Cudicini keeps Chelsea alive

Arsenal 2 Chelsea 2: Henry treats Highbury to a master class as Lampard earns replay

By Mark Burton
Sunday 09 March 2003 01:00
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Frank Lampard prodded home a Chelsea equaliser seven minutes from time to deny last season's Double winners and the current Premiership leaders, Arsenal, a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup yesterday. But only the cool defiance of Chelsea's goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini, preserved the 2-2 draw and his side's right to a second chance at Stamford Bridge when he parried Giovanni van Bronckhorst's unexpected, driven free-kick in the final moments of the match.

The replay on 25 March offers Chelsea another chance to carve out their first victory over Arsenal in nine FA Cup matches stretching back to 1947. They hardly looked like achieving that feat at Highbury, despite taking the lead after three minutes through John Terry. The Chelsea captain had abandoned his defensive duties to join the attack at a corner, which was pulled back deep, near-side to Jesper Gronkjaer. Terry timed his run perfectly to meet the Dane's looping cross over the advancing Arsenal defence and beat David Seaman with a header.

Arsenal gradually gained the upperhand and should have equalised when Cudicini brought down Francis Jeffers. But the Chelsea 'keeper, shown a yellow card by referee Paul Durkin for his misdemeanour rather than red, turned away Thierry Henry's penalty. Eventually, after 36 minutes, Jeffers pounced on Celestine Babayaro's failure to clear the ball during a scramble to put Arsenal level and when the home side headed off at the interval they were still celebrating the piece of skill with which Henry had just put them in front. Having controlled a long pass from Patrick Vieira, he flummoxed the advancing Cudicini by performing the sort of inside-out turn that Dennis Bergkamp used to confound Newcastle's defence earlier in the season and rolled in Arsenal's second.

As Lampard said after the match, "Arsenal could have scored more in the first half", and Chelsea's manager, Claudio Ranieri, acknowledged as much by replacing the delicate attacking skills of Gianfranco Zola with the more rugged midfield work of Boudewijn Zenden. It brought Chelsea more possession but restricted their ability to create much with it.

Chelsea could not be faulted for their endeavour and it was pure persistence that earned them their second chance. Arsenal failed to deal with a corner and in the ensuing scramble Sol Campbell's attempted clearance hit Lampard's legs and the ball rolled past Seaman into the net. What Arsenal wouldn't have given for something special from Henry, especially at that final free-kick, but by that stage he was already warming the substitutes' bench as Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, sought to hold on to what he had.

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