Match Review – FA Cup Semi-Final: Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea

Chelsea secured their place against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final in stylish fashion at Wembley on Sunday, after a 3-1 victory against Manchester United. United, who never really got going at all in the match, were the architects of their own downfall after defensive and goalkeeping errors led to all three of the goals.  

Olivier Giroud, continuing his good form since the restart, opened the scoring late in first half stoppage time, whilst Mason Mount and a Harry Maguire own goal sealed the victory before United clawed one back with a late consolation penalty from Bruno Fernandes.

Chelsea made the short trip across London to Wembley, facing up to an opposition that had already beaten them three times this season. That meant manager Frank Lampard was tasked with finding a formula to beat Solskjaer’s United. Lampard set his side out in a 3-4-3 formation, switching from the four at the back used in the laboured 1-0 victory against Norwich in midweek.

In one of the more unexpected twists in the lineup, Christian Pulisic was left on the bench as Mason Mount filled in on the left.

Both sides began the game with good spells of possession, knocking the ball around well however they also struggled to carve out any early chances. Lots of the possession was in front of the opposition’s defence – one of Chelsea’s most consistent problems this season.

The closest either team came in the opening ten minutes was through Reece James, who carried the ball forward uncontested as the United players dropped off, before unleashing a powerful effort that David De Gea got a strong hand on to push over the bar.

The effort from James spurred Chelsea on, and Marcos Alonso will be disappointed that he didn’t open the scoring with what could have been a lovely goal. The ball was worked brilliantly from front-to-back in a flowing move, before Azpilicueta’s back-post cross was met by Alonso who could only head over.

Lampard will have been pleased at how his side dominated the ball in the next stage of the game, but again, he will have been wary to say the least at the prospect of the United counter attack considering that Chelsea had not made their possession count.

Fernandes was shackled for the most part by Kovacic and Jorginho. Image Credit: PA.

Following the Water Break, United fired their first warning shot at Willy Caballero’s goal. It was a Bruno Fernandes free-kick, from more than threatening range, which needed tipping over in comfortable fashion.

As the final period of the first half played out, there were little chances or passages of play to talk about from either team, and the most significant moment was an unfortunate injury for United defender Eric Bailly.

A nasty injury for Bailly. Image Credit: Pool via Reuters.

The Ivorian centre-back clashed heads with team mate Harry Maguire, and the United captain, who needed his head bandaged up before continuing, came off lightly. Bailly was not so lucky, and was down for more than five minutes before being stretchered off.

The extended injury break led to the first half going just past the 55 minute mark, when Chelsea finally got the reward their possession and domination deserved.

Olivier Giroud opens the scoring for Chelsea. Image Credit: Getty Images.

Cesar Azpilicueta found space after a good one-two with Willian down the right-hand side, before driving towards the byline and drilling the ball in low towards the front post. Olivier Giroud was waiting there to poke it home after making a fantastic run in front of Victor Lindelof. The cute finish was the Frenchman’s fifth goal in Project Restart.

United’s defenders and goalkeeper will be disappointed at the manner in which Giroud broke the deadlock, getting across Lindelof far too easily before De Gea didn’t exactly cover himself in glory.

Normally here you would read a first half overview – today it’s important to press right on from Giroud’s opener to another De Gea central moment, less than a minute into the second half.

Mason Mount picked up a bouncing ball in midfield following a shocking pass from Brandon Williams, before dribbling at the United defenders and shooting fairly early, making only a half-decent connection on the strike that was aimed towards the near post. David De Gea, who proceeded to get down to meet the shot did not make the sufficient contact to block, and could only touch the ball into the corner.

Mount celebrates the second goal. Image Credit: Andy Rain/Getty Images.

Chelsea’s players could hardly believe their luck as they wheeled away to celebrate doubling the lead in quicker fashion than they ever could have imagined. After all of the Blues’ Kepa woes this season, it was nice to see the focus on the man between the opposition’s sticks instead of ours.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacted quickly after seeing his team fall further behind, as Mason Greenwood, a youngster who looks destined for greatness after his fantastic breakthrough form, and Paul Pogba, in from the cold and in-form, came on to the pitch after 50 minutes. However, they didn’t spark United into life and Mount, Giroud and Alonso all missed chances to seal it.

The 65th minute saw Chelsea let off the hook again by United, as Caballero looked to come and claim a corner unsuccessfully, but Maguire couldn’t head into the unguarded net.

This is the fourth season in a row that the teams have faced each other in the FA Cup, a run that includes Chelsea’s 2018 final victory, and as the match reached the second-half Water Break, it looked as if Lampard’s side would finally get the better of United – at the fourth attempt of the season.

As the game wore on, the confidence running through every single one of the Chelsea players was visible; they moved the ball around defence fluidly and constantly pressured the opposition whilst looking to kill off the game.

With the game sat at 2-0 and the next goal carrying so much weight in terms of momentum, it never looked like coming from anything other than a player wearing Blue.

Reece James was almost the man to secure the victory, popping up at the back post from a corner, and heading back across De Gea, who decided to finally make a decent save.

Chelsea fans didn’t have to wait much longer for another goal to seal the victory though, as United failed to clear their lines from this position. Alonso found space on the left and crossed in low towards Antonio Rudiger, whose presence was enough to force Maguire to turn into his own net.

Rudiger scores a third. Image Credit: Pool/AFP.

Unfortunately for Chelsea’s defenders, they didn’t have a deserved clean sheet to take home with them alongside victory, after substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi gave away an 85th minute penalty after a clumsy attempted challenge in the box on Anthony Martial.

Suppressed brilliantly for the majority of the game, it was midfielder Bruno Fernandes who stepped up to take the spot kick, converting in Jorginho’s trademark ‘hop-skip-shoot’ penalty technique.

Little more than a late consolation, United couldn’t use the goal to ignite an unlikely comeback as Chelsea showed elements of game management that have been lacking at so many moments earlier in this season.

As extra time drew to a close, Chelsea’s players never gave up the pressing style they were set out in, never lowered the intensity and never gave their opposition a look in. A neat one-two with Hudson-Odoi and Abraham set the former in, but he was only able to blaze over the crossbar before the Blues could celebrate.

Match Stats

Stats provided by The FA Cup Official Website.

Player Ratings

Concluding Remarks

Frank Lampard and his team deserve so much credit for their approach to the game, after coming into it as the underdogs.

The perfect day of results for the Blues after top four rivals Leicester lost to Tottenham, the team can look forward to returning to Wembley on the 1st of August for the final against Arsenal.   

Leave a Reply