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Chelsea beats Arsenal to reach FA Cup final

DIDIER Drogba scored with six minutes left yesterday to give Chelsea a 2-1 win over Arsenal and a place in next month's FA Cup final.

Both teams had already been hampered by shaky goalkeeping when Arsenal's Lukasz Fabianski rushed out of his area to get the ball, but was beaten to it by Drogba.

The Ivory Coast striker scored easily into an empty net at Wembley to put the Blues into their second final in three years.

Fabianski, who was playing instead of injured first-choice keeper Manuel Almunia, had been lucky not to concede a goal from a similar error in the first half and was partly at fault for Florent Malouda's 33rd-minute equalizer.

"He's a great goalkeeper but it was not his greatest day," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "Inexperience, yes. It was a game when any mistake could be costly."

Manchester United and Everton will meet in the second semifinal today to decide which team meets Chelsea in the May 30 final.

But Arsenal had dominated much of the opening half hour and led when Theo Walcott volleyed in a cross past goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Malouda then equalized with a low shot to the near post, with Fabianski positioned too far to the other side.

The tempo increased late on as both teams searched for a winning goal and the Gunners were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men for the last 20 minutes. Midfielder Denilson only got a yellow card for pushing the referee when unhappy with a decision.

And Drogba then scored to give Chelsea its first FA Cup win over Arsenal since 1947.

"The first 15, 20 minutes were not good, but after that we started to play and improve," Drogba said. "I just wanted to score and win."

In the Premier League, Sunderland and Stoke both boosted their chances of avoiding relegation with 1-0 wins.

Stoke beat visiting Blackburn through a 75th-minute goal by Liam Lawrence to move nine points clear of the relegation zone and push Rovers deeper into trouble, while Djibril Cisse scored just before halftime to give Sunderland victory against Hull.

While Stoke, which is in its first topflight season since 1985, now looks to be safe from the drop, Sunderland is still in danger despite moving above Blackburn and Hull into 15th place.

The northeastern club has 35 points, one more than the teams it leapfrogged and four more than 18th-place Middlesbrough, which stayed in the relegation zone after a 0-0 draw with Fulham.

Cisse headed his 10th goal of the season in the 45th from a cross by Andy Reid to stretch Hull's poor run to just one win in 17 games.

"We had to win," Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia said. "I didn't care how we played. It was important we didn't lose today and we got the goal at the right time."

Lawrence effectively clinched Stoke's place in the Premier League for next season when he controlled James Beattie's flick-on, turned inside a defender and shot past goalkeeper Paul Robinson at the near post.

Portsmouth is also effectively safe after Nwankwo Kanu scored to earn a 1-0 win over Bolton.

Aston Villa missed the chance to consolidate its hold on fifth place after Diego Tristan hit an 85th-minute equalizer to earn West Ham a 1-1 draw at Villa Park.

Villa had led for most of the game through Emile Heskey's 11th-minute opener but is now winless in 11 games and could be overtaken if Everton wins its game in hand.

Wolverhampton Wanderers became the first club this season to clinch promotion to the Premier League after a 1-0 win over visiting Queens Park Rangers, while Charlton - which was only demoted from the topflight in - was relegated again, this time to League One, following its 2-2 draw with Blackpool.

Leicester won 2-0 at Southend to ensure that its first season in English football's third tier will end with promotion back to the League Championship. Matt Fryatt scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season to help the Foxes clinch the League One title.


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