Chelsea beat Arsenal to reach FA Cup final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Didier Drogba fired Chelsea into the FA Cup final with an 84th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal.

Updated: April 19, 2009 18:08 IST
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Didier Drogba fired Chelsea into the FA Cup final with an 84th-minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Saturday and kept the Blues on course for a possible treble.

After Theo Walcott gave Arsenal an 18th-minute lead at Wembley, Florent Malouda equalized in the 32nd. But Drogba broke away from the Gunners defense to score the winner and Chelsea will face either Manchester United or Everton, who meet at Wembley in the other semifinal on Sunday.

Frank Lampard drove a high ball behind the Arsenal defense from deep in his own half and Drogba, who scored the Blues' extra-time winner against Manchester United in the 2007 final, outpaced Mikael Silvestre, dribbled round Lukasz Fabianski and rolled the ball into an empty net.

The shaky Fabiansky, Arsenal's backup goalkeeper, didn't have a great 24th birthday at the home of English football and was partly at fault for letting in Malouda's equalizer inside his near post.

"He's a great goalkeeper but it was not his greatest day," Wenger said. "Inexperience, yes. It was a game when any mistake could be costly."

The result, which gives temporary manager Guus Hiddink a May 30 cup final appearance in his first, short spell in English football, means that Chelsea can wind up with three trophies. It faces Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal and is chasing Manchester United and Liverpool in the Premier League title race.

"It's going to be difficult," Lampard said. "We are confident but we never get too far ahead of ourselves. It means loads, we take this competition very seriously. We came back strongly (after Tuesday's 4-4 draw with Liverpool) and I think we deserved it."

Drogba almost gave Chelsea a fourth-minute lead when Gunners goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had to race out of his area to try and get to a high through ball. The Chelsea striker jumped above Fabianski and two Arsenal defenders to head towards an empty net but leftback Kieran Gibbs recovered to chase back and clear the ball.

After surviving that early scare, Arsenal went ahead in the 18th minute.

Emmanuel Adebayor fed the ball in from the left to Gibbs whose cross found the unmarked Walcott. The winger's first-time left-foot shot took a slight deflection off Chelsea defender Ashley Cole and, although goalkeeper Petr Cech got his right hand to the ball, he was unable to stop it from going in.

Chelsea fought back strongly and deservedly equalized in the 32nd.

A high ball found Malouda on the left just inside the area, Emmanuel Eboue failed to close him down and the French winger fired a low shot inside the near post.

Chelsea continued to look stronger and Nicolas Anelka hit the post with a low left-foot shot after Arsenal gave the ball away on the edge of the area.

The second half began with an untidy series of misplaced passes before Arsenal put together a well-worked move that almost brought a second goal in the 58th minute.

After Abou Diaby's weaving run, Walcott crossed from the right and Robin van Persie, sliding in at the far post, narrowly failed to make contact in front of goal.

Chelsea appealed for a penalty in the 69th minute when Silvestre appeared to handle under pressure from Drogba but referee Martin Atkinson didn't give it.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made the first change of the game in the 74th minute, sending on Andrei Arshavin for Van Persie, the Russian making a rare appearance against his national team coach, Hiddink.

But it was Hiddink who was cheering in the 84th when Chelsea took the lead.

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