Whilst most of the post-match talk will be of the goal that shouldn’t have been, Chelsea gave their finest performance of the season to show they mean business as they remain in 2 cup competitions and chase a top 4 league finish.
Didier Drogba reminded us all of what he can do with a fantastic goal that was a throw-back to the Drogba that physically dominated opposition defences prior to his malaria scare in late-2010. Holding off ex-Chelsea defender William Gallas, Drogba pulled a long ball from Frank Lampard out of the sky and rolled Gallas beautifully before lashing an unstoppable shot past another former blue Carlo Cudicini in the Tottenham goal. This has become an increasingly rare sight in the last 18 months as Drogba doesn’t seem to bully centre-halves or have the explosive burst of acceleration that he did before suffering from the disease. But he showed he still has the ability to score goals in the big games with one of the best goals to grace the new Wembley stadium.
That goal came two minutes before half time and gave Chelsea a lead they deserved after seeing off an enthusiastic start from Tottenham and eventually controlling the pace of the game. Tottenham’s only effort on goal in the first half being a Rafael van der Vaart header cleared off the line by John Terry.
As the second half began it was Chelsea who started quickly and looked the likely team to score the next goal. They couldn’t have predicted that it would come in such controversial circumstances though, as replays showed the ball hadn’t actually reached the goal-line before it was cleared. Referee Martin Atkinson, who was in charge at the Emirates Stadium one week ago and failed to punish Mario Balotelli for a dreadful tackle on Alex Song, gave the decision without the help of his assistant and awarded Chelsea their second goal.
Initially, that goal seemed to spark a bit of urgency into Tottenham. And they pulled a goal back 7 minutes later when a Scott Parker through ball found Adebayor one-on-one with Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech. The Togolese front man rounded Cech and was brought down, but referee Atkinson rightly waived play-on as Gareth Bale was there to pass the ball into an empty net unchallenged. There was then a lengthy delay before the action re-started, as David Luiz received treatment before eventually leaving the field to be replaced by Gary Cahill. This allowed emotions to simmer down on the pitch and the momentum that the goal would have given Tottenham had lessened somewhat when the action did re-start several minutes later.
Spurs began to throw more bodies forward in search of an equaliser. But Chelsea still looked the more likely scorers, looking dangerous on the counter attack with Kalou, Ramires, Mata and Drogba all looking dangerous. A spell consisting of 4 successive Tottenham corners was about as dangerous as Tottenham looked as they struggled to test Cech enough in the Chelsea goal.
With 15 minutes remaining, Harry Redknapp replaced Dutchman van der Vaart with striker Jermain Defoe and as such changed to a 4-4-2 formation. This proved to be part of Tottenham’s downfall. Although they had to do something to try and rescue the match, this change allowed Mata, who had become more influential in this second half and had outshone Luka Modric all afternoon, to get on the ball a lot more and find space in between the Tottenham midfield and their under-performing defence. It was Mata who, after playing a simple but effective one-two with Frank Lampard, advanced towards the Spurs goal unchallenged through the centre of the pitch and lofted a brilliant ball for Ramires to lift over the advancing Cudicini to make it 3-1 on 77 minutes.
Frank Lampard added a fourth for Chelsea with 9 minutes left. Hitting the back of the net directly from a free kick, although questions should be asked of Cudicini as the ball sailed into his net at a good height for a goalkeeper and into the side of the goal he was covering. Chelsea then brought on Malouda for Ramires, and shortly after Torres for Drogba, as concentration on the Blues bench undoubtedly turned to Wednesday evening’s clash with European Champions Barcelona. The one blemish on this Chelsea performance was John Obi Mikel’s kick out at Scott Parker for which he was lucky to only receive a yellow card. Parker was uncharacteristically enraged at this, perhaps showing his frustration as it dawned on Spurs that they would face a fourth successive trophy-less season, and was booked for his reaction. Sandro then replaced Parker in the 90th minute to prevent the situation escalating.
The scoring wasn’t finished yet though as Mata capped a fine second half performance by playing another lovely ball through to substitute Florent Malouda to slot past Cudicini to ensure the final score was Chelsea 5-1 Tottenham.
Mata and Drogba will have to be at their very best if Chelsea are to have any chance against Barcelona over two legs. But this dominant and clinical victory means they will appear in at least one final this season when they return to Wembley in three weeks to face Liverpool in the FA Cup final.