Ballack helps Chelsea reach final

Michael Ballack scored the winning goal in the 109th minute Sunday to give Chelsea 2-1 win over Blackburn and spot in the FA Cup final.

updated: April 17, 2007 16:57 IST
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Michael Ballack scored the winning goal in the 109th minute Sunday to give Chelsea 2-1 win over Blackburn and spot in the FA Cup final.

After the match, even Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich put his rift with Jose Mourinho aside to hug his manager.

"I told him congratulations and he said congratulations," Mourinho said.

The Portuguese manager's future remains uncertain despite the fact Chelsea has already won the League Cup and is also in contention for the Premier League and Champions League.

"We keep strong in the belief," Chelsea captain John Terry said. "It stems from the manager."

Chelsea meets Man U in finals

Chelsea will play Manchester United in the FA Cup final on May 19, and the two teams could end up playing each other three times in two weeks in three competitions.

"We can share trophies between us. We can win nothing and in spite of that Chelsea and Man United are two unbelievable teams," Mourinho said.

United, which leads the Premier League with 78 points, visits second-place Chelsea on May 9 in the penultimate round of the season in what could be a title-deciding game.

Four days after the FA Cup final, United and Chelsea could meet again in the Champions League final in Athens, Greece. Both English teams have reached the competition's semifinals, where Chelsea will face Liverpool and United will take on AC Milan.

Ballack decided Sunday's match with a goal in extra time, scoring after Salomon Kalou's shot was blocked.

"In the last weeks I can score some important goals," Ballack said. "It was a big fight. In the beginning we controlled the game, we played well, but during the game we lost control because we were a bit tired or felt too safe."

Frank Lampard gave Chelsea the lead with his 21st goal of the season in the 16th minute. The England midfielder shrugged off a challenge from Ryan Nelsen and steered the ball past former United States goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

Jason Roberts equalized for Blackburn in the 64th by deflecting in a free kick from Morten Gamst Pedersen.

"I think we never give up. We always believe we can make it even in the last seconds and today we did that again," Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "They (Blackburn) made a great effort and in the second half they had a few chances and they deserved to equalize. But we showed the character. We never gave up."

Chelsea last played United in the FA Cup final in 1994, when United won 4-0. Chelsea has won three FA Cups, the last in 2000, while United won its record 11th title in 2004.

United manager Alex Ferguson watched the match at neutral Old Trafford, which was 25,000 short of its 74,000 capacity.

Chelsea controlled the first half, with Ashley Cole and Joe Cole getting off shots in the 11th and 21st. But Blackburn piled on the pressure to force an equalizer before the break.

Dunn connected with Roberts' ball in the 43rd to test Cech for the first time and Christopher Samba headed over from Pedersen's corner.

Within two minutes of the restart, Andriy Shevchenko nearly doubled Chelsea's lead.

Presented with space in front of goal by Didier Drogba, the Ukraine striker miskicked and watched the ball fly well wide.

It prompted howls of derision as he was later pulled off in favor of Kalou.

In 49th, Benni McCarthy was blocked by Cech and the Czech Republic goalkeeper pulled off a spectacular save to deny Pedersen's powerful header in the 60th.

Ballack shaved the post in 80th with a free kick that Friedel had covered.

An opportunity for a Blackburn winner fell to Pedersen in the 82nd after the Norway midfielder latched on to a cross from Bentley, but his header flew wide.

"We were excellent," Blackburn manager Mark Hughes said. "We have run an exceptional Chelsea side very close. I doubt they have had a game as hard as that all season."

Cech produced a reflex save in the 89th to block John Terry after the Chelsea captain's head inadvertently connected with Pedersen's deep throw-in.

Chelsea will face Manchester United in the FA Cup final on May 19 - the first major match to be played at the new Wembley Stadium since it reopened after more than six years under construction.