Chelsea FC seems to put their Champions League defeat they suffered in the hands of Real Madrid behind them as they bounced back to book their place in this season’s FA Cup final as goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount saw off a resolute Crystal Palace at Wembley.
It had been a cagey affair for the opening hour with few chances for either side and arguably the biggest opening coming for Palace through a set-piece which Cheikhou Kouyate could not guide towards target. They were made to pay for that spurned opportunity minutes later when Loftus-Cheek– who spent the 2017-18 campaign on loan at Crystal Palace, popped up inside the area to find the net.
After falling behind, Palace threw caution to the wind with the introduction of Christian Benteke and Michael Olise. However, this decision cost the Crystal Palace side as they were left vulnerable at the back.
With 14 minutes left on the clock, Mason Mount doubled Chelsea’s lead after neat build-up play on the edge of the area. It was enough to set up a second successive domestic cup final of the campaign against Liverpool.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek Shines
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s strike was his first goal for the club since 19th May 2019, just one month shy of three years. While he had a season on loan at Fulham in that spell, where he scored just once, it was a surprisingly long draught for the 26-year-old.
The fine strike which took a slight defection past Palace goalkeeper Jack Butland was his first for the Blues since his goal in another semi-final: the Europa League 2019 tie against Eintracht Frankfurt, when the Blues needed penalties to progress.
Speaking on Friday ahead of the match, Chelsea Head Coach, Thomas TTuchel said of the midfielder, “Self-confidence doesn’t come from being big and tall and good looking.” Well maybe not, but scoring in an FA Cup semi final will certainly help.
First Meeting in A long While
Crystal Palace were back at Wembley for the first time since the 2016 FA Cup final, when they came close to downing Manchester United before late heartbreak. Patrick Vieira, the Palace Coach has restored the club to that level and this game does not feel like a one-off, but the start of a special period for Palace.
Cheikhou Kouyate spurned a glorious opportunity with the match scoreless while Joachim Andersen missed an even better chance with Vieira’s side two goals down. This was not Palace’s day, but their noisy fans will not be too downhearted.
One talking aspect was Romelu Lukaku who is the most expensive signing in the history of English football but has become a bit-part player at Chelsea. The Belgian international has not started a Premier League game in almost two months and was also almost exclusively used as a substitute in the Champions League.
Lukaku has started all four FA Cup matches for the Blues– all against lower league opposition in which he had netted three goals, the only times he has found the net this season. It was debated in the build-up to kick-off if he would be selected for the more important clash but he was not.
This victory will certainly boost the confidence level of Chelsea and heal past wounds of supporters across the world.