Easter Sermon On The Mount: Chelsea Reach FA Cup Final

Chelsea recovered from a slow start to beat Crystal Palace 2-0
18:29, 17 Apr 2022

Chelsea recovered from a slow start to belatedly put Crystal Palace to the sword at Wembley. This Easter Sunday FA Cup semi final took a while to get going, but the quality in Thomas Tuchel’s squad shone through in the end. The reigning European champions will now meet Liverpool in a repeat of this year’s Carabao Cup final. Chelsea will be hoping to avenge that defeat and lift the famous old cup in May.

The game started in a deliberate, cagey manner. Chelsea eased into proceedings, seeing plenty of the ball but offering little in the way of penetration. Kai Havertz’s header straight into the arms of Jack Butland was the earliest sniff of goal for either team. Mateo Kovacic was replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek early on, after injuring his ankle after an awkward slip on the turf. 

Timo Werner got to the left byline and whipped an enticing ball over the top, but Cesar Azpilicueta’s audacious scissors kick was very much a defender’s finish. At the other end, Palace enjoyed the chance of the half when Cheikhou Kouyate’s thunderbolt drew a brilliant save from Edouard Mendy. The rebound was struck against the post by Joachim Andersen, but the linesman’s flag dictated it would not have counted.

Chelsea’s frustrations boiled over when Havertz dived in anticipation of a challenge from Marc Guehi. The England defender had long since removed his leg from the German’s path, and Havertz was red-faced when he was booked for his troubles.

Frustration also seemed to be the motivator for Mason Mount’s attempt just after half time. The  England star snatched at his long-range shot, sending it high and wide. Havertz then found Azpilicueta with a clever ball out wide. The right-back’s cross to the back post was inviting but was not met with a Chelsea head. It was typical of the sort of half-chances that had characterised the game to this point.

Palace’s stubborn resistance was eventually broken by Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Havertz’s attempted cross was deflected away but only as far as the midfielder, who hammered home his finish. It was Loftus-Cheek’s first Chelsea goal since the 2019 Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt. Injuries and a loan spell at Fulham have limited his game time for the west London club, but Thomas Tuchel has kept faith with the player. That faith was rewarded in spades by this vital contribution.

Having broken the deadlock, the momentum was firmly Chelsea’s now. Werner exchanged passes with Mason Mount on the edge of the box, before the latter burst through and poked the ball to Butland’s left and into the corner of the net. It was the midfielder’s fourth goal in three games, and he was quickly removed as part of a raft of substitutions. Any Palace hopes that the quality would drop with the three changes were extinguished when Romelu Lukaku, N’golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech took to the pitch. Chelsea are in a troubled place off the field, but on it Tuchel has an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

Andersen had a great opportunity as a corner was nodded to him at the back post, but he ballooned his attempt over the bar. It was a glaring miss at a crucial, and you sensed it could be the last for the dispirited Palace.

Lukaku’s woes nearly ended when a superb cross from Werner presented him with a gilt-edged chance. The Belgian hit the post, and Ziyech saw his attempt from the rebound blocked. It was to be the last genuine chance of the game, as Chelsea could revel in a job well done. It was tough on Palace, who had done brilliantly to reach this stage of the competition. But Chelsea’s quality is such that even below their best, they are still more than a match for most sides.

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