LONDON, April 10, 2010 (AFP) - Didier Drogba sent holders Chelsea on their way to a 3-0 win over top flight rivals Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.
The Ivory Coast striker broke the deadlock in the 68th minute before Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard completed the win with two late goals as Premier League leaders Chelsea remained on course for a domestic 'Double'.
|Didier Drogba (R) runs after the ball chased by Aston Villa's James Collins (L) during the FA Cup semi-final football match at Wembley Stadium in London on April 10, 2010. AFP photo|
Chelsea will now return to Wembley on May 15 where they will face the winners of Sunday's second semi-final between fellow Premier League sides Tottenham and Portsmouth.
This was no routine victory but once Drogba had turned home John Terry's shot on goal following a mistake by Villa defender Richard Dunne - the forward's fifth Wembley goal - the outcome was never in doubt.
Malouda added a second in the 89th minute, connecting with Michael Ballack's right wing cross and Lampard completed the scoring in added time by capping a fine run with a composed finish.
"I always say I'm lucky, it's an honour for me to be here and to play in a stadium like this one," said Drogba.
For Villa, defeat meant a second Wembley disappointment this season after their League Cup final defeat at the hands of Manchester United in February.
That match left Villa manager Martin O'Neill angry that United defender Nemanja Vidic had not been sent-off for a foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor.
And after this match he was furious Villa had been refused a penalty, when the game was still scoreless, after Chelsea's John Obi Mikel appeared to bring down England striker Agbonlahor.
An irate O'Neill accused referee Howard Webb of "bottling" the decision, saying: "It is incontestable. Even the Chelsea players knew, you could tell by their reaction it was a penalty.
"The referee bottled it against Manchester United and we have had the same today," O'Neill added.
O'Neill was also angered by Chelsea captain John Terry's high tackle on England colleague James Milner that left the Villa man nursing a calf injury that could have been so much worse.
"James Milner is exceptionally lucky his career is intact," said O'Neill. "It should have been a straight red card."
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti had warned his side they would face a very different Villa team to the one that capitulated 7-1 at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.
The Italian reasoned O'Neill's side would be wounded by that defeat and anxious to make amends.
And so it proved with the Midlands side impressing during the opening exchanges when they were unfortunate not to claim an early breakthrough.
Ancelotti made just one change to the side that beat Villa first time around, recalling Drogba in place of Nicolas Anelka.
Initially, though, the Chelsea striker saw little of the ball as Villa's central midfield pairing of James Milner and Stiliyan Petrov grabbed early control of the game.
But Villa were furious in the 16th minute they were denied a penalty.
Agbonlahor's pace had upset the Blues backline throughout the early stages, but on this occasion he caused problems with his back to goal and appeared to be tripped by Mikel as he attempted to turn inside the box.
The Villa man was convinced he had been unfairly grounded - and O'Neill reacted furiously when referee Howard Webb ignored the claims for a penalty.
Villa continued to enjoy the greater share of possession but they were almost caught out when Drogba was only just beaten to a loose ball in the area by a desperate lunge from defender James Collins.
And Drogba almost forced a costly error out of Warnock. The left back inexplicably headed the ball into Joe Cole's path under pressure from Drogba and it took a point blank save from keeper Brad Friedel to smother the danger.
But Chelsea finally made the breakthrough after half-time when Dunne failed to clear Malouda's corner, diverting his header to the feet of Terry who struck a left foot shot that was turned home by Drogba.