Chelsea victorious in FA Cup quarter-final tie against ten-man United
Chelsea cruised into a great 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over 10-men Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, as the sides met for the 20th time in the competition.
The Blues are facing José Mourinho’s ‘new’ side at Stamford Bridge for already the second time this season, with the previous meeting ending in another stunning victory – 4-0 that time.
The imminent difference between Antonio Conte and Mourinho was the injury news, as United had to travel to London without star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and other two forwards Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial. Meanwhile Conte had his full squad available, but made two changes taking off Cesc Fabregas and Pedro for Nemanja Matic – the man who has never lost to United – and Willian – the man with the new slick haircut.
United began the game from the front-foot as they looked to avenge Chelsea for the 30second opener in the last game. Valencia earned the visitors an early corner, but Mkhitaryan’s cross was headed well over by Marcos Rojo.
After the first attempt the game began to find its shape, and the possession was fair 50-50 after ten minutes of play. Long balls towards Marcus Rashford seemed to have been the number one tactic of the Portuguese manager, but Chelsea’s good defence had no trouble defending the attacks.
Chelsea created a pair of dangerous attacks on the 15th minute mark, as first Eden Hazard completed a stunning solo run through the whole United half, before having his shot blocked for a corner. From Willian’s cross Cahill was able to muscle his way for the ball against Rojo, but his knock towards goal was brilliantly saved by De Gea.
The Blues fans might have faced a little scare of a rare Chelsea Hazard injury, as the Belgian stayed down after Ander Herrera’s thumping tackle – which he was rightfully booked for – but luckily the 28-year-old winger was fine to continue.
The hosts enjoyed a nice spell of play between the 15th and 25th minute, but United slowly started to get their heads back into the game. Hazard continuously threatened the visiting defence with his flying runs through the middle of the park and went close to the top left corner on the 29th minute after going past Phil Jones outside the area. Even with three centre-backs, Mourinho’s defence was simply crying for help to keep Hazard away from the penalty area.
N’Golo Kante was also providing his natural world class act, as he stepped in to make some wonderful interceptions and tackles to help the side keep out the likes of Mkhitaryan and Pogba from lunging long balls forward.
United were already struggling with injuries prior to the match, and a 35th minute red card wasn’t an answer to Mourinho’s problems. Ander Herrera made a foolish foul to clip the heels of Hazard from behind to deservedly be carded for the second time and therefore sent off. The visitors manager reacted right away by subbing on Marouane Fellaini for Mkhitaryan. He also started a small battle with Conte on the sidelines as the two managers got a bit fed up to each other.
Victor Moses had a blast just over the bar soon after the sending off, and a Chelsea penalty shout followed after Willian was pushed down from behind inside the United area. Rightfully though, no penalty was awarded since the tackle was very light on the Brazilian.
United started to set their attention on defending, and time wasting began no sooner but the minute Herrera was off. Chelsea did their best to solve the ten-man defending formation before half-time, but it had to wait as the blow for the first period end finally arrived.
The second half kicked off in very similar surroundings. Chelsea started to put some serious numbers forward in search of the opening goal, and United settled for long balls over the top towards the pacey front-man.
With United having their all ten men inside the penalty area to make sure there’s no room for through balls into the box, the only way to strike is from outside the box. And that’s exactly what N’Golo Kante did just seven minutes after the start of the second period, as his superb strike sent the Blues to a well-earned one-nil lead!!
Willian received the ball on the left and played it low for Kante on his right, where the Frenchman only had to take a touch, a look up and then rifle the ball for a great opening goal. Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo were somewhere about, but nowhere near to make a proper effort on blocking the shot. Perhaps they never believed Kante to be able to hit the target from 20 yards out, despite his last goal also coming against the very same red-shirts, at this very same stadium.
The first real chance for the visitors came after 58 minutes of play, as Luiz and Cahill failed to communicate and Rashford sprinted through on goal only to be magnificently denied by Thibaut Courtois on a one-on-one. The ball went out for a corner, but that’s where United had to be afraid instead of feel hopeful, as Conte’s men came five against three from the counter right after the corner got cleared. The ball arrived to the other end in a flash, and from Willian’s corner Diego Costa was completely free to head but his header was off target. Close to 2-0, and it kept coming closer and closer…
Minutes after the previous threat, Kante was on the same spot where he first scored the goal, but this time he played the ball back for Willian, and the Brazilian’s curling effort was just inches over the bar. Costa then wrestled the ball away from Pogba near the area, and made way into the box, only to be just stopped by Rojo by a sliding challenge. The two players had a lot to discuss tonight too, and it slightly seemed like the Argentine defender was to get the better of Costa.
With 15 minutes left on the clock Chelsea’s second goal was looking just more and more likely. Willian skipped his way off sliding Rojo before firing a great low cross towards Costa, but even the Spaniard acrobatic split wasn’t enough to contact the ball. Inches away.
The Red Devils were also starting to get a bit frustrated with the hosts’ dominant play, and stupid fouls from Pogba, Valencia and Ashley Young really showed that.
Willian played a great game, but was subbed off at 80th minute for Cesc Fabregas, while Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard came on for United in hope of turning the game around. Pogba struck a promising left-footed strike from outside the box soon after the game resumed, but the ball went a meter or two wide from the post.
Cesc Fabregas also came close for a second Blues goal, but he was unable to find the back of the net from the edge of the area as De Gea was forced to make another great stop. Four added minutes to the 90 minutes of play wasn’t nowhere near enough for the visitors, and the full-time whistle saw the Blues enter the FA Cup semi-finals thanks to a goal from N’Golo Kante.
SEMI-FINAL DRAW: Chelsea will play Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on the semi-finals of the FA Cup. What a derby to come!