Anyone who intimates that Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure carried the can for Chelsea and Manchester City in FA Cup semi-finals is unlikely to be laughed out of the room.
Instead, that assertion will be accompanied by manifold nods of the head in agreement, owing to their decisive quality when the chips were down.
The West London outfit and the Citizens are back at Wembley Stadium this weekend, knowing full well another FA Cup title is within reach, even though only one can claim the title.
While Thomas Tuchel’s team and City have been kept apart in the last four this time around, the fact both sides made it to this stage last season and are back again circa a year later somewhat demonstrates the interest both sides have maintained in the sport’s oldest cup competition since they became dominant forces in English football.
Drogba and Yaya played a significant part in supporters of both clubs cherishing the competition’s latter stages, with both sides claiming five titles altogether while the Ivorian icons represented the clubs.
For the retired centre-forward, there was broadly the typical decisiveness and end product in the last four.
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool (2005/06)
Jose Mourinho’s Blues were favourites against Rafael Benitez’s Reds despite the bad blood between both sides following a heated, controversial Champions League semi-final the previous year.
Drogba halved the deficit for the West London side with 20 minutes remaining but he could have put Chelsea in front early on but somehow missed the target having been face to face with Pepe Reina.
Joe Cole’s missed effort in the game’s closing stages nearly forced the encounter at Old Trafford into extra time but it was not to be for the Blues who may have retained their league title but fell short in the cup.
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (2008/09)
Drogba was the match-winner for the Blues who claimed a comeback victory over their London rivals at Wembley.
The marksman raced onto a Frank Lampard ball before going past Lukasz Fabianski who had found himself in no man’s land outside his box before slotting the ball into an empty net.
The Ivorian’s strike six minutes from time sealed a 2-1 success for Gus Hiddink’s team who went on to win the club’s fifth FA Cup.
Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa (2009/10)
While the outcome suggests Carlo Ancelotti’s side had things go their way, the semi-final success over Villa was anything but straightforward.
A tight contest saw John Obi Mikel lucky to not concede a first-half penalty after clumsily bringing down Gabriel Agbonlahor and a John Carew header at the start of the second just missed the far post.
It was Drogba who scored a poacher’s effort to open the scoring in the 68th minute and it stayed that way before goals from Florent Malouda (89) and Lampard (90+5) added some gloss to the final score.
Chelsea went on to claim the club’s first-ever double with Drogba netting a free-kick in the final against Portsmouth.
Chelsea 5-1 Tottenham Hotspur (2011/12)
Another semi-final success for the Blues in which the result perhaps flattered the West London side.
Drogba opened the scoring with a brilliant left-footed effort after spinning former Chelsea teammate William Gallas.
However, Spurs could have been ahead but for a goal-line intervention from John Terry and Emmanuel Adebayor failing to connect to Rafael van der Vaart’s cross which hit the post.
Further goals from Juan Mata, Ramires, Lampard and Malouda made sure Gareth Bale halving the deficit just before the hour did not move the needle as the Blues ran away comfortable winners in the end.
Again, Drogba—despite being past his prime—was decisive in the success over Spurs and the decider against Liverpool.
As for Yaya, it would be a tough ask to find a more memorable semi-final moment than the 2011 encounter at the Home of Football.
Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United (2010/11)
Despite Wayne Rooney’s absence, the Red Devils entered that encounter as favourites to face Stoke City, but the ‘noisy neighbours’ had other ideas.
It was Yaya who capitalised on Michael Carrick’s mistake on the edge of United’s area, powered past Nemanja Vidic and slotted the ball home to send the Citizens’ supporters into raptures.
That strike was enough to win the game for the blue of Manchester who made it into their first FA Cup final since 1981.
Unsurprisingly, Yaya was the match-winner in the 1-0 decider over Stoke City, sealing the club’s first triumph in the competition since 1969.
Manchester City 1-2 Arsenal (2016/17)
Even though Yaya was no longer a first-choice pick when Pep Guardiola took charge of Man City, the Spaniard trusted the midfield man against the Gunners.
For a moment, it seemed the Ivorian would have the desired impact, too, winning the ball on the edge of the City box and releasing Sergio Aguero to open the scoring on the hour.
However, goals from Nacho Monreal and an Alexis Sanchez winner in the first half of extra time saw the Gunners turn the game around.
Pep’s troops may have felt unfortunate to fall to that defeat having seen a goal ruled out while Yaya and Fernandinho hit the woodwork in the second half.
Admittedly, Drogba racked up more semi-final moments than his countryman but the importance of Manchester City’s win over United in 2011 cannot be underplayed.
City at the time did not go into every competition as favourites to win it as they do now, so claiming that success over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was colossal for the Citizens.
That landmark victory over their city rivals sent them into a first final in a generation while the eventual win ended 42 years of hurt without claiming one of England’s prestigious prizes.
Indeed, making a case against Yaya’s moment of brilliance in 2011 against a side they loathe will require great effort. It is arguably a non-debate.