Soccer / FA Cup / Drogba Strikes as Chelsea Triumphs at Wembley

After Ramires seized on Liverpool blunders to put Chelsea in front after 11 minutes, Drogba scored his eighth goal in eight games at Wembley in the 52nd minute of the 131st final of the competition.

WEMBLEY, London - Didier Drogba delivered Chelsea's fourth FA Cup triumph in six seasons yesterday by becoming the first player to score in four finals, to help the Blues survive a second-half Liverpool onslaught for a 2-1 victory.

After Ramires seized on Liverpool blunders to put Chelsea in front after 11 minutes, Drogba scored his eighth goal in eight games at Wembley in the 52nd minute of the 131st final of the competition.

Chelsea - Reuters - May 6, 2012

Drogba slotted the ball through defender Martin Skrtel's legs and into the net after being fed by Frank Lampard as a lethargic Liverpool posed little threat.

"He is my hero," Lampard said of Drogba. "No striker I have ever played with has scored so many important goals in finals."

Liverpool substitute Andy Carroll breathed life back into the game when he pulled one back in the 64th after teasing his way around Chelsea captain John Terry. He thought he had an equalizer as well, when his close-range header was swatted away on the goal line, via the crossbar, by Petr Cech, but the referee waved away Liverpool's appeals for a goal. Replays failed to show that the entire ball had crossed the line.

However, two weeks before the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Germany, Chelsea held on to keep their recovery on track since Roberto Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas as coach two months ago, when the team was in free fall.

"He has been brilliant," Lampard said. "He has turned the club around."

Terry became the first captain to lift the FA Cup four times with the same club.

"It's fantastic, it's what we live for," Terry said. "At times, people have slated us as too old, past it or not together, but as a team we come together and unite when our backs are against the wall - and we've done that superbly in the last 16 or 17 games.

"We've still got a massive trophy [to play for], the Champions League," Terry added. "That's [been] the target for the owner from day dot. We've done Robbie a world of good and it can do him no harm."

For both Chelsea and Liverpool, the FA Cup has provided a distraction from miserable Premier League form, with both teams out of the top four Champions League qualification places.

"I'm very happy for the players because we've been heavily criticized this season and we've got the trophy, and have the chance for another one," Di Matteo said. "It's been a difficult season but the players have made the club proud. It's been hard work but we came through it."

It was a a cagey start to the final, but Chelsea were gifted an opener after a couple of Liverpool mistakes.

Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing initially gave the ball away in midfield to Juan Mata, who set Ramires free to charge toward the Liverpool goal. And Pepe Reina was beaten too easily at his near post by Ramires when the shot was deflected by the goalkeeper's knee into his own net.

Liverpool pushed for an immediate response, but Branislav Ivanovic headed away Craig Bellamy's shot from the edge of the area.

But it was a shoddy first-half performance from a Liverpool side posing little threat, a little over two months since winning the League Cup here.

The closest Chelsea came to a second was Drogba's attempt to exploit Reina's frailties again, with a shot from distance in the 39th minute.

Liverpool had a penalty appeal dismissed five minutes into the second half when Ivanovic blocked Gerrard.

But Chelsea increased their lead when Spearing gave the ball away again and Lampard threaded it through to Drogba, who slotted into the net.

Lampard hit a free kick wide and Drogba lashed the ball into the side netting, before Liverpool's attempt at a comeback began.

Despite scoring the semifinal winner and being Liverpool's most expensive player, Carroll was dropped in favor of Luis Suarez up front, but the isolated striker struggled to make an impact.

Carroll, though, netted after just 10 minutes on the pitch.

Stewart Downing's tenacity down the left flank paid off, challenging Boswinga before the ball fell to Carroll to lash it into the net.

"Until they scored it was very, very comfortable," Lampard said. "They bombarded us and it was hard to deal with."