LONDON (AFP) – Chelsea thrashed Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 to set up an FA Cup final showdown with old rivals Liverpool after a Wembley semi-final tinged by controversy here on Sunday.
Goals from Didier Drogba, Juan Mata, Ramires, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda saw Chelsea romp into their fourth FA Cup final in six years, with Tottenham’s lone strike coming from Gareth Bale.
The win was the perfect preparation for Chelsea ahead of their Champions League semi-final first-leg meeting with Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
But the occasion was marred by controversy before and during the match, with sections of Chelsea’s support chanting and jeering during a minute’s silence prior to kick-off to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
Chelsea were also the beneficiaries of a deeply controversial decision by referee Martin Atkinson for their second goal, scored by Mata, which replays suggested should not have stood.
Bale briefly gave Tottenham hope of a fightback with a goal on 56 minutes to make it 2-1 but a sublime finish from Ramires, a stunning 35-yard free-kick from Lampard and a late effort from Malouda took Chelsea out of sight.
Chelsea captain John Terry later admitted Mata’s hugely controversial goal should not have been awarded.
“I thought Mata’s strike hit me and didn’t go over (the line), but the linesman’s seen it and given it,” Terry told BBC radio.
“I honestly don’t think it went over the line but the linesman gave it and there’s nothing we can do about that. Spurs are one of the best sides in the league. It was a great performance and a great result.”
Earlier, Tottenham appeared to be the likeliest to break the deadlock in a first half that was slow to get going, only to be denied by the woodwork and a goal-line clearance from Terry.
Terry’s last-ditch heroics came on 36 minutes when he blocked a close-range header from Rafael van der Vaart.
Four minutes later Spurs threatened again, when van der Vaart’s long ball forward for Emmanuel Adebayor missed everyone and rattled the upright.
Yet just when it seemed Spurs were on the verge of an opener, Chelsea took the lead with a goal on 43 minutes that owed everything to the raw power of Drogba.
A long ball forward from Lampard found the Ivorian, who held off William Gallas and turned before crashing an unstoppable shot past Carlo Cudicini for 1-0.
Chelsea appeared to be intent on killing the game off early in the second half, Cudicini making a brilliant one-handed save from Mata on 48 minutes to deny the impish playmaker once more.
But Chelsea were to double their lead in controversial circumstances from the ensuing corner.
Cudicini pulled off another stunning block to keep away David Luiz’s near-post header, but the ball fell only as far as Mata.
The number 10’s shot flew hard and low into the goal-mouth and hit a tangle of bodies on the goal-line.
Referee Atkinson hesitated before awarding the goal but television replays appeared to show that the ball had not crossed the line.
Tottenham’s players protested but Mata and Chelsea celebrated a 2-0 lead.
Spurs responded well and got back into the contest with a well-taken goal when a wonderful pass from Scott Parker sent Adebayor racing through on Peter Cech.
The Togolese international touched past the Chelsea goalkeeper but was brought crashing down. Atkinson played advantage, however, and Bale was on hand to side-foot into an empty net and make it 2-1.
The goal came at a price for Chelsea, with Luiz carried off with what looked like a hamstring injury that may leave him in doubt for Wednesday’s clash with Barcelona.
Yet hopes of a Tottenham fightback were short-lived. A delicate Mata pass picked out Ramires, who dinked in Chelsea’s third on 77 minutes, and four minutes later, Lampard stepped up to lash in his long-range effort.
In injury time, substitute Malouda made it 5-1 from Mata’s pass as Spurs’ evening came to a miserable end.