Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chelsea cruise into FA cup quarterfinals by thrashing Cardiff 4-1


Didier Drogba inspired FA Cup holders Chelsea to a comfortable win over 2008 finalists Cardiff City. The Ivory Coast striker opened the scoring inside two minutes before setting up two more as favourites Chelsea cruised into the quarter-finals.
Michael Chopra gave Cardiff brief hope with a first-half leveller before Michael Ballack restored Chelsea's lead.Daniel Strurridge and Salomon Kalou sealed Championship Cardiff's fate.Chelsea remain the team to beat in this competition with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool already eliminated.And few would bet against Carlo Ancelotti 's European and domestic title challengers completing a treble this season as Chelsea bid to become only the fifth post-war team to successfully defend the FA Cup.
Chelsea's line-up may have been minus high-profile absentees John Terry, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien - for differing reasons - but Ancelotti was still able to name £105m of talent in a star-studded team.Cardiff's injury crisis was eased slightly as Dave Jones risked striker Jay Bothroyd and holding midfielder Gavin Rae, who had been suffering ankle and hamstring injuries respectively, but Stephen McPhail, Joe Ledley and skipper Mark Hudson missed out.
Chelsea were already British football's top scorers at home before this rout while Cardiff are the most clinical on the road - and within two minutes the holders were in front in the easiest possible fashion.
Cardiff's defence was caught standing by a straight-forward John Obi Mikel long ball and Drogba left Gabor Gyepes standing to fire home his 23rd goal of the season.
It was the worst possible start for Cardiff and the inquest into the defensive debacle raged until Gyepes himself almost made amends at the other end within minutes.
Anthony Gerrard, Cardiff's other centre-back, was not immune from blame in Drogba's stroll to goal and he almost headed Cardiff level in the 10th minute from Peter Whittingham's left-wing cross.
The unmarked defender, younger cousin of England star Steven, thought he had scored until Chelsea's keeper Hilario tipped the ball around his right-hand-post.
Within a minute, Gerrard had wriggled free in the box again to head another Whittingham corner goalwards but Chopra, five yards from goal, could not divert the ball in.
Drogba tested David Marshall with an elaborate overhead kick before more nerve-jangling moments in the visiting box when a lack of communication between the Cardiff keeper and Gyepes resulted in a mid-air collision and the ball spilling free before Gerrard cleared the danger.
Chelsea, too, were looking susceptible to crosses and indeed that proved to be the hosts' undoing in the 33rd minute.
Influential targetman Borthroyd linked up with Chris Burke and Chopra headed in the Scottish winger's cross to shock the Premier League leaders.

Chelsea defender Alex stood and watched his man stoop to convert his 17th goal of the season and give Jones' Championship side hope.
Michael Ballack, a colossus alongside Frank Lampard in Chelsea's midfield, extinguished any glimpses of an upset within six minutes of the restart as the German midfielder capitalised on yet more lacklustre Cardiff defending.
Drogba dropped deep and chipped the ball over the Bluebirds backline as Ballack flicked the ball over Marshall for his fifth of the season.
And if it wasn't for Mark Kennedy's last-ditch block, Alex would have extended Chelsea's lead just after the hour but the Irishman made a timely clearance.
But Drogba was in sizzling form and the Ivorian played a key role Chelsea's crucial third with 20 minutes remaining.
Daniel Sturridge's give-and-go sucked in three Cardiff defenders which allowed the England under-21 star to slide the ball through the legs of the helpless Marshall for his fourth goal in three Cup games this season.
Chelsea's seven-year unbeaten FA Cup run at Stamford Bridge never looked in danger.
And their vice-like grip on this tie was complete when Salomon Kalou found yet more space in the Cardiff box to head Paulo Ferreira's inviting cross past Marshall with four minutes remaining as the Blues strengthen their push for a third FA Cup triumph in four years.
Cardiff's FA Cup adventure has ended in London by a Premier League team for the fifth successive season, but for a club with financial difficulties, the £1m injection from their run is a welcome boost.
Chelsea assistant boss Ray Wilkins:
"It was tougher than we thought. We anticipated having a hard game. Cardiff played exceptionally well and gave us a lot of problems in the first half.
"But thankfully we managed to up the tempo in the second half and it became a tad easier for us. But we have got to give Cardiff credit as well. For an hour they gave us a tough old game.
"Our team was changed but we took quality out and quality came back in. It is the professionalism of our players that shines through.
"Some people might have thought this was going to be a bit of an easy game for us but those guys took it by the throat and pulled us through when we were not playing particularly well."

Cardiff boss David Jones:
"I cannot fault my players in anything they have done, they were magnificent. It looks like a drubbing but it was far from that.
"For over an hour we gave a good account of ourselves and showed great character after going a goal down after a couple of minutes.
"I decided to come here and have a go. Every player today deserved a lot of plaudits because they worked their socks off.
"We regrouped after conceding an early goal and stuck to our game plan when they were in possession.
"We grew in confidence and their keeper pulled off some fantastic saves. But as the game went on they imposed their quality.
"It gives us some credit that Ancelotti brought on his big guns."

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