Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea
The FA Cup Final
Saturday 4 May 2002
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Stunning strikes from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg secure the FA Cup for Arsenal against Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium.
So, Arsenal are the winners of the 2002 FA Cup and the double is very much on. Indeed the Gunners are already celebrating one double tonight, after two goals of Millennium magic sealed victory for them in this afternoon.
On another beautiful day in Cardiff, Arsenal returned to the scene of last season's tragedy to put the record straight in the most emphatic style. They may have been in the famously blessed North dressing room today but it was skill not superstition which won them the Cup.
Arsene Wenger reverted to Arsenal type, bringing back Seaman and Campbell who augmented Adams and Cole to ensure that, in traditional Gunners style, four of the back five were English.
At the heart of them, and indeed Arsenal, was Tony Adams. He strutted around the Millennium Stadium today as though he had played in a thousand Cup Finals. This was not arrogance. Rather the confidence in himself and his colleagues that his experience has yielded. His calmness calmed those around him and his belief seeped into his side's collective conscience.
Chelsea threatened on numerous occasions and can take great pride in having pushed the double winners-elect to their very limit today. There were some big names and reputations on show today - Henry, Hasselbaink, Bergkamp, Desailly, Vieira, Petit - and the opening, though sprightly, was more cagey than cavalier.
Two long range strikes from Le Saux and Lampard tested Seaman as Desailly roused his troops with a couple of surging runs from the back. Sometimes the Frenchman can look a little disinterested in the weekly slog of the Premiership, but he was inspired by the occasion today, looking every inch a World Cup winner.
If Chelsea were enjoying the majority of the early possession, Arsenal always looked dangerous on the break. Had Bergkamp the skill in the air that he does on the ground, he would have finished his 22nd minute chance with far more skill and precision than the rather wayward headed attempt that he ultimately produced.
They came closer still on 37 minutes when Wiltord danced and jinked his way to the left-hand touchline before hanging a tempting cross up to the far post from which, Lauren, having got there first, should undoubtedly opened the scoring.
Arsenal dominated the last third of the opening period and we saw precious little of the much heralded Gudjohnsen-Hasselbaink axis. Only one 34th minute attack inspired by the Icelander saw the pair combine to any real degree, culminating in the former Bolton man firing just wide.
Hasselbaink was clearly not fully fit and perhaps he and Chelsea will argue that it might have been a different story altogether had he been. However, as always, the hypotheticals mean more to the losing side than the victors.
Chelsea brought on their Semi-Final hero, John Terry, at half-time but he, and the rest of the Blues defence, could only look on as Henry manufactured an excellent chance for himself on 46 minutes. The Frenchman's close skills earned him an inch of space in the area and his trade-mark right foot effort looked destined for the far corner had it not been for the timely and effective intervention of Cudicini diving smartly to his left.
Chelsea responded to Arsenal’s fast start to the second period and the game opened up into the kind of enthralling battle for which we had all hoped. Gudjohnsen's powerful and accurate curler brought an excellent stop from Seaman and then, Le Saux, having turned inside to shoot on his right foot found the roof of the stand when he should have found the roof of the net.
The tension and excitement were both high as Chelsea committed more men forward, almost with Arsenal's blessing as they sought to utilise Henry's pace and Ljungberg's runs on the break.
Their self-confidence was given tangible justification on 69 minutes when Parlour found a magnificent strike to open the scoring. The goal emanated from a neatly clipped ball from Wiltord into Parlour. Then, as the Frenchman dashed forward to receive the return, Parlour used his run as a decoy and cut inside before wrapping his foot round a terrific strike which powered into the corner of the net from 22 yards out. Cudicini got a touch to the shot but the venom and accuracy of Parlour's effort were such that it was goalbound from the moment it left his right boot.
An excellent move involving Cole and Henry might have added a second only minutes later but Cudicini saved well after Henry had followed up the full-back's initial forward burst. However, that move was only a prelude to the truly magnificent goal which settled the game once and for all on 79 minutes. Ljungberg, who has done so much to inspire Arsenal of late, burst through all on his own and found a curler of stunning brilliance to beat Cudicini for the second. Terry had tried to foul the Swedish sorcerer but he was more interested in producing a piece of magic than accepting a mere free-kick.
It was an almighty blow for Chelsea. Having conceded a goal of such vision and class there was a visible resignation within their ranks that this was not to be their Cup Final. Yet, on a day when 2.3 billion people around the world were watching the showpiece occasion of English football, it was fitting that two such wonderful goals should have settled a game between two of the giants of the domestic game.
Claudio Ranieri's team played well. Of course they were severely hampered by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's lack of full fitness but, until Parlour's power driver broke the deadlock, this game could have gone either way.
However, there is no accounting for class and Arsenal, without any doubt, have that.
Arsenal: Seaman, Lauren, Campbell, Adams, Cole, Wiltord (Keown 90), Parlour, Vieira, Ljungberg, Bergkamp (Edu 72), Henry (Kanu 81).
Subs Not Used: Dixon, Wright.
Goals: Parlour 70, Ljungberg 80
Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot (Zenden 76), Gallas, Desailly, Babayaro (Terry 45), Gronkjaer, Lampard, Petit, Le Saux, Gudjohnsen, Hasselbaink (Zola 68).
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Jokanovic.