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Drogba's goal clinches FA Cup for Chelsea

Drogba's goal clinches FA Cup for Chelsea

Chelsea hit the frame of the goal five times and Portsmouth missed a penalty before Drogba curled a free kick.

Wembley: Didier Drogba scored his 37th goal of the season on Saturday to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth in the FA Cup final and complete the Premier League champion's first domestic double.

Chelsea hit the frame of the goal five times and Portsmouth missed a penalty before Drogba curled a free kick in off the post in the 59th minute.

"It's fantastic we achieved the double. It was difficult to come back and stay focused for this game because last week we celebrated the title," Drogba said. "You start to think that you won't score ... I saw a little gap. I hit the post again, but it went in this time."

Salomon Kalou missed an easy chance in the first half, hitting the ball against the crossbar six meters (yards) out in front of an open goal.

Portsmouth could have gone in front just before Drogba's goal when Kevin-Prince Boateng's weak penalty kick was saved by Petr Cech's legs. Frank Lampard also missed a late penalty for Chelsea, with the England midfielder dragging the ball wide.

That Portsmouth survived so long without conceding was unexpected.

The 129th final pitted one of English football's wealthiest clubs — Roman Abramovich-bankrolled Chelsea — against Portsmouth, which has been relegated from the Premier League and is still fighting for its existence while in bankruptcy protection.

"It's a day that I am very proud and very sad — proud because we could win the game," said Portsmouth manager Avram Grant, who is set to leave the club. "We closed them (down), we played tactically very well, we gave everything."

Recent routs by Chelsea, which ended the championship-winning league season with an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan, raised fears that it could be the most one-sided final in decades.

Chelsea was unchanged from last weekend and took less than four minutes to threaten Portsmouth's goal. Lampard shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area, and the England midfielder unleashed a dipping strike that hit the goal frame 10 minutes later.

But having upset the odds to reach the final, Portsmouth wasn't going to capitulate. And having survived intense Chelsea pressure for 20 minutes, Portsmouth was only prevented from taking a shock lead by Cech's reflex save.

Boateng's deflected volley reached Frederic Piquionne, but the resulting shot from close range was blocked by Cech.

While fine goalkeeping denied Portsmouth, Chelsea only had dire finishing to blame for not going in front in the 27th.

Ashley Cole forced James to cover the near post before squaring to the unmarked Kalou. The Ivory Coast forward had an unguarded goal to tap into from close range, but explicably lifted the ball against the bar.

Chelsea captain John Terry headed against the bar from Florent Malouda's free kick in the 30th.

Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack appeared to injure his right ankle in a late challenge from Boateng, one month before he is set to appear for Germany at the World Cup.

While Ballack was receiving treatment off the pitch — he was eventually replaced by Juliano Belletti — Drogba thought he had given Chelsea the lead with a long-range free kick. But James tipped the ball on to the underside of the crossbar and it bounced down on the line and out.

The goal frame denied Drogba again just before the break when he hit the bottom of the post from a tight angle under pressure from James.

Portsmouth's chance came in the 55th when Belletti conceded a penalty by bringing down Aruna Dindane. Cech wrongly dived early to his right, but his legs blocked Boateng's weak penalty down the center .

Within minutes, Drogba struck the post with a curling free kick that this time went into the net beyond the outstretched James.

"I thought our luck was running out but Didier hit a great free kick," Terry said.

With The Football Association using the match to promote its bid to host the 2018 World Cup, the FIFA voters won't have been impressed to see the national stadium's uneven sandy pitch despite being relaid for the 11th time in three years after the semifinals.

"It's probably the worst surface I've played on this year," Terry said.PAGE_BREAK

first published:May 15, 2010, 21:54 IST