Saturday, 15 May 2010

FA Cup final: Chelsea clinch the double but fail to set the pulses racing

Chelsea clinched their first ever domestic double of League and FA Cup at Wembley today. Whoopy-do. You'll have to excuse the distinct lack of enthusiasm. I suspect there are others who feel this way.

Their multi-millionaire stars, diligently funded by oily magnate Roman Abramovich, were always going to be too much for the bankrupt Pompey party-poopers. We'll never see any of them play for Portsmouth again as they are sold off over the summer and boss Avram Grant looks for a club who can actually pay his wages.

It was always going to be this way. Sadness for Portsmouth, joy for Chelsea, crowned Premier League leaders after their 8-0 win over Stoke a week ago. Carlo Ancelotti, with two weighty pieces of silverware in his first season at Stamford Bridge, will be allowed a little self-congratulation after beating the worst side in the Premier League last season (given their points penalty for going into administration).

But at least Pompey put up a fight. And it might so easily have been the Pompey chimes we heard at the whistle. For an hour they resisted as Chelsea hit the woodwork three times and David James - making a strong claim for the England goalkeeping spot at the World Cup next month - kept them out.

South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena was particularly gritty as Frank Lampard, John Terry and - unbelievably with the goal gaping - Salomon "clueless" Kalou struck the frame of the goal.

But then the big moment. Dindan brought down by Belletti and Kevin Prince-Boateng stepped up to take the penalty and change the whole complexion of the game. Sadly his spot-kick went down the middle and Petr Cech kept it out.

Down the other end, the golden booted Drogba tumbled under a Mokoena challenge... and then stood up to bend one in off the post. Game over. An unconvincing, unenthralling FA Cup final victory.

For Ashley Cole it was a record sixth FA Cup medal, three with Arsenal, three with Chelsea - but there were hearts in mouths when Dindane turned his post-op ankle once more. But the little volcanic Ash cloud limped on, Frank Lampard then missed a late penalty... before we were treated to the millionaires leaping about while the paupers held a farewell gathering.

The big story of the day? No, not Chelsea's sensational dash to the double or a 36th goal of the season for golden boot winner Drogba.

It's the injury to Michael Ballack, who limped off after a heavy challenge in the first half. The Germany World Cup captain may face a summer on the couch while his country attempt another global triumph.

My man of the match? David James, with huge sympathy to Prince-Boateng, who was substituted in tears 20 minutes from time. Not a great season - no English representation in the Champions League final, a brave fall at the last from Fulham in the Europa League. The best (and most expensive) side won both trophies and broke all records for Premier League goals scored.

But somehow, my heart fails to hammer over this particular Blue triumph. I'm more worried about Portsmouth and their future. We may never see them in the top flight again. And that, Mr Prince-Boateng, is the real penalty the fans will have to pay.

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