Chelsea qualified for their second consecutive FA Cup final after beating at Wembley Stadium in a hard-fought match at Southampton 2-0 thanks to goals from France’s Olivier Giroud and Spain’s Álvaro Morata
The men of Antonio Conte, fifth in the Premier League and eliminated months ago in the Champions League, will compete for the only title in play in England on May 19 on this same stage with Manchester United, executioner on Saturday of Tottenham Hotspur (2-1).
The second semifinal, a priori the most unbalanced of the two, measured a Chelsea who had recovered sensations in recent weeks and still dreamed of finishing the league between the first four with a needy Southampton, engaged in the battle to avoid the decline and that he did not win a game in the Premier since February 17.
The finalist of last year -came in the final against Arsenal- came out with surprises in his ‘eleven’. With Courtois ‘touched’ and Marcos Alonso sanctioned, Conte opted for the Argentine Willy Caballero in the goal and Emerson on the left side, in a 3-4-3 system with Giroud as the most advanced player instead of the usual Morata.
In the ‘Saints’, Mark Hughes changed the scheme and bet start with a 3-5-2, with the Long and Austin rapids up, and the Lemina muscle in the ruffle line instead of the creation of Ward-Prowse.
The first half was balanced, with Hazard, named the best footballer of the game, taking the handle of the attack of the ‘Blues’ and Southampton folded back looking for the ‘contras’ with their two bullets up.
The best chance of the first 45 minutes was had, however, the Brazilian Willian -was replaced in the second half and left visibly angry- after a loss of Oriol Romeu in his field and a great counterattack led by Hazard that the ‘ 22 ‘did not finish. His good shot with the left side repelled the crossbar before a Gentleman who remained still.
Giroud was in charge of breaking the parity, which responded to Conte’s trust in the best way possible. A minute after the interval, the seasoned Frenchman picked up a pass from Hazard and, in a great move, was dribbling rivals until Lemina, Yoshida, Cedric, and Bednarek were seated, misled the goalkeeper McCarthy and defined a soft right.
He moved the bench Hughes then looking for more depth and entered the ends Tadic and Redmond by Hojbjerg and Long, respectively. They improved those of the south of England, who was about to equal the collision with a Redmond shot that Caballero, from the ground, managed to clear a corner kick.
Chelsea reacted well and gave the lace to the ‘Saints’ in the absence of eight minutes to go. Morata, who had replaced Giroud three minutes earlier, received a millimetric center from his best partner, Azpilicueta, won the jump to Hoedt and poked with the head the ball out of the reach of a McCarthy who made the statue.
He did not touch the Wembley light again and Chelsea finished with a deserved win that puts them in their second consecutive Cup of England Cup final.
Conte will seek revenge for the disappointment of last year on May 19 against Manchester United, which will be a reissue of the 2007 FA Cup final, the first that played in the new Wembley and fell on the side of the Londoners 1-0 thanks to a goal from Didier Drogba in extra time.
2 – Chelsea: Knight; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rüdiger; Moses, Kanté, Fàbregas (Pedro, m.75), Emerson; Willian (Bakayoko, m.63), Hazard and Giroud (Morata, m.79).
0 – Southampton: McCarthy; Soares, Hoedt, Yoshida, Bednarek (Gabbiadini, m.78), Bertrand; Romeu, Hojbjerg (Tadic, m.63), Lemina; Austin and Long (Redmond, m.63).
Goals: 1-0, m.46: Giroud. 2-0, m.82: Morata.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (ENG). He admonished Yoshida (m.40), Romeu (m.50), Lemina (m.54) and Hoedt (m.65), from Southampton.
Incidents: the second semifinal of the FA Cup (Cup of England), disputed in the stadium of Wembley (London), before 73,416 spectators. Chelsea will face off on May 19 with Manchester United in the final.