Guus Hiddink believes his “extraordinary” Chelsea squad could yet ensure a trying season ends with an unprecedented sweep of trophies.
The west Londoners, disheartened and hopelessly out of form under previous manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, were in danger of surrendering their status as one of the English Premier League’s “big four’”clubs until Hiddink was appointed on an interim basis in February.
Now, the Dutchman’s outlook is resolutely sunny. On Saturday, his team maintained their three-pronged assault on silverware by defeating Arsenal 2-1 in a hard-fought FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, courtesy of a dramatic late goal from in-form Didier Drogba.
Drogba has come to symbolize Chelsea’s renaissance. The Ivory Coast striker cut a disconsolate figure during Scolari’s reign at Stamford Bridge, when he frequently found himself out of favor.
There were suggestions he would consider his future at the end of the season but he has been revitalized under Hiddink.
Drogba’s goal, which saw him shrug off Mikael Silvestre to reach Frank Lampard’s pass just before the hapless goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and stroke the ball into an unguarded net, was enough to win a tie which looked certain to be heading into extra-time.
Arsenal had forged ahead when Theo Walcott volleyed home a cross in the 14th minute, but Chelsea levelled mid-way through the first half when Florent Malouda beat Fabianski at his near post with a low shot.
Drogba’s late goal capped a miserable 24th birthday for the Pole, who was only playing because of Manuel Almunia’s ankle injury.