The FA Cup Final of 2012 came at an unbelievably crucial moment in the club’s history. The historical competition was not the only silverware we were searching to lift that year; in fact the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich fell exactly two weeks after the fixture with Liverpool at Wembley. Domestically, FA Cup run aside, it was a year to forget for the Blues. Andre Villas Boas had largely underperformed in the 7 months he was in charge, and only when Chelsea legend Roberto Di Matteo took over as Interim manager did we see our fortunes change, namely in the Champions League. We had finished 6th in the league behind a 5th placed Newcastle side led to Europe by Alan Pardew prior to the FA Cup Final, but our opposition in Liverpool had not had a year to remember themselves, finishing 8th.
Our FA Cup run that year was largely uneventful in terms of major opposition, up until the Semi-Final. In the third round we were drawn against Portsmouth, where two quick fire Ramires strikes in the second half helped us to a 4-0 triumph. Our fourth round opponents were bitter London rivals QPR. Played at Loftus-Road, it was a cagey affair; a controversial penalty awarded for a light foul on Daniel Sturridge in the second half gave us the opportunity to go ahead. In the absence of an injured Frank Lampard, penalty duties fell to Juan Mata, who coolly converted from the spot, as we went on to win 1-0. The fifth round began with a scare, as we were drawn at home to seemingly easy opposition in Birmingham City. However, the Midland blues started with far more intensity than our begrudged looking side, who were clearly not inspired by the management of castaway manager Andre Villas Boas, who looked to be on his way out the door. After a first half goal from David Murphy gave the visitors the lead at half time, a Daniel Sturridge equalizer forced a replay which was to be played two days after AVB was relieved from his duties in South West London. The blues bounced back; Raul Merieles and Juan Mata’s goals the difference in a 2-0 victory. With just one game to go before Wembley beckoned, our Quarter Final opponents came in the form of Leicester. The tie was unlike the previous round; an absolute goal fest in which Fernando Torres broke a goal scoring drought of over 25 hours. The scoreline finished 5-2 with Raul Meireles, Salomon Kalou and Gary Cahill also on the scoresheet.
The two Semi Finals both saw enormous rivals lock horns at Wembley. Liverpool faced noisy neighbors Everton, whilst we were drawn up against slightly quieter neighbours Spurs. At the time Tottenam were well on their way to securing the last Champions League spot, and were heading into the game as clear favorites to proceed into the Final. The first half lacked any real quality, with both sides having a chance here and a nervous moment there. Que Didier Drogba, though, to quite literally lift the roof off of Wembley with a thunderous left footed volley just before the break.
Controversy didn’t stay away for long after that; early in the second half Juan Mata ‘scored’ without the ball even crossing the line, despite referee Martin Atkinson awarding the goal. Another cry for help which led to the introduction of goal line technology. Tottenham raced back into the game, however, but again it was clouded in controversy. When Emmanuel Adeybayor was wiped out by Petr Cech after rounding the keeper, Gareth Bale was left with a tap in, and Atkinson allowed the advantage to be played. With hindsight applied, many Spurs fans are bereaved when they realise that Petr was lucky to escape without a red card to his name, had it not been for the double jeopardy rule, which saw him see yellow instead. Despite being gifted a lifeline back into the game, Tottenham never really took it by the scruff of its neck, and Chelsea remained in control until the flood gates opened. Ramires made it 3-1 with twelve minutes to play, before a trademark Frank Lampard free-kick from near enough 40 yards out well and truly secured the win. We weren’t done just yet though. With seconds remaining, Florent Malouda added insult to injury, seeing that we made it through to the final with a resounding 5-1 win over our fiercest rivals.
With the Premier League season all but wrapped up for us, our immediate attention turned to the FA Cup Final on May 5th, 2012. Liverpool too had no real incentive ahead of their final league fixture, meaning that both sides were as strong and competitive as could be.
Liverpool XI: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Henderson, Spearing, Bellamy, Gerrard (c), Downing, Suarez
Subs: Doni, Carragher, Kelly, Rodriguez, Shelvey, Carroll, Kuyt
Chelsea XI: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Kalou, Drogba
Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Essien, Malouda, Meireles, Torres, Sturridge
Tensions were running high prior to kick-off, with both parties desperate for silverware to look back on in an otherwise poor season for both teams. Liverpool started the more comfortable on the ball, but shot themselves in the foot 10 minutes into the first half, when Jay Spearing lost possession to a inspired Juan Mata, who released Ramires in on goal; beating Jose Enrique before smashing past Reina at his near post. The perfect start for Bobby Di Matteo’s men. Aside from a moment of body on the line defending from Branislav Ivanovic, the first half drew to a close with little to talk about aside from Ramires’s opener. 7 minutes into the second half saw a beautiful body feint by Frank Lampard result in a forward ball toward Wembley addict Didier Drogba, who did what Didier Drogba does on the big stage, and buried a left footed effort into Reina’s bottom left corner. Shortly after, Liverpool’s Jay Spearing made way for Andy Carroll, who proved to be a nightmare to deal with in the last 30 minutes of action. The target man latched onto a Jose Bosingwa error, and with all the composure in the world, sent the ball into the roof of the net past a helpless Petr Cech. Suddenly nerves were racing through mine and probably every other Chelsea fan’s body, as Liverpool were pushing hard for an equalizer.
That equalizer looked to have come with 10 minutes to play, when Luis Suarez hung a ball up to the back post for Andy Carroll; a chance that seemed impossible to miss. The blame should not fall on Carroll for not converting the opportunity, as the intervention from Petr Cech on the goal line was one of the greatest saves Wembley has ever seen. Pushing it onto the bar and off the post, Branislav Ivanovic then cleared to safety whilst Carroll and co. exploded in a mixture of celebration and confusion as to why the ‘goal’ had not been awarded. Replays subsequently highlighted the jaw dropping quality of the save from big Pete, and when the full time whistle blew after the Red’s remaining pressure was soaked up, many Chelsea fans were singing the name of the big Czech for the remainder of the night.
This Blue Day was an absolute classic. Filled with everything you want in a game of football, and of course with the right result in the end! A replica of that on Saturday would be warmly welcomed by every Chelsea fan, of that I’m sure. Onto the weekend.
What do you think will happen in the FA Cup Final? Let us know in the comments below!