LONDON - Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said he hoped to be popping the champagne corks at the end of May after steering the Londoners to the FA Cup final with a 2-1 defeat of Arsenal on Saturday. Didier Drogba's goal six minutes from time sealed victory for Hiddink's obdurate side just four days after an astonishing 7-5 aggregate victory over Liverpool to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. Chelsea's season appears to be heading for a hectic finale, with Barcelona waiting in Europe and Manchester United or Everton their prospective FA Cup final opponents. With the experienced Dutchman still saying he will not extend his stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season, having taken over on a temporary basis when Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked, the May 30 showpiece is set to be his last game. "It could be a beautiful final day in May," Hiddink, who could conceivably win the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup with Chelsea, told reporters. "I have my commitment to the Russia team. But it could be quite a week, there could be a whole load of champagne. To play in the Cup final at the end of May is the perfect scenario." "But (to win all three) we would have to win every game -- we play Barcelona in the Champions League and they are a beautiful team, and because Manchester United have a game in hand in the league which is a luxury. Hiddink said Drogba, who looked a shadow of his former self under Scolari earlier in the season, was key to Chelsea's surge. "He's amazing, every three or fours days he is delivering for the team at the moment," he said. "You always value a striker's goals but he is doing so much for the team. I have not a single criticism of him since the day I got here." Frank Lampard, who made Drogba's winner and also provided the pass for Florent Malouda to cancel out Theo Walcott's opener for Arsenal said Chelsea had rediscovered the team spirit that made them such a force under Jose Mourinho. "We haven't won anything yet but there is a real togetherness about us now," Lampard told reporters. "We are close to where we were (under Mourinho). We lost that strength and belief a little bit, but it's a stronger feeling now. "We always feel we can score late goals and that's what all the best teams do." Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger criticised the Wembley pitch and blamed "cheap goals" for his side's defeat. "We started well but the way we conceded both goals we have regrets," Wenger said. "But overall the pitch was terrible. When people pay good money to watch football you should give them a good pitch. The basics have to be right." Walcott offered his sympathy to keeper Lukasz Fabianski whose 24th birthday turned sour when he was badly at fault for Drogba's winner, rushing out of his area and leaving his goal unguarded. "Lukasz is a fantastic goalkeeper for us and he'll bounce back," Walcott said. "You have to as a player because if you kill yourself over your mistakes you're not going to play very well. We'll all comfort each other and move on because we have a very big game on Tuesday (against Liverpool)."
18 April 2009
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