Lukaku and Ziyech score to see Chelsea cruise into FA Cup semi-final with 2-0 win at the Riverside
By Paul Lagan at The Riverside Stadium
Middlesborough 0 v Chelsea 2
Romelu Lukaku’s close-range tap-in early in the first half settled any potential nerves as the west Londoners booked their place in the FA Cup semi-final with a controlled 2-0 victory at the Riverside Stadium against Middlesbrough.
Hakim Ziyech produced a stunner on 31 minutes to kill off the home side.
The North West outfit who saw off Manchester United and Spurs had hoped to take advantage of the sale of the club and the chaos behind the scenes.
But the players stuck to the game-plan, a part of which was to be patient, knowing their superior footballing ability would win out in the end.
A wonderful all-round performance from Mason Mount ensured goals would be scored and solid defensive work providing a suitable barrier from the occasional Boro foray up front.
Christian Pulisic was inches away from putting the Blues ahead on four minutes. An excellent byline cross by Mason Mount, zipped across the six-yard box. The US wide-player was half a second too late to connect with the ball, with the goal gaping.
But it all came good on 15 minutes when Mount once again was the architect that put Chelsea into the lead.
A fine overloading of players on the right, broke the resolute Boro defence, with Chelsea producing precise first-time passing.
Mount was at the end of the build-up and he again arrowed in another pinpoint cross. This time Romelu Lukaku was on the spot to tuck home easily from close range.
While Boro huffed and puffed without making any serious inroads into the Blues defence, the world and European champions decided to double their score. Hakim Ziyech, 29 today, opted to give himself a birthday present by picking the ball up on the right apex of the Boro penalty area. He took one touch, before curling a wonderful left-footer into the back of the home side’s net.
Anfernee Dijksteel kicked the ball off the line after Lukaku thought he had scored a second.
Had it gone in, VAR would have intervened and probably have decided the Belgian hitman was offside earlier in the move.
Chelsea head coach kept the same starting 11 for the beginning of the second half.
The game was a non-event by and large - Chelsea were content to sit on their lead, and push forward occasionally.
Boro’s intent was still in evidence, it was just their lack of ability in the final third that let them down.
A couple of spaces opened up for a shot, but each time the ball went high and wide of Mendy’s goal.
Tuchel opted to make a double change on 69 minutes - Timo Werner and N’Golo Kante came on with Mateo Kovacic and Pulisic making way.
Kenedy was next off the bench as Tuchel used the substitutions to kill some time - off came Ziyech with 10 minutes left.
Just before that, Werner had a chance to score. He opened up some excellent space, but his right-outer was blocked by Dijksteel.
To continue the theme, Lukaku was withdrawn and Harvey Vale entered the fray to gain some more firsts-team minutes.
Mendy was called to action to parry away a goal-bound effort from Paddy McNair as the clock ticked down to 85 minutes.
It gave the crowd something to cheer about.
The semi-final draw is tomorrow at 5.30pm
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger, Sarr, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Mount, Ziyech, Lukaku, Pulisic
Subs, Bettinelli, Alonso, Kenedy, Chalobah, Kante, Barkley, Havertz, Vale, Werner
Middlesborough, Lumley, Dijksteel, McNair, Fry, Jones, Crooks, Hobson, Tavernier, Taylor, Balogun, Connolly
Subs, Hall, Olusanya, Peltier, Watford, Bamba, Bola, Daniels, Coburn, Boyd-Munce
Referee: Paul Tierney