Roberto Di Matteo made only one change to the side which beat Tottenham 5-1 in the semi-final last month. Branislav Ivanovic, who missed that game through suspension, partnered John Terry in the centre of defence with both David Luiz and Gary Cahill missing out through injury. Didier Drogba was given the nod in attack with Fernando Torres on the substitutes’ bench against his former club.
Kenny Dalglish left Andy Carroll on the bench, Luis Suarez playing alone up front with Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy forward in support.
After both sides spent the first 10 minutes acclimatising we were looking by far the better team.
Jay Spearing lost the ball allowing Juan Mata into possession who picked out Ramires on the right. He easily powered outside Jose Enrique before finishing calmly past Pepe Reina, who had committed to his dive far too early.
Liverpool looked for a quick response resulting in the ball falling for Bellamy just inside the box and he hammered it towards goal but Ivanovic was on hand with a crucial block.
Both sides looked to attack as the halfway point of the first period passed. Salomon Kalou went on an unchallenged run into the Liverpool area before being caught out by Daniel Agger at the last minute.
Agger then drove forward but as he pushed on into the box Enrique’s pass was hit slightly too hard and was snuffed out.
There was little more joy for either side with Suarez only able to stretch enough to tamely make headed contact with a cross from Jordan Henderson five minutes before the break.
We opened the second half with a testing corner from Frank Lampard. Glen Johnson tried his best to hold off John Terry but he still got a touch of the ball which then skimmed the top of the net.
Five minutes later and our second goal came through Frank Lampard who had space to pick his pass with the Liverpool back line ahead of him. He elected not to shoot but to play it in for Drogba on the edge of the area. Drogba then took a touch and aimed through the legs of Martin Skrtel to roll his record fourth FA Cup final goal into the corner.
Dalglish threw caution to the wind by replacing Spearing with Carroll who made an immediate difference to the Liverpool momentum. Found by Enrique in the box Carroll juggled and stepped over and seemed to have missed his moment to strike but instead whipped around John Terry and shot the ball in left-footed to put Liverpool back in the game.
The goal sparked the Reds into action and they streamed forward with Andy Carroll at the heart of it, his header down teed up Henderson to shoot wide from 20 yards
Steven Gerrard then fired a knock-down from over 30 yards out but he mis-controlled the shot and fired wildly over the top.
Carroll then came back into play again and thought he had scored in the 82nd minute as he blasted a header at the far post. Reds players and fans alike celebrated a goal but the referee’s assistant made a superb call to point out that Cech had in fact jumped quickly enough with incredible reflex to keep the whole of the ball from crossing the whole of the line.
Liverpool still hammered away in the final minutes with us clinging on but thankfully at the final whistle the score remained 2 -1 to the Blues.
The result sparked wild celebrations amongst Chelsea players and fans alike with Roberto Di Matteo brimming with delight.
‘I’m very happy for the players,’ said Di Matteo. ‘We’ve had a difficult season, with lots of criticism, but the players responded to all the adversity we’ve faced. They answered their critics on the pitch, the most important place.
‘I was very pleased with our performance against Liverpool because our record lately hasn’t been good against them, but we played well for most of the game and scored two good goals.’
Di Matteo now becomes the 16th man to win the competition as a player and a manager, and the scenes which greeted the victory were, in part, a tribute to the Italian who has steadied what appeared to be a sinking ship when he took control two months ago.
At that point, even our progression in this tournament was hanging in the balance following the 1-1 home draw with Birmingham, but after successfully seeing us through the replay in his first game in charge, we’ve gone from strength to strength.
‘Not many people have had the opportunity, I was fortunate enough to play for the club and win the trophy, he said. ‘Now I’ve done it as a coach as well. It’s special because it doesn’t happen very often, but the players did very well today and I’m happy.’
The victory will undoubtedly see the calls for Di Matteo to be handed the role on a permanent basis gather momentum as we head towards our Champions League Final with Bayern Munich on 19 May.
Gill Reeves – CSG disabled rep.
• 01 Cech
• 02 Ivanovic
• 03 Cole
• 17 Bosingwa
• 26 Terry
• 07 Ramires (Meireles – 76′ )
• 08 Lampard
• 12 Mikel – Booked
• 10 Mata (Malouda – 90′ )
• 11 Drogba
• 21 Kalou
• 22 Turnbull
• 19 Ferreira
• 05 Essien
• 15 Malouda
• 16 Meireles
• 09 Torres
• 23 Sturridge
• 25 Reina
• 02 Johnson
• 03 Jose Enrique
• 05 Agger Booked
• 37 Skrtel
• 08 Gerrard
• 14 Henderson
• 19 Downing
• 20 Spearing (Carroll – 55′ )
• 07 Suarez Booked
• 39 Bellamy (Kuyt – 78′ )
• 32 Doni
• 23 Carragher
• 34 Kelly
• 11 Maxi
• 33 Shelvey
• 09 Carroll
• 18 Kuyt