Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:03 am    Post subject: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1  Reply with quote   

February 26, 2007

IT should have been remembered as one of the great domestic cup finals.

The talk was going to be all about the brilliance of the Arsenal kids and ace Chelsea predator Didier Drogba.

A first club goal for teenage prodigy Theo Walcott put the Gunners ahead before the Chelsea lion roared and Drogba struck twice to carry off the Carling Cup spoils.

There would have been hearty and well-deserved praise for the Gunners — allied to a recognition the Blues had done a thoroughly professional job against the little upstarts who at one stage threatened to seriously embarrass them.

Instead, the afternoon was completely overshadowed by a scary injury to Blues skipper John Terry, a shameful brawl and three sendings-off.

England defender Terry was accidentally booted in the jaw by Abou Diaby, turned blue and almost swallowed his tongue before being taken to hospital unconscious.

Incredibly, Terry was back at the Millennium Stadium an hour after the end — although apparently he had no recollection of the game.

When his team-mates got round to telling him, Terry must have wondered if he was still suffering from the after-effects.

As Arsenal pushed for the equaliser in time added on because of Terry’s trauma, Mikel John Obi tugged at Kolo Toure’s shirt and all hell broke loose.

The pair squared up, players from both sides piled in and managers Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho ran on to sort it out — accompanied by their physios and coaches.

Cesc Fabregas and Frank Lampard indulged in their own wrestling match while Wayne Bridge ended up flat on the canvas, Audley Harrison-like, apparently having been struck by Emmanuel Eboue.

Referee Howard Webb needed eyes in the back and sides of his head as well as the front as the mayhem ensued.

The official stayed calm and stepped away from the carnage before dishing out three red cards to Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Toure and another for Chelsea’s Mikel.

Adebayor, an 81st-minute sub, lost it completely. He was furious at being dismissed and would not leave the pitch.

It seemed Webb may have mistaken Adebayor for being the one who thumped Bridge.

Gunners physio Gary Lewin eventually manhandled Adebayor off before Thierry Henry, suited and booted for the day, led him up the tunnel.

That was not the type of celebration dance the two had in mind before the start. This was more like a funeral march.

Toure was not best pleased about his fate either — while Mikel, whose only offence seemed to have been the shirt tug, could count himself unlucky.

Lampard and Fabregas were also fortunate to escape with a yellow card each. Had three players not already been sent off, they might have gone.

Webb played 12 added minutes before blowing the final whistle.

Mourinho celebrated by beating the Chelsea badge on his suit and pointing to the fans, indicating his heart belonged to the club.

On another day it would have been big news and interpreted as a message to Blues owner Roman Abramovich, who apparently would not promise supporters he would keep the Special One next season.

Yesterday it was no more than a footnote.

Wenger stood by the kids who had got Arsenal to this final.

And they fully justified his faith, even if they did come up short in the end.

The average age of their 10 outfield players was 21 and they gave Chelsea a right battle, particularly in the first half.

Petr Cech made a sensational save from Julio Baptista’s 25-yard drive before 17-year-old Walcott opened his Gunners account in the 12th minute.

Walcott collected and played a one-two with Diaby before coolly lifting the ball over Cech.

No one really expected the match to finish 1-0 because it was so open — and Chelsea duly equalised on 20 minutes.

Michael Ballack, sluggish for most of the game, managed to find Drogba with a ball over the top.

And the Ivory Coast striker, who was just onside, brought it down with his right foot before slotting a shot between keeper Manuel Almunia’s legs.

Arjen Robben replaced Claude Makelele at half-time and Chelsea were a different team, forcing Arsenal on to the back foot.

As Chelsea pressed, they won a corner which Robben delivered into the six-yard box.

The ball popped up and Terry, who had made a miracle recovery from a midweek ankle injury to play in the first place, bravely stuck his head in to try and force the ball over the goal-line.

As he did so, Diaby’s boot connected with his jaw, the ball flew over the bar and Terry hit the ground with a thud — out cold.

Players from both sides knew it was serious.

They waved the physios on and Arsenal’s Lewin, who also does the job for England, was first on the scene.

Seven minutes ticked by before Terry was carried off in a neck-brace.

While the damaged ankle he suffered against Porto had not done for the centre-back, it seemed this injury would.

We should have known better. The amazing Terry is turning into Superman.

Had he got back from hospital a little quicker he would have been out on the pitch lifting the cup.

Chelsea kept up the pressure and Lampard rattled the bar with a dipping 25-yarder before Toure sent a free header wide for Arsenal.

Then six minutes from time the irrepressible Drogba arrived again to seal it with his 28th goal of the season.

Robben was the architect, crossing into the middle — and Drogba got ahead of his old rabbit Philippe Senderos to divert a header into the corner.

It was magnificent finishing from a striker on top of his game and worthy of winning a cracking match.

Andriy Shevchenko almost bagged a third when he hit the bar with a fierce right-foot shot.

But little did we know the real fireworks were still to come.

Mikel tugged Toure’s shirt and off it went.

It is going to be busy in the FA’s disciplinary department today.

There is a bucketload coming Arsenal’s way.

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