With more than 900 appearances for Chelsea between them in a double act that has brought eight trophies to Stamford Bridge, John Terry and Frank Lampard have shared much. Yet they can rarely have combined better. The captain supplied the vice-captain for the first goal; the favour was returned for the second. Lampard's winner ensured Chelsea's name was engraved on the FA Cup that Terry lifted last year. Now their efforts enabled a return to Wembley for the semi-finals, where they will meet Aston Villa.
Theirs has been a smooth progression to the last four, aided by professional performances and favourable draws while others fell by the wayside. Stoke presented much the sternest test to date yesterday. They were marginally the better side until Lampard opened the scoring and threatened an equaliser until Terry doubled the advantage. He pointed to the armband as he wheeled away in celebration. Sacked by England and cherished at Chelsea, Terry remains first among equals on his own turf.
"We are delighted to have John in our ranks and he has done an exceptional job for us over the years," said Ray Wilkins, the first-team coach. "He continues to be an exceptional captain for us." "Chelsea have been very supportive, the players as well, so I would like to thank everyone for that," said the defender, who suggested the key element was the response to last week's 4-2 defeat to Manchester City. "We were hurt and disappointed by the way we played," he added.
Having struck twice then, Lampard could be exempted from criticism. The scorer of the winner against Everton in last season's final, he provided another high-quality finish at a time when Chelsea lacked conviction. Stoke were unable to clear a corner and Terry displayed the composure to lay the ball back to Lampard. His was a sweet strike, a minor deflection off Abdoulaye Faye neither helping nor hindering its passage to the back of the net. It was his 16th goal of the season. Twenty represents a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for most midfielders; for Lampard, it is a landmark he reaches on an annual basis.
The goal represented a welcome change from the fare that preceded it. Chelsea's first clear-cut chance was scarcely crafted. A poor touch by Dean Whitehead afforded Anelka the opportunity to intercept. He did so with alacrity, but dragged his shot past Thomas Sorensen and wide. Indeed, while a fractious Didier Drogba hobbled around and wandered off, receiving more treatment than passes, Chelsea's most threatening attacker was their third-choice left-back. It was a reflection of the underwhelming impression his colleagues made, but also a sign of the verve with which Paulo Ferreira advanced on the left flank. His cross resulted in a chance for Drogba on the stroke of half-time, the Ivorian drawing a fine save from Sorensen.
Stirred into action, a display of force and finesse from Drogba almost provided Anelka with a second goal. Instead, Andy Wilkinson reacted well to thwart Chelsea. The reprieve was shortlived; Lampard took the resulting corner and Terry headed it in. Once again, Wilkinson applied a touch; on this occasion, he could not turn it past the post. Anelka, whose movement was better than his finishing, spurned a late chance to garnish the scoreline, though Stoke had already been seen off. But that is no mean feat. Having eliminated first Arsenal and then Manchester City, Stoke are both giantkillers and, as the league's tallest team, giants.
They possess an abrasiveness that makes them awkward and a not-so-secret weapon. Rory Delap's first long throw was flicked on by the former Chelsea defender Robert Huth and headed over the bar by Mamady Sidibe. A second throw caused still greater problems. Henrique Hilario punched weakly, Whitehead volleyed crisply and John Obi Mikel stretched vitally on the goal-line to deny the Stoke midfielder.
While the Potters' set-piece expertise is well known, two Chelsea corners, albeit one indirectly, made the difference. "We weren't able to play too much football but we are delighted to be in the semi-final," Wilkins added. "Wembley is a great day for the fans and the club," said Lampard. "We had a great day out there last year and we wanted to get back." And get back they have. email@example.com