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Chelsea reach FA Cup final

16 April 2012, 12:53

London - Chelsea sealed a meeting with Liverpool in the FA Cup final after thrashing London rival Tottenham 5-1 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday thanks to some ruthless finishing and a controversial goal that will reignite the debate over goal-line technology.

The decision to award a 49th-minute goal to Juan Mata, putting Chelsea 2-0 up, appeared to be wrong after video replays suggested the ball hadn't crossed the line when it was cleared away by Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

It added to Didier Drogba's superb opener just before halftime and although Gareth Bale pulled a goal back in the 56th, Chelsea sealed victory through classy strikes by Ramires, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda in the final 13 minutes.

"That second goal was a disaster," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "It was an honest mistake but when you look at it, it was nowhere near over the line."

Despite eventually losing by a four-goal margin, Redknapp said referee Martin Atkinson's awarding of the second goal proved crucial as it forced him to go on the attack in the final 20 minutes, leaving his defense open.

"We need goal-line technology, surely. You can't have situations like that," said Redknapp, who revealed that Atkinson had acknowledged his mistake when the pair spoke after the match. "I'm not going to sit here and say we would have won. But if you aren't behind, you don't go and open up as we did."

Atkinson made the decision, not his linesman, even though there was a mass of bodies on the line after a number of players fell in a heap after competing for a high ball in a melee in the six-yard box.

"I find it hard to believe he could see it from where he was," Spurs defender Ledley King said.

As Chelsea's players celebrated in a huddle, Spurs' players protested vehemently, some heading toward the linesman and others to Atkinson, who could easily have given a foul against John Terry for bundling over Assou-Ekotto and King before Mata got his shot away.

When asked if Mata's goal proved to be the turning point in the match, Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo said: "I'm not sure. We had scored one by then and scored more afterwards.

"Sometimes you get a decision, sometimes you don't. But I can understand their frustration."

To their credit, Spurs picked themselves up and reduced the deficit within seven minutes through Bale.

Adebayor sprinted onto a pass from Luka Modric, shrugged off marker David Luiz and rounded Petr Cech before being brought down by the Czech Republic goalkeeper. Atkinson played advantage to allow Bale to sidefoot into the empty net.

"I would rather have had a penalty and a sending-off than the goal," Redknapp said.

Luiz ended up being carried off on a stretcher after pulling up with what Di Matteo said was a hamstring injury as Drogba went clear, making the Brazilian a big doubt for the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League semifinal against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Chelsea defended stoutly thereafter, however, with Gary Cahill — Luiz's replacement — adapting well to being thrown on.

Ramires grabbed the clinching third goal, running onto Mata's fine reverse pass and clipping a deft finish over the onrushing Cudicini.

The goal deflated Tottenham, which looked a spent force in the final quarter, and there was still time for Lampard to smash a sensational, dipping 35-yard (meter) free kick past the despairing Cudicini in the 81st.

Malouda, on as a substitute, added a neat fifth after a sublime through-ball by the elusive Mata.

"It's not always been like that, our finishing," said Di Matteo, who has helped turn Chelsea's season around since replacing Andre Villas-Boas as manager at the start of last month. "We were ruthless tonight and scored some cracking goals."

Spurs have fallen away badly over the last two months. At one stage, they were on the tails of the two Manchester clubs at the top of the Premier League table.

Now they are 23 points behind leader United after its 4-0 win over Aston Villa earlier Sunday and are battling to hold on to fourth place in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.

"It's a test of character now. They have to show some character," Redknapp said.

Aside from Luiz's injury, the other cloud on the day for Chelsea was some chanting by a section of their fans while the rest of the crowd observed a minute's silence before kickoff for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster and Livorno midfielder Piermario Morosini, who collapsed and died after suffering a heart attack during a Serie B game in Italy on Saturday.

"We are very disappointed that a minority, or just a few, decided to speak or sing during the minute's silence and not respect it," Di Matteo said.

Liverpool progressed to the May 5 showpiece, which will also be played at Wembley, by beating Everton 2-1 on Saturday.


- AP


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