late goals to skew the scoreline in what was actually quite a tight, hard-fought game. FA Cup final 2009: Evertons David Moyes attacks FAs ticket allocation for Chelsea tieUnion strike threat threatens FA Cup travel arrangementsCarlo Ancelotti, a manager supposedly immersed in a crisis just over a month ago, is on course to do the double in his debut season as a manager in the Premier League, and with his side showing such unwavering resolution it is going to take a lot to stop them. This was not Chelsea at their best. They lacked the energy that has been fundamental to their impressive run of results since being eliminated from the Champions League, but their foundations remain rock solid. The defensive keystone of Alex, John Terry and Petr Cech is the source of the whole team's strength and Villa could not breach them. Terry, one ugly studs-up challenge on James Milner aside, was particularly impressive. It was a second Wembley disappoint for Martin O'Neill and his Villa side this season. After suffering a 7-1 thrashing at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, some Villa fans might have feared their team would get outclassed but if anything they shaded much of this game - they just did not get the breaks and the late capitulation made it look worse than it was. Just as in their last appearance at Wembley, Villa were the victims of an early injustice. In the Carling Cup final, Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic somehow escaped being sent off after bringing down Gabby Agbonlahor in the penalty area when he was clean through. This time, with 16 minutes played, Agbonlahor rolled John Obi Mikel in the area and was clumsily brought down by the Chelsea midfielder. Howard Webb was well positioned but didn't give it. Agbonlahor flapped around on the turf like a dying seal; O'Neill had a tantrum in the technical area. Ancelotti had frustrations of his own, though. The way his side were set out - with Drogba on his own up front and the full-backs taking an attacking line in possession - meant that Chelsea always had one of their central midfield trio spare. Despite this advantage, though, they failed to start with the tempo that had made them so formidable against Manchester United last week, or even in that 7-1 demolition of Villa a fortnight ago. Chelsea's difficulties were exacerbated by the fact that Drogba, recalled to the side after scoring as a sub at Old Trafford, was struggling to impose himself. Villa's tactic was to try to bully him. After James Collins went in hard to an aerial challenge, Drogba seemed to hurt his knee and moved gingerly for the ensuing minutes. Richard Dunne fouled him twice as the belligerent approach was sustained and when he did get a chance, after Florent Malouda found him with a cross, Stephen Warnock was across well to block. With the ball, Villa tried to use the pace of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and especially Agbonlahor to hit Chelsea early, with the latter two swapping wings frequently to keep the Chelsea full backs guessing. Chances came: James Milner watched a low shot from range go just wide of the post with Petr Cech at full stretch, while Terry got the slightest touch on Stewart Downing's cross to confuse a spare John Carew at the far post. Still, it was a pretty flat first half and, once again, this Wembley pitch was not helping matters. The surface layer was cutting up very easily and players were slipping all over the place - Milner even changed his boots during the course of the first half. At half-time 13 ground staff came out with pitchforks to repair some of the damage. It's preposterous that it remains in such a state and a dumb risk to the fitness of the players hoping to go to the World Cup. The intensity increased in the second half as the roles were reversed: Villa started to enjoy more possession with Chelsea striking on the counter-attack. It was one of those swift attacks that preceded the goal. Mikel slid Drogba in down the left channel and Ivorian cut inside the sprawling Collins as he tried to block. Dunne came flying in to cover but conceded a corner. Malouda sent in what looked a benign cross but Dunne could only head the ball straight to the feet of Terry and the Chelsea captain's mishit shot was diverted in instinctively by Drogba. This was far from one of his best performances but Drogba obviously loves this stadium. With the game slipping away from them Villa had to take risks and Chelsea punished them for their adventure. Michael Ballack, on for Deco, sent in a classy cross to the far post where the in-form Malouda tucked it in right-footed for the second. Malouda then missed an easier chance in stoppage time before Lampard, who had scored four against Villa last time, tucked away a third with the defence in disarray.
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