Didier Drogba’s strike six minutes from time earned Chelsea a 2-1 victory against London rivals Arsenal in the first FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and ended the Gunners’ hopes of a first domestic trophy since 2005.
Having prevented Arsenal from falling behind early on when he raced back to clear Drogba’s goal-bound header, Kieran Gibbs teed up the opener for Theo Walcott on 18 minutes, floating a ball to the far post for the England striker to place a side-foot volley across Petr Čech. Chelsea had played their part in an open contest, though, and equalised a quarter of an hour later when Florent Malouda collected Frank Lampard’s raking crossfield pass, cut inside Emmanuel Eboué and beat Łukasz Fabiański at his near post. The pace was unrelenting and moments later Nicolas Anelka capitalised on Abou Diaby’s hesitancy and curled a shot against the post.
Despite both clubs being in UEFA Champions League action in midweek, winning quarter-final ties, the tempo remained high early in the second half and Walcott’s low ball across the Chelsea area just evaded the sliding Robin van Persie, before Lampard volleyed Drogba’s cross wide. However, just when the tie looked to be drifting towards extra time, Drogba raced on to Lampard’s long ball, rounded the onrushing Fabiański and rolled the ball into the empty net to earn the Blues their first FA Cup victory over Arsenal since 1947 and their ninth final appearance. Everton FC tackle Manchester United FC in the second semi on Sunday, with the final to be played on 30 May – three days after the UEFA Champions League showpiece in Rome.