Chelsea substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek put in a top-class performance as Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Palace got the better of Chelsea in the first half and had the first real chance in the 36th minute. Ebere Eze whipped a free-kick in but it was only half-cleared by the Chelsea defence. That allowed Cheikhou Kouyate to fire a first-time volley at goal, forcing a smart stop from Edouard Mendy. Joachim Andersen smashed the follow-up against the post, although he was offside.
The first opportunity of the second half also fell to Kouyate. Eze put a corner into a dangerous area and Kouyate rose above Mason Mount to head at goal, but could only direct his effort wide from close range.
Chelsea punished Palace for that miss soon afterwards. Cesar Azpilicueta pinched from Tyrick Mitchell, allowing Kai Havertz to run at Marc Guehi. He pulled it back for Loftus-Cheek and the English midfielder smashed into the top corner with help from a Joachim Andersen deflection.
And the Blues had a two-goal cushion by the 76th minute. Mount linked up with Timo Werner, raced into the penalty area and then picked out the bottom corner with a sliding finish.
Patrick Vieira’s side had a great chance to get one back moments later. A corner was flicked on by substitute Jordan Ayew and Andersen was unmarked at the back post. However, the centre-back headed over when he really should have scored.
Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to hit the woodwork in the 90th minute – he also should have found the back of the net. Chelsea saw the win through however, reaching their third straight FA Cup final in the process.
The result means Chelsea will come up against Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday May 14. It is a repeat of this season’s Carabao Cup final, which Liverpool won on penalties.
Goalscorer Loftus-Cheek was given man of the match, while several Palace stars were kept quiet…
Edouard Mendy: Had to react quickly to save from Kouyate’s shot in the 36th minute. Didn’t have too much to do other than that as Kouyate and Andersen both sent good chances wide. 7
Reece James: Strong at the back but was unable to get forward like usual due to being deployed in a back three. 6
Andreas Christensen: Dominant performance alongside Rudiger to frustrate Palace striker duo Zaha and Mateta. Then taken off as Tuchel brought Thiago Silva on for the Brazilian’s experience. 8
Antonio Rudiger: Lively display from the centre-half as he bullied the opposition attackers and even had a few efforts at goal. 7
Cesar Azpilicueta (C): Good work from the skipper to steal from Mitchell in the build up to Loftus-Cheek’s opener. Joined in with Chelsea attacks, although he wasn’t as effective as James generally is. 7
Jorginho: Slowed the play down too much and couldn’t penetrate Palace with incisive forward passes. Subbed in the 77th minute as Tuchel opted to bring Kante on for the Frenchman’s energy. 5
Mateo Kovacic: Replaced in the 25th minute after picking up what looked like a knee injury. Failed to have any serious impact on the game before the substitution. 6
On the money!
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Marcos Alonso: Matched stride-for-stride by Ward out wide and didn’t manage to put any good crosses in for Havertz. 6
Mason Mount: Had shots at goal either side of the interval but failed to beat Butland or even properly test the keeper. Bullied by Kouyate from the 60th-minute corner and lucky to see his opponent head wide. Quiet for large periods but then gave Chelsea an integral second goal towards the end. Great touch to get himself into the box and then beat Butland with a composed finish. 8
Kai Havertz: Booked with 38 minutes gone for a dive just outside the Palace box. Cleverly pulled the ball back for Loftus-Cheek to score, even if his pass was aided by a Guehi deflection. 7
Timo Werner: Looked lively in the early stages and his movement kept the Palace back three busy. Demonstrated good awareness to send Mount through for Chelsea’s second goal, getting his assist in the process. 8
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (on for Kovacic, 25): Came on for Kovacic after the Croatia international went down injured. Appeared the most likely to create something from midfield and did just that when he smashed into the top corner with 65 minutes gone, giving Chelsea an important lead. Excelled in driving Chelsea up the pitch with pacy runs and dragged Palace’s midfielders all over the place. 9 – Man of the Match
Hakim Ziyech (on for Mount, 77): Had a great opportunity to make it 3-0 when Lukaku’s shot came off the woodwork and into his path. Struck the ball on his right foot and saw it blocked by the Eagles defence. 6
Romelu Lukaku (on for Havertz, 77): Like Ziyech, should have scored in the 90th minute. Set up for a tap-in by Werner, only to hit the post on his right foot. 6
N’Golo Kante (on for Jorginho, 77): Brought on to tire Palace in the latter stages and stop any counter-attacks they may have. Had relatively little to do as Chelsea eased to victory. 6
Thiago Silva (on for Christensen, 82): N/A
Crystal Palace (3-5-2)
Jack Butland: Could do little about Chelsea’s first goal as the shot hit Andersen and went right into the top corner. Then beaten by an accomplished Mount finish. 6
Cheikhou Kouyate: Vieira started the central midfielder on the right side of a back three in an attempt to keep Chelsea’s dangerous attackers quiet. Had the first opportunity of the semi-final by catching a volley well on his left foot – but couldn’t beat Mendy. Then should have scored when towering above Mount to connect with an Eze corner, only to see his header go wide. Had he taken his second opportunity then Palace could have really had a go. 6
Joachim Andersen: Defended well to prevent Werner from getting in behind him and through on goal. Had to work hard as Chelsea regularly looked to find the Germany forward. Tried to block Loftus-Cheek’s shot but could only help it on its way into the net. Good all-round display from the Dane. 7
Marc Guehi: Solid at the back as usual to frustrate Chelsea whenever they went forward. Couldn’t quite keep Havertz at bay when the forward played into the path of Loftus-Cheek. 7
Joel Ward: Stopped Alonso from marauding down the wing by matching the Spaniard’s energy. Didn’t have much influence after the break though. 6
Ebere Eze: His precise deliveries gave Kouyate two chances at goal before the hour mark. Quiet day for the attacking midfielder and he didn’t trouble Mendy, as he would have liked. 6
James McArthur (C): Protected the Palace backline by screening in front of Havertz, leaving the centre-forward slightly isolated at times. Taken off with 15 minutes left to allow Olise to come on, improving Palace’s attacking threat. 7
Jeffrey Schlupp: Formed part of a generally strong midfield three. Failed to get forward with his team-mates when they went on the attack though. 7
Tyrick Mitchell: Defended well in the first half, managing to keep the likes of Mount and James quiet on the right flank. Caught out in possession by Azpilicueta and that allowed Chelsea to take the lead. 6
Jean-Philippe Mateta: Kept quiet by Rudiger and Christensen and never threatened Mendy’s goal before his substitution. 5
Wilfried Zaha: Had no influence on the game until the 60th minute when he burst into life and breezed past Christensen to earn Palace a corner. Would have been hoping to get past Chelsea’s defenders far more. 5
Jordan Ayew (on for Mateta, 54): Came on to energise Palace’s attack as Mateta and Zaha didn’t trouble Chelsea’s defence in the first 54 minutes. Rose tall to win the first header from a corner, giving Andersen his big chance in the second half. 6
Christian Benteke (on for Schlupp, 75): N/A
Michael Olise (on for McArthur, 75): N/A
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