LONDON, (Reuters) – Chelsea’s remarkable turnaround since Roberto Di Matteo took over as interim coach has taken them to the brink of a cup double after they beat a disappointing Liverpool side 2-1 with goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba on Saturday.
Their victory at Wembley Stadium in a match they dominated for the first hour keeps the London side’s momentum going for what could be an even greater triumph in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in two weeks’ time.
A season that seemed destined to end in failure under coach Andre Villas-Boas could now finish as the most successful in the club’s history if they become European champions.
Andy Carroll’s 64th minute strike for Liverpool brought the game to life for the last half-an-hour after Chelsea appeared to be coasting to a seventh FA Cup success and their fourth in six seasons but Di Matteo’s side hung on to claim the spoils.
The club’s campaign has been transformed under Di Matteo – who never lost at Wembley as a player – with just two defeats in 18 matches although he is still only their caretaker boss.
“I’m fortunate enough to have played for the club and won the trophy and today I led the players out … not many people get that chance,” said a beaming Di Matteo.
This victory and another against Bayern in Munich on May 19 would make it seem almost impossible for Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich to give the job to anyone else although with Chelsea, as ever, the future is uncertain.
The stakes are high because if Chelsea do not win the Champions League they might miss out on playing in the competition altogether next season since they look likely to finish outside the top four in the Premier League.