Chelsea vs. Liverpool: 12 Things We Learned from the FA Cup Final at Wembley
Chelsea have run out winners of the 2012 FA Cup final at Wembley having defeated Liverpool 2-1 in a game which sparked to life in the second half and gave us almost as many questions as answers about both teams.
The Blues went ahead early on after a misplaced pass led to Ramires bearing down on goal, who finished adroitly inside the near post of a gambling-too-soon Pepe Reina.
Didier Drogba doubled the lead after half time before Liverpool saw an Andy Carroll-led resurgence inspire them to claw themselves back into the match.
Carroll netted one shortly after entering the pitch and thought he had a second late on—but both referee and assistant ruled that Chelsea 'keeper Petr Cech had saved the ball before it completely crossed the line.
Let's take a look at 12 things the exciting final taught us.
Didier Drogba Loves Scoring at Wembley
Didier Drogba netted his fourth FA Cup final goal in the second half against Liverpool, and his eighth overall at Wembley.
He is one goal behind former Liverpool forward Ian Rush (five goals in three different FA Cup finals).
Drogba may not figure in another domestic final for Chelsea after this season with his future as yet unresolved, but even if he leaves now he will always be remembered by Blues fans for his Wembley heroics.
Why Did Liverpool Leave It so Late to Start Playing?
A couple of minutes after Chelsea scored their second goal, Kenny Dalglish threw on Andy Carroll as Liverpool's first substitution, five minutes shy of the hour mark.
It signaled an almost immediate change of Liverpool's game as they finally started to realise they were in an FA Cup final match which was passing them by.
From when Carroll scored up until the end of the match it was one-way traffic with much better passing and movement in the final third from the Reds, which begs the question—what were they playing at for the first hour of the game?
Liverpool were dreadful for the first two thirds of the match at Wembley.
There was no aggression or inventiveness in attack, they were sloppy in possession in the middle of the pitch and nobody seemed prepared to take a run at Chelsea.
They were the better team in the closing half hour of the game but had already given themselves too much to do—and paid the price.
Roberto Di Matteo Gave Himself a Great Chance of Landing the Job Permanently
A year and a half after being sacked as West Bromwich Albion manager, Roberto di Matteo has won his first major trophy as a manager and is on the brink of a Champions League final appearance with his Chelsea side, inherited and completely turned around from the disastrous reign of Andre Villas-Boas.
Discussion will rumble on for a while yet over whether Roberto di Matteo will—or should—get the job on a full time basis, but he can have done his credentials no harm at all with a deserved victory for his team over Liverpool in the FA Cup final.
One down, one to go.
And with Roman Abramovich, the pattern seems to be Champions League or bust.
The Andy Carroll Liverpool Signed Is Starting to Shine—as the Season Closes
For a much-maligned player who has been criticised for both his lack of goals and his poor technique inside the penalty area, Andy Carroll showed a marvelous grasp of both as he led Liverpool's second-half charge after coming on as substitute.
His touch, turn and blasted finish were that of a striker in confidence, and Carroll would have been desperate to prove he should have been starting in the final.
Perhaps he should have.
Carroll won the ball in the air, chested balls down to his team-mates, gave the Chelsea defence a problem they hadn't had for far too much of the final and almost had an equaliser, but for Cech's reactions and the officials' decision-making.
Three goals in recent matches, all of them important, point to a resurgence of Andy Carroll in a big way and the worst part about it is that Liverpool's season is now all but over.
Meaningless games against Chelsea and Swansea City remain, but Liverpool will expect these kinds of performances from Carroll on a much more regular basis next term—and if he provides them, Carroll will expect to start many more matches.
John Terry Makes History, Lifting 4th FA Cup
John Terry lifted his fourth FA Cup trophy as Chelsea captain after the 2-1 win over Liverpool, becoming the first post-war player to do so.
All of Chelsea's four cup wins have come since 2007, with the Blues claiming almost sole ownership of the FA Cup in recent times.
Terry's success will doubtless be all the more important to him as he will be forced to sit out the Champions League final later this month through suspension.
All New Left Side for the Reds, but All Too Familiar Problems
While the Spanish defender started the season well, he has steadily worsened to the extent that he recently lost his place in the team before regaining it in time for the cup final.
However, while being generally strong in defence and offering a pacey outlet in the final third, Jose Enrique's deficiencies have cost Liverpool too often this season as the full-back struggles in one-on-ones, fails to release the ball quickly enough in possession and misses out on key challenges.
Ramires breezed past the Spaniard far too easily for Chelsea's first goal in the final, while he also conceded possession due to failing to release the ball on several occasions.
Stewart Downing delivered much of the same as he has all season—a few good crosses which not enough attackers gambled on, but for much too long during the game he was negative or outright anonymous.
