Didier Drogba's heroics and a goal that should never have been meant Spurs did not stand a chance
Tottenham Hotspur have recent history with Chelsea over this sort of thing. Near the end of last season, in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge, Heurelho Gomes appeared to have stopped Frank Lampard's shot on the line but the goal was given. Chelsea won 2-1. That hurt Spurs but this was worse. Juan Mata's strike was driven into a clutch of prone bodies on the line and Benoît Assou-Ekotto looked to have smuggled the ball clear. The assistant on the far side was unsighted and he was in no position to make the decision, so the referee, Martin Atkinson, stepped in, even though he had no perspective along the goal-line. Atkinson had failed to act last weekend when Mario Balotelli clattered Alex Song. This was X-rated.
The Ivory Coast centre-forward was struggling and Spurs were wondering how they had not taken the lead on either of the occasions that Rafael van der Vaart had menaced but Didier Drogba has a nose for matches like this. The Chelsea support recall with fondness his heroics in the home game against Napoli and his 43rd‑minute goal was characterised by power and indefatigable spirit. From Frank Lampard's punt forward, Drogba found himself one-on-one with his old Chelsea team‑mate William Gallas. He showed his strength to roll him and, after a deft touch, came the thump with his left boot that sent the ball into the near top corner, beyond Carlo Cudicini, another former Stamford Bridge friend. It was Drogba's seventh Wembley goal. Is he really going to be allowed to leave shortly on a Bosman?
Harry Redknapp could lament Drogba's bolt from the blue and the goal that never should have been, which left his Tottenham team with too much to do. He could wonder precisely what John Terry knew about his goal-line clearance from Van der Vaart and argue that, for long spells, his players had more than held their own. Scott Parker was excellent – he did not deserve the sneaky injury-time kick from John Obi Mikel – while Gareth Bale was eye-catching. Tottenham's luck was out and the scoreline was painfully cruel. There comes a point, though, when the what-if stories wear thin. Tottenham chins were on the floor in the closing stages. With Champions League qualification at stake in the league, they cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves.
The announcer had called for a pre-match "moment's silence" to mark the 23rd anniversary of Hillsborough, rather than the traditional minute, which perhaps betrayed one or two fears that a full 60 seconds of respect might be too much to ask. It felt as though it barely lasted a moment. The jeers from the Chelsea end began upon Atkinson's whistle and he blew again to prevent the ugliness from continuing. The chant of "Murderers" could be heard. It has to be noted the minority is not representative of the Chelsea fan-base and, after releasing a statement condemning the abuse, the club said it would work with the authorities to root out the wrong-doers. The final against Liverpool promises an unsavoury undercurrent.
Roberto Di Matteo could not be accused of prioritising Barcelona's visit on Wednesday, which might just be the biggest game of Chelsea's season and the one that, if it were somehow to be won well, could best advertise his claims upon the permanent manager's position. His selection here was strong, up there with his strongest possible, although that did not stop the hunt for Barcelona pointers. Fernando Torres has to believe that he will start at centre-forward while Raul Meireles will most likely come in for Lampard. Branislav Ivanovic, suspended here, will be available at right-back. Di Matteo's man-management and the juggling of his resources has been impressive.