Resilient Chelsea spring deadly trap on Tottenham in classic cup semi
Chelsea produced a champion’s performance in the FA Cup semi-final to see off Tottenham Hotspur and battle their way to yet another final in the historic competition.
The Blues didn’t have it their own way for much of the game, and Spurs dominated possession and chances, but in the end the entrance of the outstanding Eden Hazard changed the tie.
The game had a good tempo from the very start, with both sides probing in a frisky early period.
Chelsea began to take control, and soon had the lead after a great tackle from Nathan Ake allowed Michy Batshuayi, another new face in the team, the chance to burst towards the box.
Toby Alderweireld brought the Spaniard down as he burst into the box, receiving a yellow card and giving Chelsea an opportunity to shoot on goal in the process.
Willian took that chance, firing a gorgeous free kick past Hugo Lloris to give the Blues a deserved lead. Minutes later N’Golo Kante crossed for Batushuayi, who put a decent chance straight at the keeper off his head.
Just as it looked like the Blues were going to take control, Spurs struck back, echoing the combination that haunted Chelsea at White Hart Lane with Harry Kane header a clever flick beyond Thibaut Courtois after a perfect cross from Christian Eriksen.
It was now Spurs turn to dominate the game, and Chelsea had David Luiz to thank for several important interventions as the North London side pushed forward.
Michy Batshuayi pressed up front but Antonio Conte’s team were unable to get him any supply, with both Willian and Pedro hemmed in by Spurs’ midfield.
Eric Dier flashed a header wide and it looked as though serious half time changes would be necessary, when from nowhere Victor Moses burst into the box onto an underhit pass from Kante and bought a penalty from a clumsy challenge from Heung-Min Son.
Half time did no alter the pattern of the game, with Spurs pushing forward and soon being rewarded for their efforts.
Eriksen, who has become Chelsea’s nemesis this season and a thorn in Conte’s side tactically, escaped to the right flank once again and played a stunning cross to Alli, who timed his run perfectly to ping the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
Once again Chelsea looked rocked, and they struggled to create much going forward. Kante kept Spurs at bay, but Lloris’ goal looked far away. Changes were needed.
Conte pulled the trigger earlier than usual, wheeling out the big guns in Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in the 60th minute. It felt like a pivotal moment in the game and perhaps the season, and so it would prove to be.
As Chelsea sat deeper Nathan Ake made a serious of important interventions, blocking passes and growing into the game that was played at a high standard. David Luiz, despite being drawn forward by Alli’s clever movement on a number of occasions, stayed alert and strong against increasing pressure.
Victor Moses had not affected the game in attack much after winning the penalty, but he surged down the right to win a corner for Chelsea, who suddenly looked more threatening on the counter.
It was of course the brilliant Eden Hazard who won the game, firing low into the net as the corner flew clear of the box. The Belgian took a touch as Spurs defenders poured towards him, and the season almost slowed in time as he struck a clean strike through the bodies into Lloris’ bottom corner.
The celebrations were wild, and only got more intense as Nemanja Matic added a stunning fourth minutes later with a powerful strike. From nowhere Chelsea had a two goal cushion, and the deflated Spurs suddenly looked as though the prospect of another trophyless season had hit them.