Ramires: What's His Best Position?
Ostensibly a box-to-box midfielder, certainly during his earlier days in a Chelsea shirt, Ramires has most recently made a big impact playing on either the left or right side of Chelsea's midfield and attack.
Against Liverpool in the FA Cup final Ramires grabbed another important goal from the right, to add to his sublime lob against Barcelona in the Champions League semi final.
Where do Chelsea get the best use of him?
His strength, stamina and ball-winning ability make him a real talent and asset in the middle of the park, where he can also make his surging runs forward during counter-attacks.
On the flank, however, he gets through arguably even more work as he tracks back, offers width and comes infield to make up the numbers for his team—and escapes the attentions of his markers with impressive regularity.
If Roberto di Matteo gets the manager job permanently then Ramires may find himself continuing to play out wide, but if a new man is put in charge then it's anybody's guess as to where he'll be playing next term.
One Trophy, One Runners-Up Place and a Distant League Finish: Is It Enough?
The overriding feeling prior to the FA Cup final seemed to be that should they win, a domestic cup double would make up for Premier League disappointment to such an extent that the season could be classed a success.
They didn't, though.
Therefore Liverpool end the season with a Carling Cup trophy, and a finish in the league which could be seventh at the highest—or as low as 10th if they fail to pick up a few more points in their remaining two fixtures.
So what now for Kenny Dalglish?
He has been integrating a host of new players into the team this season, but a year after they arrived there are still obvious deficiencies in the squad.
An injured Lucas Leiva hasn't helped matters, but neither can one missing man account for all the dropped points at Anfield.
A big summer is ahead for Liverpool as they target new signings, and Dalglish leading the club to two finals might just be enough to ensure he's still the man in charge to bring them in—but it will now be more difficult for him to point to a single trophy as being enough to class the season a success.
Andy Carroll and Petr Cech: Was It over the Line?
I've seen the replays a hundred times or more and still can't call it 100 percent.
Andy Carroll thumped a header goalwards from Luis Suarez's cross and thought he'd scored, but Petr Cech was adamant after the match that he had saved the ball before the whole ball had crossed the line.
Ultimately, all that matters is that the officials agreed with him, but the occasion is still sure to cause much debate, particularly over goal-line technology matters.
Had it counted as a goal, the impetus Liverpool were carrying may have been enough to see them through to win the trophy.
We'll never know.
End of the Road for Some of Liverpool's Aging Stars?
Liverpool were hoping to end their campaign—or just about—on a high note with a second trophy win of the season.
Unfortunately for the Reds they fell just short as they lost 2-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
For some Liverpool players, though, that could have been the last chance for them to take home a winners medal representing the Red of Merseyside.
Jamie Carragher, a stalwart of just short of 700 career appearances for the Reds, is now third in the pecking order at best for the centre of defence, and may find Seb Coates pushing him even further down next season.
Dirk Kuyt has played almost 300 times for the Reds but with just a year left on his contract and no longer guaranteed a regular starting spot, he might be leaving the club altogether this summer, as might the likes of Maxi Rodriguez and even Craig Bellamy, depending on the summer signings.
Fabio Aurelio and Brad Jones are almost certain to leave the club too, though neither made the match day squad for the final.
The Liverpool team has been re-shaped over the last 12 months—this might have been the last chance for some of them to win in the Red shirt.
Munich Final Pending for Chelsea Stars...Well, for Some of Them
With one trophy in the bag, Chelsea players will turn their attentions to the Champions League final, which will be played in two weeks' time.
Or at least, most of them well.
While defenders David Luiz and Gary Cahill will hope to recover from injury to play their part, FA Cup final goalscorer Ramires will play no part in the final, being suspended.
In addition, defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielder Raul Meireles will miss out after accumulating too many yellow cards, while John Terry is suspended after being sent-off against Barcelona.
Opponents Bayern Munich are also missing three players through suspensions—left-back David Alaba, centre back Holger Badstuber and holding midfielder Luiz Gustavo will all be watching from the sidelines.
Liverpool and Chelsea Will Do Battle Again in 3 Days—with Nothing to Play for
After the tension-filled and eventful FA Cup final, Liverpool and Chelsea will renew rivalries this coming Tuesday—in a game with much less at stake.
The re-arranged Premier League fixture for the game which should have taken place on the day of the FA Cup final takes place in midweek prior to the final round of league games, with both teams essentially having nothing to play for.
For the hosts, Liverpool, their only remaining aim can be to try and finish above neighbours Everton, currently three points ahead, in seventh place.
Chelsea meanwhile have all but lost their chance at finishing in the top four following a defeat by Newcastle United, and will be pinning their Champions League hopes for next season on winning the tournament outright this season.
They currently trail the top four places by four points, with just two matches left to play.