From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.23 :: Jun. 06, 2009
Members of the Chelsea team savour the moment with outgoing manager Guus Hiddink.
Everton scored the fastest goal in FA Cup final history, but were not strong enough to hold off Chelsea for the 89 minutes and 35 seconds that remained, Frank Lampard's elegantly struck second-half winner deservedly providing Guus Hiddink with a well-earned leaving present. This is the first trophy Chelsea have won since Jose Mourinho signed off his silverware account with victory against Manchester United here two years ago, and as the outstanding Florent Malouda was unlucky to be denied a third goal with a shot that bounced down from the crossbar and over the line, there was no case for arguing that they were not worthy winners.
Everton brought the best support - it is quite a feat outsinging your rival supporters to a Z-Cars theme that has no words - but had to be content in the end with soaking up the rousing Cup final atmosphere their fervour had gone a long way to creating. Even the Chelsea cheers as the Cup was raised were muted, one appreciatory roar for Hiddink apart, whereas had it been Everton going up the steps the din would have been a danger to passing aircraft.
But Chelsea have seen a few trophies and finals in the past few years - they know the drill. While Everton could not quite rise to the occasion in the manner of their magnificent fans, they had a good go and did not let anyone down.
Hiddink took so long to emerge from the dressing room afterwards there was speculation he might have changed his mind about leaving, but no. "I apologise for the delay," he said. "We've all just been having a nice farewell dance party. This is almost the perfect farewell, though I must say it would have been even better had we been in the other final a few days ago.
"It is not just that I wanted to be in Rome, but I would love to have played Manchester United and I never got the chance. I am glad to
have won this trophy before leaving, though. This club must win some silverware every season."
Everton did not just get off to the best possible start, they got off to the best Cup final start ever, Louis Saha's goal after 25 seconds beating Roberto di Matteo's 43-second opener in 1997 and finally settling an ancient argument about a goal thought to have been scored between 30 and 40 seconds in 1895. There is no question that Saha now has the quickest ever, hitting a leftfoot shot on the turn past Petr Cech from the edge of the area after Chelsea had failed to clear the first Steven Pienaar cross from the left.
No one was expecting that, though Everton were hampered in their attempts to hang on to their lead by the inability of Saha and Marouane Fellaini to hold the ball in forward positions, meaning that Chelsea kept coming forward, and Tony Hibbert's unequal contest with Florent Malouda. The Everton right-back had already been struggling to contain the winger when he was booked for a cynical foul in the eighth minute. That made his life even harder, though it did not excuse his continued wandering out of position.
It was no great surprise when Chelsea got back on terms midway through the first-half, still less that Malouda was the provider. Found by Frank Lampard in plenty of space on the left, he sent over the sort of cross that Didier Drogba thrives on, the centre-forward easily muscling out an earthbound Joleon Lescott to give Tim Howard no chance with a close-range header.
Frank Lampard (yellow jersey), nets Chelsea’s second goal.
David Moyes sensibly replaced Hibbert with Lars Jacobsen after Everton made it to the interval without further damage, and pulled Fellaini back into midfield, where he had proved more effective, to allow Tim Cahill to get farther forward. Everton enjoyed their best spell after that and the game was quite open for a while, with Saha missing an excellent chance from a Leighton Baines cross in the 67th minute. Drogba went close from Malouda three minutes later at the other end.
Lampard stumbled then recovered to settle the issue with a leftfoot drive from outside the area that just eluded Howard's dive, before Malouda missed a relatively simple chance following outrageous crossfield passing between Drogba and Ashley Cole, then "scored" with an astonishing 35-yard shot that hit the bar to bounce behind the line and then out undetected by anyone until the next break in play provided the tell-tale replays.
Either Malouda or Lampard would have been a better choice as Man of the Match than Cole - certainly the French winger's case would have been unanswerable had his goal been spotted - while it was typical Lampard to use Wembley and the last match of the season to notch his 20th goal of the campaign, the fourth successive season he has reached that total. "He wins big games," a disappointed but resigned David Moyes said. "We spoke about him beforehand and I thought we played him really well, but he still popped up with the winner just as we were getting a foothold in the game."
Once Chelsea were ahead, they were careful not to invite Everton back into the game, with John Terry and Alex defending stoutly and the whole team being too smart to give away the free-kicks and corners their opponents needed to launch balls into their area. A caution for Lampard for diving late on was the game's only controversy. The Chelsea player certainly seemed to be looking for a penalty, though Pienaar appeared to have made some contact and a card might have been harsh.
Not a classic Wembley contest perhaps, and it was clear to even the most optimistic Merseysider that Everton might have peaked too early. "We got a great start, but it seemed to inspire Chelsea more than us," said Moyes, still waiting for his first win against the London side. "We found them a little bit too much for us, they were the better team. I very much wanted to beat Guus Hiddink - he has only been here three-and-a-half months and I didn't want to let him win a trophy easily, but I congratulate him." Still, a final with the fastest goal in the event's history and another Geoff Hurst moment was considerably better than some of the dross that has been served up lately. And Carlo Ancelotti will not now be judged against coaches who won nothing, but against a man who revitalised a club in under four months.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009
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