Football: BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS; CARLING CUP FINAL, 2007 CHELSEA 2 ARSENAL 1 FROM THE MILLENNIUM STADIUM It all ends in chaos as Drogba sinks kids.
AGE FINALLY overcame beauty as Didier Drogba gave Chelsea the first leg of a possible Quadruple.
But the abiding memories, even more than Drogba's moment of glory at the last Cardiff Cup Final, will be the ugly images of fear and loathing that took centre stage.
The sickening sight of John Terry, carried off on a stretcher with an oxygen mask on his face, was enough to turn the stomach.
Yet when both sides lost all sense of reason and control deep into the stoppage time Terry's head injury required, as a brutal tear-up between John Obi Mikel and Kolo Toure sparked scenes of sheer lunacy, it degenerated into a shameful afternoon.
Both teams, the benches, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger all became embroiled as Howard Webb and his officials tried in vain to restore order amid the mayhem, missing what appeared a shocking assault on Wayne Bridge by Emmanuel Eboue.
Red cards to Toure, Mikel and Emmanuel Adebayor failed to restore calm as the scuffles continued, physio Gary Lewin - the first to Terry's rescue earlier - dragging the enraged Togo striker away as Webb flinched, also booking Lampard and Cesc Fabregas. But all the chaos and disorder, all the bile that spilled and will surely result in the FA throwing the book at both clubs, should not be allowed to diminish the enthralling football that preceded it.
For 60 minutes, until Chelsea's power-play took control, allowing Mourinho to go to the forefront of the celebrations to make his point to Roman Abramovich, Wenger's new kids on the block had been outstanding, a joy to watch.
If Arsenal were supposed to have been intimidated, somebody forgot to tell them before the game, as the six years per man extra experience of the Blues was simply blown away by their enthusiasm and commitment.
Inspired by Julio Baptista, elusive and electric, the red shirts asked questions Chelsea could not answer.
Only a desperate intervention by Terry, appearing out of nowhere to deny Jeremie Aliadiere from the Brazilian's cut-back along the six-yard line, kept the Gunners out.
A brilliant diving tip-over from Petr Cech prevented Baptista's rising drive from finding the top corner at the end of a thrilling move but within a minute the Gunners were rightly ahead. For all the promise of Theo Walcott, he had still to really deliver. But all that changed as he played in Abou Diaby and went for the return as the French midfielder played a delightful angled ball into the box.
A touch took Walcott between Lassana Diarra and the otherwise impeccable Ricardo Carvalho, and the little whippet steadied himself and his nerves to steer past Cech.
It was Walcott's first for the Gunners, making him the second youngest scorer in League Cup Final history behind Manchester United's Norman Whiteside in 1983.
Whiteside too scored first only to finish on the losing side against Liverpool and history was to repeat itself, although only after Claude Makelele was lucky that Webb missed his clip on Baptista as the Brazilian went to ground in the box.
Chelsea were all over the place, a shapeless mess, lacking drive or invention. But then Drogba entered the equation on 20 minutes.
The African looked offside as Michael Ballack freed him on the right but the flag - correctly - stayed down and when Manuel Almunia committed himself too early, Drogba stroked home.
For a while, Arsenal rocked, but Fabregas and Diaby instilled poise when it was required, Walcott remained a threat and Carvalho was forced into overtime as he bailed out his colleagues as the desperate last man on three occasions.
It was no surprise when Robben came on at the break, Makelele making way. He immediately gave his side the thrust and dynamism they had lacked yet still it was Arsenal to the fore.
Diaby, found by Baptista's beautiful pass, was thwarted by Cech's dive and then Fabregas saw his shot sneak wide of the far post.
Then a moment of shared terror, the Arsenal players reacting as one with their opponents when Terry's bravery saw him caught in the face by Diaby's boot as he dived headfirst to try to force the loose ball home from a Robben corner.
After six long minutes Terry departed for hospital and Chelsea gradually turned the screw.
Drogba was denied by Almunia before Lampard bent a stunner against the bar from 35 yards.
But the Ivorian was not to be denied and when Robben found space to bend the ball into the box, Drogba nodded his 28th goal of the season into the bottom corner.
Andriy Shevchenko smashed against the bar but the final act was the most crazy of an afternoon that defied belief as Toure's reaction to Mikel's tug exploded everything.
