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Chelsea beats Everton 2-1 in FA Cup final

CHELSEA recovered from conceding the fastest goal in FA Cup final history to beat Everton 2-1 yesterday and win the trophy for the fifth time.

Louis Saha had put Everton 1-0 ahead after just 25 seconds at Wembley, but Didier Drogba equalized in the 21st minute and Frank Lampard struck the winner 18 minutes from the end to give Guus Hiddink the perfect farewell in his final match before stepping down as manager.

"We were very tough and the team has showed after a setback they react always, which is what I like," Hiddink said. "It was one of the biggest, a big achievement: winning in the Mecca of world football.

"The FA Cup is something you cannot believe."

The comeback clinched Chelsea's first trophy in two years and could have been even more convincing had the referee awarded Florent Malouda a goal in the 78th minute.

The France winger's 30-meter (yard) shot hit the bar and bounced down, but he struck it so hard that it was impossible for the referee to tell whether it had gone over the line as television replays indicated it had.

Chelsea had other chances, most notably when Nicolas Anelka lobbed wide with the outside of his boot and Malouda lifted a shot over goalkeeper Tim Howard and the bar from close range.

Howard said the goal had almost come too early for Everton.

"It was going to be tough, whether we scored in the first minute or the last," Howard said. "It's 90 minutes and we had to refocus and get our shape and get back to the game plan, so it was a bit like coming down off cloud nine."

The open nature of the match defied predictions from many fans and commentators of a cagey encounter.

The teams drew both their Premier League meetings this season 0-0 and Chelsea finished 20 points and two places above Everton, but the underdogs attacked right after kicking off.

Steven Pienaar looked to be offside when the ball was played up the left wing to him, but he was allowed to play on and drop back to cross into the area. Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel headed out the ball, but it wasn't cleared properly and Marouane Fellaini headed it over to Saha just inside the area, from when France striker turned and smashed a shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.

The strike beat the previous quickest in a Wembley final by 18 seconds and was still 5 seconds quicker than the winner Bob Chatt scored for Aston Villa in the 1895 FA Cup final, which was played at Crystal Palace in south London.

The goal gave Everton hope of a first trophy since the 1995 FA Cup, but Chelsea countered its opponent's early success and pressure with some precise passing play, much of which was channeled down the left wing through Malouda.

With fullback Tony Hibbert drifting infield in an apparent attempt to help out Joseph Yobo against Drogba, Malouda found plenty of space. He made the most of it when he collected Lampard's looping pass out of a crowd of players and sent in a curling cross that the unmarked Drogba met with a header into the back of the net.

It was Drogba's second FA Cup final after he scored the extra-time winner in Chelsea's 2007 victory over Manchester United.

Hibbert was replaced by Lars Jacobsen for the second half and Cahill pushed forward in attack, letting Fellaini drop further back into a more defensive midfield role.

The switch improved Everton and the Toffees had plenty of possession but could muster only two chances by Louis Saha and one from Cahill.

Saha was closer to the corner flag with one shot, Cahill hit straight at Cech with another and Saha then headed over while unmarked in the 67th.

The misses let Chelsea's influence grow and Lampard struck the winner from just outside the area with a firm shot past Howard, whose view was blocked by the players in front of him.

"I thought we were having our best spell when they got their goal from Frank Lampard," Everton manager David Moyes said. "He's a big player and he scores goals, and that's what he did.

"The margins were very narrow in terms of the result but there were bigger margins on the field."

The Chelsea fans cheered each of their players as they lifted the famous cup in turn but reserved the biggest noise for Hiddink, who steps down after four months as temporary coach to resume his full-time job in charge of the Russia national team.

"You can better say goodbye with what has been achieved," Hiddink said. "Some sadness but some joy. It was emotional in the dressing room. I gathered the players, just the players and the technical staff, because I wont get the opportunity in the morning to speak to them.

"So we had just the five minutes on my side to thank them for the work we did together."


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