CHELSEA SET UP FA CUP FINAL CLASH WITH LIVERPOOL BY OVERCOMING CRYSTAL PALACE.
Chelsea booked a rematch under the Wembley arch against EFL Cup victors Liverpool, emerging 2-0 winners against a hardy Crystal Palace team thanks to second-half goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount. In turn, the ‘Blues’ have also secured a fifth FA Cup final appearance in six years.
A relatively quiet opening 20 minutes saw a resilient Palace engine prove equal to anything the yellow-clad ‘Blues’ could muster, in what was the West London side’s 21st match under the iconic arch of the new Wembley Stadium. In truth, there were few early signs that they would end their two-match losing streak at the spiritual home of football, with only a difficult header for Kai Havertz being plucked from the air by the Palace goalkeeper just before the half-hour mark.
Soon after, Palace had an unbelievable chance to break the deadlock when a free kick from the edge of the box found Cheikhou Kouyaté, who composed himself and shot hard and true, only for Edouard Mendy to make a fantastic save, inconsequentially spilling the ball at the feet of an offside Jean-Philippe Mateta, though the latter hit the post on the follow-up in any case.
Palace were unlucky not to convert from a corner just after the hour mark, with Kouyaté heading wide from a strong delivery by Eberechi Eze. Palace paid the ultimate price for that failure in the 65th minute, as a slip from Tyrick Mitchell saw Chelsea break away down their right flank. The ball found Havertz inside the area, and last year’s UEFA Champions League hero had time to perform a stepover, before an attempted square deflected off Andersen into the path of Loftus-Cheek, who smashed a first-time effort into the corner of Palace’s net from distance.
Chelsea netted a killer second goal 15 minutes from the end of normal time. A turnover in dangerous territory saw a loosely-marked Mason Mount snatch the ball, and after playing a delicious one-two with Timo Werner, he sprinted through a huge gap in the Palace backline to slide a low shot past Jack Butland.
Hakim Ziyech had a late chance to net a third, and add with extra intensity to what was Chelsea’s fourth win by a multi-goal margin across their previous five FA Cup semi-final wins. Yet, while the ‘Blues’ will rightly celebrate tonight, Thomas Tuchel’s men still have a multitude of demons to slay, after a return of two FA Cup final defeats in as many years, on top of their penalty loss to fellow finalists Liverpool in February.