Chelsea wins 2007 FA Cup over Man U 1-0

Published Saturday, May 19, 2007 11:30 AM by Shane Barrow
Chelsea wins 2007 FA Cup over Man U 1-0

Didier Drogba pounced five minutes from the end of extra-time to hand Chelsea the FA Cup and thwart Manchester United's Double dream at Wembley.  Among the biggest let-downs of a final where tired legs ensured there was no hope of lofty pre-match expectations being met by England’s top two, Drogba produced his 33rd and final goal of an incredible season at just the right time as a penalty shoot-out seemed certain.

It was harsh luck on United, who were marginally the better side, but there was so little in the contest they could not really complain and the excellence of Drogba’s finish, after playing an excellent one-two with Frank Lampard, was beyond debate.  United did their best to rally but after a draining season, in which they extended every sinew to finish champions, they had nothing left to give as two teams too tired to reach the Champions League final did finally fall on the ropes exhausted.  The evidence of a draining campaign was there for all to see.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Drogba, widely accepted as the best two players in the Barclays Premiership, were virtual bystanders.  Ronaldo was walking by the end of normal time, unable to raise a gallop to aid Wayne Rooney as the United youngster tried in vain to inspire his side to a late winner without the need for an extra 30 minutes.  As usual, Rooney defied his body, pushing it to the absolute maximum.  One admirable burst took him from one box to another without single team-mate able to support.

But like so much in this heavyweight contest, a brief moment of excitement gave way to a sigh of disappointment.  At least there was something to enthuse about after half-time for, after the big build-up, the opening 45 minutes proved to be the dampest of damp squibs.  Aside from Paul Scholes dropping deep and isolating Chelsea’s full-backs with a series of eye-catching crossfield passes, the creative element to the game was non-existent.  It was more an exaggerated arm-wrestle in which neither side was prepared to give an inch.  Despite losing so many key men to injury, Chelsea did create the most obvious of what could be classed as opportunities.

Frank Lampard’s long-range effort skimmed the top of Edwin van der Sar’s net without ever looking like going in it.  The England international also stormed onto Paulo Ferreira’s square ball only to find the United keeper’s giant frame in the way as he tried to fire into the bottom corner.  With Ronaldo subdued, Ryan Giggs equally muted and Scholes’ pinpoint passing not triggering the required response, United looked to Rooney for a spark.

It took the half-time introduction of Arjen Robben for Joe Cole to send a current of electricity through the contest to finally jerk it into life.  The Dutchman’s direct running forced United into a defensive rethink but also encouraged Chelsea to shed some discipline too in the hope of gaining a reward.  As gaps started to open, Petr Cech was forced into his first save as Rooney wriggled his way into space and let fly with a powerful 25-yard effort.  That dreaded offside flag rendered Giggs’ attempt to ram home the rebound worthless but Cech denied him anyway.  On the cusp of another piece of history, Giggs volleyed United’s best chance just over after Scholes had dropped one of his devastating bombs over the Chelsea defence.

Inspired by Robben, Chelsea were getting into the attacking spirit as well and after Scholes had picked up the first yellow card of the contest for upending Lampard, Drogba struck the outside of a post with his low free-kick. But United were on something of a roll. Cech dived bravely at the feet of Rooney after Terry seemed to lose his bearings on the edge of the six-yard area, then Michael Essien thundered into Giggs to prevent the Red Devils skipper causing havoc after he had beaten the Chelsea offside trap.

Essien produced a replica meaty challenge to snuff out the danger when Rooney skipped past Ferreira in stoppage time, by which point Lampard had almost, but not quite, carved out an excellent shooting chance for himself.  Extra-time brought more evidence of legs drained of energy, plus a moment of controversy as Giggs slid in to meet Rooney’s far-post cross.

The United skipper rose to claim the ball had crossed the line as Cech clutched it to his body. TV replays showed Giggs was correct, although if it had not been for him maintaining his slide to bundle into Cech, he would not have been.  Still, as referee Steve Bennett did not give what appeared to be an obvious foul, United could feel aggrieved, although not as aggrieved as Chelsea would have been if they had fallen behind.  Jose Mourinho could have had no complaint if Rooney had been able to control another inspired Scholes pass.

