It may not have been the best of season’s for Chelsea, but a Wembley appearance, is still something special, even in a semi-final of a devalued FA Cup.
The last time Chelsea met Southampton, a week ago, Chelsea had motivational issues in the first half. That was remedied in the second half with the introduction of Olivier Giroud. Chelsea had to start this game better.
Antonio Conte picked a strong eleven. Willy Caballero retained his place in the FA Cup side having played in all rounds so far. Giroud retained his place with Alvaro Morata consigned to the bench.
Chelsea certainly started the game more like a team wanting to win the game. For all the possession the Blues had though, there was not much end product. Chelsea’s chance was when Willian saw an effort cannon back off the bar, with the keeper well beaten.
Southampton produced very little in front of goal, but they managed to hold out until half-time. It was Conte who would be the happier of the two managers, but only just. Mark Hughes had some work to do to try and get his side going. If the FA Cup produces magic, the viewing nation had to hope Harry Potter was in the stadium.
Half-time: Chelsea 0-0 Southampton
The restart produced an instant goal for Chelsea. Potter lives….A ball into the box was well controlled by Eden Hazard as he was stumbling over, he managed to get the ball away to Giroud. The Frenchman surrounded by four Saints defenders tip-toed his way round them all before toe-poking the ball into the net as he, himself stumbled over. That description doesn’t do the goal justice, over to BT Sports.
Olivier Giroud ?
Footwork level = ?
A sublime goal! pic.twitter.com/YDM5x68yGN
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 22, 2018
Conte celebrated with the fans, Giroud high-fived his boss. It was like a throwback Sunday. With the lead secured, most expected the floodgates to open. They didn’t though as Chelsea sat back allowing Saints more time on the ball and more room to play. Shane Long ought to have grabbed an equaliser, but his first touch was poor when in on goal and the chance was gone.
Conte pulled was of his famous surprise substitutions, replacing the busy Willian with Tiemoue Bakayoko. One day we’ll look back and thank Antonio for his foresight in sticking with the misfiring Frenchman, today it felt all wrong. Willian, stormed down the tunnel, maybe he was injured, maybe he was not happy. Chelsea fans held their collective breath.
Caballero earned his keep with a brilliant save before Conte replaced a central midfielder for an attacking midfielder, countering his previous switch. Pedro replaced Fabregas. Southampton continued to knock at Chelsea’s defensive door.
Olivier Giroud received a standing ovation from the Chelsea supporters when he was replaced by Alvaro Morata as the game petered out. Morata may have felt he had something to prove having seen Giroud get his Chelsea career going. After Thursday’s victory over Burnley, Morata was compelled to apologise for his behaviour on the bench.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s signature cross to the far post, saw Morata rise and the ball into the ground and into the goal. The Spaniard’s instant reaction after scoring was to head to Chelsea fans, hands clamped together in atonement. Just maybe a warm night in Burnley was a lightbulb moment for Morata. His demeanour was altogether happier.
After that it was all but over. Southampton would not be finding their way back into this game as Chelsea had a week ago.
The last week for Chelsea has been a pretty good one. They’ve halved Tottenham’s lead for 4th place in the Premier League. Won three games, got to an FA Cup Final and seen Spurs knocked out of one. Could Harry Potter be working a bit more magic?
Full Time: Chelsea 2-0 Southampton