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FA Cup - Arsenal 18th April 2009 2-1

Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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Familiar foe Drogba dashes Arsenal’s cup dream

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal

By Alan McGuinness

Didier Drogba has been the scourge of Arsenal on so many occasions since he moved to Stamford Bridge from Marseille for £24 million in 2004. And so it proved again today.

The Ivorian grabbed the winner in this cup tie, knocking the ball past the shaky Lukasz Fabianski and then into the net, with just under 10 minutes left on the clock to set up a clash with either Manchester United or Everton in the final at Wembley on 30th May.

Much of the talk in the build up to this semi final surrounded the state of Blues’ keeper Petr Cech after his uncertain display against Liverpool midweek, but it was Fabianski who caused the most concern throughout the 90 minutes, and he was at fault for both of Chelsea’s goals. His fragility was exposed minutes after kick off.

There was uncertainty in the Arsenal defence when a long ball was punted downfield and Drogba managed to nip in and beat Fabianski to the ball with a header, but Kieran Gibbs got back well and cleared off the line.

After that early moment of panic, Arsenal began to compose themselves and went ahead with 18 minutes on the clock.

There was a heavy sense of de ja vu surrouding the goal. Emmanuel Adebayor’s played in Gibbs, whose lofted ball into the box found Theo Walcott - the scorer of the opening goal in the 2007 Carling Cup Final meeting between these two sides - and the young England international made no mistake, firing home via a deflection off former Gunner Ashley Cole.

Florent Malouda - who has experienced something of a resurgence of form under temporary manager Guus Hiddink, leveled matters soon afterwards. The Frenchman controlled Frank Lampard’s pass and sent a shot towards goal that beat Fabianski at his near post.

The Blues sniffed blood. A remarkable turnaround was almost completed less than three minutes later but Nicolas Anelka saw his shot come back off the post with Fabianski well beaten.

Chances for Arsene Wenger’s men were rarer in the second half as Chelsea began to win the midfield battle and exert a stranglehold over proceedings.

But the energetic Walcott had Chelsea hearts in mouths twice in quick succession when he sent a pair of crosses across the six yard box. Luckily for those in Blue there was no red shirt on the end of it on both occasions.

Lampard, who was full on running all afternoon, had an excellent chance to give his side the lead but from Drogba’s pass he could only volley wide.

Chelsea then had a credible appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Martin Atkinson. Mikael Silvestre and Drogba tussled for the ball in the Arsenal box and the ball appeared to strike the Arsenal defender’s hand. But despite the protestations of Guus Hiddink and Ray Wilkins on touchline, nothing was given.

As the game edged ever closer towards extra time, both mangers opted to shuffle their packs. Andrey Arshavin was sent on by Arsene Wenger and Nicolas Anelka made way for Salomon Kalou in Chelsea’s corresponding substitution.

But neither had a role to play in the goal that decided the game. Inevitably it was Drogba who settled things. He latched on to another Lampard pass, knocked the ball past the onrushing Fabianski and then kept his composure to prod the ball home.

He has now scored eight goals in nine games against Arsenal, and Wenger must be ruing the sight of such a familiar tormentor.

This win keeps the Blues’ slim hopes of a treble alive, and also the possibility that they could face Manchester United in two cup finals come May.

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