Sad Eagles slip away tamely as Chelsea end their FA Cup dreams
FA Cup semi-final
Chelsea (0) 2 Loftus-Cheek 65, Mount 76
Crystal Palace (0)
It was FA Cup heartbreak once again for the Eagles as they succumbed to two second-half goals at Wembley.
The contest was a grinding battle of wills for a long time, as a cautious Palace placed their faith in a packed defence and midfield and a good deal of patience to accompany their organisational excellence.
Their approach looked for a time as though it might bear fruit. They broke forward at pace at intervals, while the Blues looked ponderous in their approach play.
But Thomas Tuchel’s men slowly cranked up the pressure and the control in the second half before finally finding a way through with a quickened tempo and a greater show of quality.
Palace could have done with the driving force of nature that is Conor Gallagher to try and carry the fight to Chelsea. But, of course, his parent club did not sanction his presence in the Palace team for today and it is they who will face Liverpool in the final on May 15 in a repeat of the League Cup final.
The game took a while to ignite in terms of goalmouth incident. Palace concentrated on keeping their shape at the back, having opted to play Cheikh Kouyate in a back three, and they tried to break at pace when they could. Yet they may look back on this as a missed opportunity.
They tested Edouard Mendy on the half hour when Eberechi Eze’s floated free-kick in from the left was only cleared to the edge of the box and Kouyate fired a low left footer which the Chelsea keeper saved, diving to his left. Joachim Andersen was flagged offside when he followed up to ping against a post from close range.
In the second half, Wilfried Zaha twisted around Andreas Christensen to put in a dangerous cross, while Kouyate headed an Eze corner just off target. But in truth, this was a hugely disappointing afternoon for the south Londoners.
Just past the hour, the Blues took the lead. The Eagles were careless on the edge of the area and after Kai Havertz’s attempted cross had been half blocked, the ball ran out to the edge of the area for Loftus-Cheek to hammer into the roof of the net with the aid of a slight deflection.
Now breached, Patrick Vieira - a serial winner of this competition as a player with Arsenal - had to rung the changes to try and reshape the contest. Michael Olise and Christian Benteke came on.
But it was all to no avail as the Blues increased their lead through Mason Mount not long after and the door slammed shut. The England midfielder stole into the area, released by Timo Werner, and calmly rolled a low shot past Jack Butland.
Andersen should have pulled a goal back but skied a close-range header and we all knew then that this was simply not meant to be Palace’s day.
Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to miss a sitter - striking a post from close in after being handed a goal on a plate by Werner. Chelsea ended so much on top, it was a wonder they did not make the final scoreline bigger.
Now try Paul Lagan's match report here
Blues: (3-4-2-1) Mendy – Azpilicueta, Christensen (Silva 82), Rudiger – James, Jorginho (Kante 77), Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 26), Alonso – Werner, Mount (Ziyech 77) – Havertz (Lukaku 77). Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Pulisic, Niguez, Sarr
Eagles: (3-5-2) Butland – Kouyate (Milivojevic 85), Andersen, Guehi – Ward, Eze, McArthur (Olise 72), Schlupp (Benteke 72), Mitchell – Mateta (Ayew 55), Zaha. Subs not used: Guaita, Tomkins, Clyne, Edouard, Kelly