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Match of Their Day: Ashley Cole picks his classic games

Match Of Their Day: Ashley Cole explains why he left Arsenal for Chelsea

Ashley Cole holds the record for the most FA Cup final wins and appearances as a player.

Little wonder, then, that the former Arsenal and Chelsea left-back is in the Match of Their Day hot seat on what would have been FA Cup final weekend.

The 39-year-old won the FA Cup seven times – three with the Gunners and four with the Blues – and played in a total of eight finals.

Cole has picked his first and last FA Cup wins, when Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in 2002 and Chelsea triumphed 2-1 against Liverpool in 2012.

But the 107-cap England international also selected the only FA Cup final he lost, Liverpool beating Arsenal 2-1 in 2001, a match otherwise known as the Michael Owen final.

“Being an Englishman growing up, watching finals and semi-finals, like Paul Gascoigne destroying Arsenal (in a 1991 semi), it leaves memories,” says Cole.

“To get a chance to play in it and win it as many times as I did is something I will never, ever forget.

“To go on and win seven winners medals and make history… when I was playing I didn’t take it for granted because I loved and respected that competition.

“When you look back now and see, over 100 years of history that I have that record… it is there to be broken and I hope someone does but I hope it takes another 100 years.”

Here are Cole’s three classic matches.

Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool

On this day in 2001: Owen scores two late goals for Liverpool to win FA Cup

12 May 2001

With Wembley being rebuilt, Arsenal and Liverpool fans headed to a sunny Cardiff in 2001 for the first of six FA Cup finals to be staged at Millennium Stadium.

This was Cole’s first season as a regular with the Gunners and he kept his place for the final, with Arsenal hoping to win their third trophy under Arsene Wenger after winning the Double in 1998.

Liverpool had already won that season’s League Cup but were on the back foot for most of the game until Freddie Ljungberg broke the deadlock on 72 minutes.

But Michael Owen conjured a late fightback for Gerard Houllier’s men, scoring twice in the last seven minutes in a performance that went a long way to earning the England striker the Ballon d’Or for 2001.

Cole: “We dominated. Henry had two or three one-on-ones, we had a couple of handball shouts. I can’t believe we didn’t win this game.

“But Owen was dominant that season in terms of timing his runs in behind.

“His first goal came from a free-kick I will never forget. We attacked the first ball but didn’t get it very far and there was maybe a little ricochet and Owen, who Martin Keown was marking, was free.

“I remember two days later Keown saying to me ‘that was your fault’ and I’m a 19-year-old kid, in my first final, thinking I’d done alright and trying to get over the desolation of thinking I might never play in a final again.

“He says to me ‘when that ball goes out you have to find a man, don’t mark space’. So I got a rollicking but it is something I learned and took into games after that.

“I always had these mentors, either telling me not to get ahead of myself or to keep my head up.”

Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea

Relive Parlour’s stunning FA Cup final goal in 2002

4 May 2002

Arsenal returned to Cardiff 12 months later as league leaders so were hoping to win their second double in five seasons.

A disappointing final burst into life with 20 minutes remaining as Ray Parlour curled in a beauty from 25 yards.

Ljungberg then topped that with 10 minutes left, picking the ball up in his own half and beating John Terry for pace before curling it inside the far post.

The Swedish winger became the first man to score in successive finals since Tottenham’s Bobby Smith in 1962, and four days later Wenger’s men went to Old Trafford and won 1-0 to secure Arsenal’s third double.

Cole: “We had the momentum going into the final and then four days later to go to Old Trafford and… I was going to say nick a 1-0 – win the title was a great achievement.

“Being around the legends that were at Arsenal at the time – Martin Keown, Tony Adams, David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour – they had already instilled that will to win and demands needed on a daily basis.

“I remember Ray Parlour telling me, ‘You could go on and win a record’ and you never believe it or take anything for granted but it came true in the end.

“Whether he operated in the centre with Patrick Vieira, or giving energy on the right side, Ray was a big part of it (Arsenal’s success). Not just on the field but a great character off it, keeping people on their toes.

“But that team had every ingredient you want to fight for titles and win competitions. We had quality and depth in every position.

“To do the Invincibles season is unbelievable. Going in to games, tactically we didn’t prepare because we felt unbeatable at times. We always had that belief that we were untouchable.”

Chelsea 2 Liverpool 1

On This Day: Chelsea beat Liverpool in 2012 FA Cup final

5 May 2012

After winning another league title and two FA Cups with Arsenal, Cole completed a protracted, acrimonious move to Chelsea in 2006.

There he won the FA Cup in 2007 and 2009, plus the Double in 2010, and after Roberto di Matteo took charge in March 2012, Chelsea reached both the FA Cup and Champions League final that season.

The Blues faced Liverpool at Wembley, with Ramires and Didier Drogba scoring early in each half, before Andy Carroll pulled one back.

Petr Cech then pulled off a stunning save to keep out a late Carroll header and clinch victory. There was more drama to come two weeks later as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties to become European champions.

Cole: “It was a bit of a patch-up job for Roberto Di Matteo in terms of rebuilding confidence and getting our mentality back after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas.

“To go to Wembley and beat a great team in Liverpool was a great feat. What would come after with Di Matteo was special. I feel that now many people remember us winning the FA Cup that year because we also won the Champions League.

“What Jose (Mourinho) did for Chelsea was unbelievable, in terms of the confidence and belief he gave the players. He gave the stability and set what the demands were.

“Every manager wants to put their stamp on a club but from then on the managers that tried to force that too much didn’t work. We knew what we were good at and what our weaknesses were.

“We got so used to being a tight group and knowing how to win that it didn’t matter which type of manager came in. We had a great group and it needed tweaking at times but not a full circle of changing everything.

“As an aspiring coach now, I take the bits from the managers that I liked.”


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