Instead, not for the first time, Cech came to the rescue with a brave save which, in the end, was to prove so crucial. Didier Drogba pounced five minutes from the end of extra-time to hand Chelsea the FA Cup and thwart Manchester United’s Double dream at Wembley.  Among the biggest let-downs of a final where tired legs ensured there was no hope of lofty pre-match expectations being met by England’s top two, Drogba produced his 33rd and final goal of an incredible season at just the right time as a penalty shoot-out seemed certain.

It was harsh luck on United, who were marginally the better side, but there was so little in the contest they could not really complain and the excellence of Drogba’s finish, after playing an excellent one-two with Frank Lampard, was beyond debate.  United did their best to rally but after a draining season, in which they extended every sinew to finish champions, they had nothing left to give as two teams too tired to reach the Champions League final did finally fall on the ropes exhausted.  The evidence of a draining campaign was there for all to see.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Drogba, widely accepted as the best two players in the Barclays Premiership, were virtual bystanders.  Ronaldo was walking by the end of normal time, unable to raise a gallop to aid Wayne Rooney as the United youngster tried in vain to inspire his side to a late winner without the need for an extra 30 minutes.  As usual, Rooney defied his body, pushing it to the absolute maximum.  One admirable burst took him from one box to another without single team-mate able to support.  But like so much in this heavyweight contest, a brief moment of excitement gave way to a sigh of disappointment.

At least there was something to enthuse about after half-time for, after the big build-up, the opening 45 minutes proved to be the dampest of damp squibs.  Aside from Paul Scholes dropping deep and isolating Chelsea’s full-backs with a series of eye-catching crossfield passes, the creative element to the game was non-existent.  It was more an exaggerated arm-wrestle in which neither side was prepared to give an inch.

Despite losing so many key men to injury, Chelsea did create the most obvious of what could be classed as opportunities.  Frank Lampard’s long-range effort skimmed the top of Edwin van der Sar’s net without ever looking like going in it.  The England international also stormed onto Paulo Ferreira’s square ball only to find the United keeper’s giant frame in the way as he tried to fire into the bottom corner.  With Ronaldo subdued, Ryan Giggs equally muted and Scholes’ pinpoint passing not triggering the required response, United looked to Rooney for a spark.  It took the half-time introduction of Arjen Robben for Joe Cole to send a current of electricity through the contest to finally jerk it into life.

The Dutchman’s direct running forced United into a defensive rethink but also encouraged Chelsea to shed some discipline too in the hope of gaining a reward.  As gaps started to open, Petr Cech was forced into his first save as Rooney wriggled his way into space and let fly with a powerful 25 yd effort.  That dreaded offside flag rendered Giggs’ attempt to ram home the rebound worthless but Cech denied him anyway.  On the cusp of another piece of history, Giggs volleyed United’s best chance just over after Scholes had dropped one of his devastating bombs over the Chelsea defence.

Inspired by Robben, Chelsea were getting into the attacking spirit as well and after Scholes had picked up the first yellow card of the contest for upending Lampard, Drogba struck the outside of a post with his low free-kick.  But United were on something of a roll. Cech dived bravely at the feet of Rooney after Terry seemed to lose his bearings on the edge of the six-yard area, then Michael Essien thundered into Giggs to prevent the Red Devils skipper causing havoc after he had beaten the Chelsea offside trap.  Essien produced a replica meaty challenge to snuff out the danger when Rooney skipped past Ferreira in stoppage time, by which point Lampard had almost, but not quite, carved out an excellent shooting chance for himself.

Extra-time brought more evidence of legs drained of energy, plus a moment of controversy as Giggs slid in to meet Rooney’s far-post cross.  The United skipper rose to claim the ball had crossed the line as Cech clutched it to his body.  TV replays showed Giggs was correct, although if it had not been for him maintaining his slide to bundle into Cech, he would not have been.  Still, as referee Steve Bennett did not give what appeared to be an obvious foul, United could feel aggrieved, although not as aggrieved as Chelsea would have been if they had fallen behind.  Jose Mourinho could have had no complaint if Rooney had been able to control another inspired Scholes pass.  Instead, not for the first time, Cech came to the rescue with a brave save which, in the end, was to prove so crucial.