The final whistle brought more illgrace from the Arsenal bench but frenzied joy to the men in Blue. For Mourinho, it is four trophies in three seasons, with more, he hopes, to come.
Made some excellent saves - a spectacular stop from Julio Baptista and a vital block from Abou Diaby. Commanding and impressive throughout.
Coped well as a makeshift right back even if his positioning and defending was suspect at times. But has done well enough to ensure he has a Chelsea future.
An awful afternoon for the England captain. Did not look fit to start with and ended up being carried off after a horrific collision with Diaby and hospitalised.
Chelsea's best defender by a country mile. Was outstanding as he held the back four together while under pressure from Arsenal's pace and counter-attacks.
Had a shocking first half when he got murdered by Walcott's pace. Improved after the break but needs to find some consistency as his performances are all over the place.
Substituted at half time, which said it all. Struggled to influence t he game under pressure from Arsenal's midfield kids. The Chelsea veteran showed his age.
Hit a stunning 25-yard shot which hit the bar in the second half. Worked and ran himself into the ground as one of Chelsea's better players.
Provided the pass for Drogba's equaliser but for a World Cup captain against kids it was another hugely disappointing game for Ballack, who just disappeared.
Lucky to stay on the pitch and escape with a booking for an over-the-top tackle which left stud marks on Baptista's chest. Slotted into defence after Terry went off.
Best of Chelsea's forwards for his running and work rate. He is finding his feet in English football and improving with each game. But chances few and far between.
Quiet by his standards, but still ended up as Chelsea's match winner and man of the match. Used his pace and power for the first and then headed the clincher.
SUBSTITUTES ARJEN ROBBEN (for Makelele, 46 mins): Threat throughout the second half. How he does not play more often is a mystery. Great cross for the winner 7
JOHN OBI MIKEL (for Terry, 63 mins): Sent off for the second time this season. Got embroiled in bust-up 4
SALOMON KALOU (for Shevchenko, in injury time)
Went down rather quickly for Didier Drogba's equaliser and gave the Chelsea striker too much to aim at. Apart from that, he looked solid and played well.
Spent most of his time defending and did that well. From being a weak link, Hoyte has become one of the most improved players in the country.
Excellent until his moment of madness in injury time when he was sent off in disgrace. Usually so calm, he lost his head which is unforgivable for a captain.
Has nightmares whenever he plays against Drogba, but on this occasion he got away with a few mistakes and misplaced headers. Much better in the second half.
Suspect in defence but better going forward. Chelsea targeted Traore in the second half by bringing on Arjen Robben and the Arsenal full back was subbed.
What a way to score your first senior goal. He lived up to all of the Theo-mania hype with a brilliant run and finish. His work rate and tracking back was terrific.
Had an outstanding game in midfield and, at just 19, looked the elder statesman of the midfield. His range of passing and vision was magnificent. Booked in the flare-up.
Started very quietly as if the whole occasion was too much for the 19-year-old Brazilian. But got stronger as the game went on. Booked for a foul on Essien.
Was excellent with his running, passing and movement. After such a long spell out through injury, proved he is back on track. Unlucky not to score before limping off.
Showed his true potential with some excellent combinations and bags of pace. Also crucially exhibited the sort of desire which has often been lacking in his career.
The Beast enjoyed another memorable Carling Cup tie. Baptista was a threat every time he got the ball even if he is not the classic Brazilian footballer.
SUBSTITUTES EMMANUEL EBOUE (for Traore, 67): Shored up defence but was lucky not to be sent off 4
ALEXANDER HLEB (for Diaby, 68): Did not create enough problems. Tried hard but no success 5
EMMANUEL ADABEYOR (for Aliadiere, 81): Only impact he made was to be sent off in injury time 4
49% POSSESSION 51%
3 SHOTS ON TARGET 6
6 SHOTS OFF TARGET 4
9 OFFSIDES 1
2 CORNERS 6
15 FOULS 12
1 RED CARDS 2
4 YELLOW CARDS 3
MAN OF THE MATCH: Drogba
RED MIST: Toure, Mikel (top) and Adebayor (right) all lose their heads; 0-1 Theo Walcott breaks his duck for Arsenal; 1-1 Didier Drogba levels it up before half-time; 2-1 Drogba beats Senderos to head the winner
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 26, 2007|
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