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A stunning Frank Lampard strike ended Everton’s resistance and ensured Chelsea’s interim boss Guus Hiddink brought the curtain down on his brief spell in English football by collecting the FA Cup.
The Toffees had made a dream start when Louis Saha put them ahead after just 25 seconds – the quickest goal in Cup final history.
But Chelsea came back strongly and equalised through Didier Drogba’s header before Lampard fired home the winner from 25 yards with 18 minutes left.
The margin of victory should have been greater as TV replays showed that Florent Malouda’s spectacular strike moments later had crossed the line after bouncing down off the bar, but referee Howard Webb did not give the goal.
In the end it made no difference to Chelsea, or Hiddink, who deservedly has a trophy to show for the impressive work he has done at Stamford Bridge as he returns to his job with Russia.
Victory at a sweltering Wembley brings to an end the Dutchman’s brief love affair with the Blues, which began when he watched from the stands as they beat Watford in the fifth round on Valentine’s Day.
And his side again demonstrated the patience and power he has instilled them as they fought back to overhaul a dogged Everton side that took the lead with a terrific early strike.
Steven Pienaar’s cross was only half-cleared by Jon Mikel Obi and Marouane Fellaini headed down for Louis Saha to smash the ball past Petr Cech.
Lamps with the winner and his usual 20th of the season. WELL DONE YOU MIGHTY BLUES. OLE OLE OLE OLE
The goal clearly rattled Chelsea and their back-four looked nervous whenever the ball came near them immediately afterwards.
But the complexion of the game changed as soon as Hiddink’s side settled and began coming forward themselves, using the width offered by Nicolas Anelka and, in particular, Malouda on the left.
Everton right-back Tony Hibbert was given an early yellow card for clipping Malouda’s heels, and he spent the rest of the half trying to keep up with the Frenchman, mostly unsuccessfully.
Hibbert was not the only player at fault – he should have received more support from Leon Osman on that flank – but the amount of space they were leaving invited trouble, and Chelsea took full advantage to equalise after 21 minutes.
Malouda, who was completely unmarked, ran on to Lampard’s pass and, from his inviting cross, Drogba rose above Joleon Lescott to power home his header.
By now, Hiddink’s side were completely on top, with the Toffees unable to keep hold of the ball, let alone use it constructively.
Everton did at least tighten up at the back, with the exception of the hapless Hibbert who was caught out time and time again before the break.
The closest Chelsea came to punishing him further came when a deflected pass span into Cole’s path, but the England defender sliced his shot well wide.
Saha’s opening goal, after 25 seconds, is the fastest in FA Cup final history
Unsurprisingly, Toffees boss David Moyes made changes at the break – hauling off Hibbert for Lars Jacobsen and moving Tim Cahill further forward in an attempt to wrestle back the initiative.
Even after his reshuffle, Chelsea were still enjoying the lions share of possession and Anelka should have done better when he lobbed over after running clear, but Everton did threaten too.
They showed their intent when from a short free-kick, Leighton Baines whipped the ball into the Chelsea area and Saha’s header flew only inches over the bar.
Indeed, the game was still wide open until Lampard’s goal on 72 minutes.
The England midfielder collected Michael Ballack’s pass, turned inside Phil Neville, and, despite losing his footing, let fly with a tremendous strike that was still rising as it flew into the top corner.
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard got a hand to the ball but could not stop it hitting the net – and from there, there was no way back for Everton.
Malouda could have sealed victory when Lampard slid him through but lashed the ball over, then was wrongly denied after his long-range shot hit the woodwork and bounced in.
But, despite that let-off, Everton could not find a response and Chelsea remained in control of the match in the closing stages to win the Cup for a fifth time and give Hiddink a fairytale finish.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien (Ballack 61), Mikel, Lampard, Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Ivanovic, Di Santo, Kalou, Belletti, Mancienne.
Booked: Mikel, Lampard.
Goals: Drogba 21, Lampard 72.
Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Jacobsen 46), Yobo, Lescott, Baines, Osman (Gosling 82), Neville, Pienaar, Cahill, Fellaini, Saha (Vaughan 77).
Subs Not Used: Nash, Castillo, Rodwell, Baxter.
Booked: Hibbert, Neville, Baines.
Goals: Saha 1.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).