Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount netted for Chelsea as they defeated Crystal Palace 2-0 in the FA Cup semi-final to set up a final with Liverpool next month.
Loftus-Cheek, who came on for the injured Mateo Kovacic midway through the first half, latched onto a loose ball in the area and his fierce drive aided on its way to the net by Joachim Andersen 20 minutes into the second half.
Mount put the game beyond doubt 14 minutes from time when he played a one-two with Timo Werner on the edge of the Palace area before waltzing towards goal and slotting home.
In a game of few shots at goal, Palace will rue two headed chances from corners Cheikhou Kouyate and Joachim Anderson, before and after the Chelsea goals, neither of which found the target.
Romelu Lukaku, on as a late substitute, almost added to the scoreline in the 90th minute but he could only hit the post from close range after Timo Werner squared the ball for him inside the six-yard box.
Chance wasted by Palace – This was a game that felt there for the taking for Crystal Palace. Chelsea in the first half were well off their game and did not start the second half in scintillating form but the Eagles hardly got out of their half in the early stages after the restart. Patrick Vieira’s placid manner has been successful in getting the best out of the Palace squad but what he needed was their players to play with the intensity of Vieira the player and take the game to a Blues side far from their best.
By letting Chelsea camp in their half they put themselves in danger of a mistake or sublime skill deciding the game – and the former did, as the unfortunate Tyrick Mitchell gave away the ball 25 yards from goal, Kai Havertz was played into the box and the ball fell to Loftus-Cheek to break the deadlock.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea) – After being entrusted with a starting berth at the Bernabeu, Loftus-Cheek would have been disappointed not to be selected to start this game but made up for it when Kovacic’s injury presented him with an earlier than expected opportunity. The game had been drab up until this point, and continued to be in truth, but at least Loftus-Cheek showed the intent to drive at the opposition and his attitude rubbed off on team-mates as they took control of the game in the second half, culminating in him netting the game’s crucial goal.
Chelsea: Mendy 6; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 6, Rudiger 6; James 6, Jorginho 6, Kovacic 6, Alonso 6; Mount 7, Havertz 6, Werner 7.
Subs: Loftus-Cheek 8*, Ziyech 6, Lukaku 5, Kante 6, Thiago Silva 6.
Crystal Palace: Butland 7, Ward 7, Guehi 7, Andersen 6, Mitchell 5; Kouyate 6, McArthur 7, Schlupp 6; Zaha 6, Eze 6; Mateta 6.
Subs: Ayew 6, Olise 6, Benteke 6.
61′ KOUYATE NOT FAR AWAY! He jumps highest to meet Eze’s corner but he misjudges the ball and it clips his shoulder before drifting wide of the goal.
65′ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! Loftus-Cheek smashes home on the half-volley after Mitchell gave the ball away and Havertz was allowed to run into the box, the ball fell to the England international whose effort deflected off Andersen before smashing into the net.
76′ GOAL FOR CHELSEA! Mount scores his 12th goal of the season. Mount played a ball to the left edge of the penalty area to Werner who then found the young England star in the box with a sidefooted pass, waltzed through and slotted home.
78′ ANDERSEN HAD TO SCORE! Ayew flicks on a corner at the front post and Andersen free at the far post could not keep his header down.
90′ LUKAKU HITS THE POST! This time he does anticipate Werner squaring a ball in the six-yard box but sliding in he hits the woodwork with Butland saving the rebound from Ziyech.