Chelsea have underachieved in the Premier League this season, leading to the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, but interim manager Roberto Di Matteo has guided them to a trophy. The Blues are FA Cup champions for the seventh time in their history after they held on for a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley Stadium.
The first half was relatively uneventful, outside of Chelsea's counter-attack goal, and it seemed that the match would be a drab one for quite some time. Ramires scored the opening goal in the 11th minute, blazing by Jose Enrique to get onto a Juan Mata through ball, then beat Pepe Reina at his near post. Chelsea played a defensive game for most of the remainder of the first half and Liverpool had no answer.
In the 53rd minute, Didier Drogba scored what should have been a dagger for the Blues. He collected a pass from Frank Lampard at the edge of the box, and when Martin Skrtel surprisingly backed off from him, he placed a shot into the lower far corner to give his team a 2-0 lead.
For the following 12 minutes, Chelsea remained in control and it appeared that they were going to easily stroll to a trophy without much opposition, but things changed just over an hour into the match. In response to Chelsea's second goal, Kenny Dalglish brought on much maligned striker Andy Carroll for midfielder Jay Spearing in an attempt to haul back two goals, and that sub turned out to be a good one.
Carroll scored for Liverpool in the 64th minute, capitalizing on an error by Chelsea right back Jose Bosingwa. The Portuguese international misplayed a ball and allowed it to fall to Carroll in the box. He appeared to waste the chance by taking too many touches, but eventually recovered and powered an impressive shot into the roof of the net.
Chelsea were well on top from the first whistle until that goal, but Carroll's strike appeared to be a stroke of pure inspiration for the Reds, who began to play with a fight that they didn't have in the first hour of the match. After 60-plus minutes of poor play, they started to boss the game.
Their best chance to find an equalizer was through a Carroll header, but he was denied by Petr Cech. Luis Suarez set him up with a great chipped cross to the back post, and it was only by some miracle of science that Cech was able to keep it out of the net. The ball appeared to cross the goal line at full speed, but the replay showed that the ball never fully crossed the line and that Cech had made a brilliant, world class save.
That save seemed to deflate Liverpool a bit, and they never got a better opportunity. The official added five minutes of extra time, but the Reds couldn't mount a serious challenge to Cech's goal and Chelsea held on to win their first piece of silverware this season.
We'll have pre-game and live game coverage in our Chelsea vs Liverpool, 2012 FA Cup StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Chelsea blog We Ain't Got No History and Liverpool blogs Anfield Asylum and Liverpool Offside.