Monday, 20 April 2009

Chelsea set for FA Cup Final clash with Everton

This weekend's FA Cup semi-final action was criticised by football pundits for being largely uneventful and something of a let-down. However, Chelsea and Everton fans haven't been complaining after their sides knocked out Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The managers in charge of the losing teams have, somewhat predictably, been quick to place the blame on the poor quality of the Wembley pitch, with Sir Alex Ferguson in particular blasting the on-field conditions.

However, for the two managers who will be proudly leading their sides out on to the Wembley pitch at the end of May, the quality of the surface was not a huge concern. Guus Hiddink managed to mastermind yet another important Chelsea victory and the Blues' fans were once again left ecstatic after their team fought back from a goal down to overcome the challenge posed by an Arsenal side left crippled by some questionable decisions from Arsene Wenger.

Wenger, for reasons best known to himself, decided to leave midfield ace Arshavin on the bench for the large part of the match. When the talented Russian star was introduced, he barely had time to adjust to the pace and tempo of the game.

Taking off Adebayor and Robin van Persie, both of whom had performed below the high standard expected of top Premier League players but still displayed touches of class the side needed to turn the game on its head, are decisions which the Arsenal boss may now regret. Quite why Wenger decided to bring on Bendtner, a player who consistently disappoints, is a mystery.

However, Arsene Wenger cannot take all the blame for a Chelsea victory which was ultimately well-deserved. Didier Drogba was a handful throughout the game and Mikael Silvestre simply couldn't cope with his physical presence and technical ability.

Lukasz Fabianski proved to be a poor replacement for Manuel Almunia in goal and Abou Diaby once again showed why most football fans (including ardent Arsenal followers) laugh in disbelief when the midfielder is compared to legend of the game, Patrick Vieira.

Combine this lack of quality from Arsenal with combative midfield displays from Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, who both made up for the relatively poor performance displayed by Michael Ballack, and the result was a Chelsea win that will fill them with confidence ahead of a clash against Everton in the FA Cup final.

David Moyes should be congratulated for the role he had to play in his team's victory over United. Moyes started the mind games early by making comments about the choice of match referee and it is likely that his comments were ringing in the ears of Mike Riley when he decided to turn down a relatively strong penalty claim for United during the match on Sunday.

Either way, Everton deserved to win and Manchester United, and in particular Ferguson, deserved to lose. Ferguson's team selection smacked of arrogance and contempt, two characteristics the United boss slammed Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez, for apparently possessing just last week.

Manchester United may be champions of England, Europe, and even the world, but taking the FA Cup for granted in the manner suggested by Sunday's team sheet is quite frankly unforgivable. To blame the team selection on the physical condition of the Wembley pitch, as Ferguson did after the match, is also laughable in the extreme.

So, Everton and Chelsea will meet at the end of May to battle it out in the quest to achieve glory in this famous cup competition. Chelsea are sure to be football favourites to win this one, but with David Moyes in charge of the opposition, Guus Hiddink will need to warn his men not to take anything for granted.

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