FA Cup: Chelsea break Crystal Palace resistance, Liverpool wait
Chelsea reached their third straight FA Cup final with a hard-earned 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to set up a showdown with quadruple-chasing Liverpool.
Second-half goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount fired Thomas Tuchel’s side to victory in the semi-final and secured a place in the May 14 showpiece match versus Liverpool, who had defeated Manchester City 3-2 on Saturday.
In their fifth FA Cup final appearance in six years, Chelsea will look to make amends after being runners-up to Leicester City and Arsenal in the last two seasons and also try to avenge their League Cup final loss to Liverpool in February.
“I’m happy to be part of another FA Cup final,” Tuchel said. “It’s a huge competition. I’m very grateful and we’ll be ready.” After an attritional first hour, a patient Chelsea side finally broke Palace’s stubborn resistance in the 65th minute through substitute Loftus-Cheek, who had replaced the injured Mateo Kovacic midway through the first half.
Kai Havertz’s cross from the right was deflected out to former Palace loanee Loftus-Cheek who hammered a ferocious shot that hit opposing defender Joachim Andersen and flew into the net for the 26-year-old’s first goal of the season.
Mount added a crucial second just about 10 minutes later and sealed the victory for Chelsea, playing Timo Werner’s ball from the edge of the box past Andersen with his first touch and beating goalkeeper Jack Butland with his second.
Patrick Vieira’s Palace had defended well to contain Chelsea until Loftus-Cheek broke the deadlock and were nearly rewarded for a gritty display, with Cheikhou Kouyate twice coming close.
Palace’s talisman Wilfried Zaha was unable to shake off his marker Reece James and make an impact, while Eberechi Eze offered little as a replacement for on-loan midfielder Connor Gallagher, who was unable to play against his parent club.
The win was a tonic for eight-time FA Cup winners Chelsea after Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final exit at Real Madrid, where the holders won the second leg 3-2 after extra time but were eliminated 4-5 on aggregate.
It also keeps them in contention to end a turbulent season with silverware when they take on Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool again next month, having lost 11-10 to them on penalties in the League Cup final in February after a 0-0 draw following extra time.
“I think it took a little deflection but I’ll take it... it’s long overdue,” Loftus-Cheek said of his goal.
“We want to get Liverpool back, simple as that. The League Cup final was a fantastic game. Hopefully we’ll get our revenge.”
Klopp played down his team’s chances of winning an unprecedented quadruple this season. “I think a game like today (Saturday’s) shows it even more how unlikely it is to do something like that,” Klopp told reporters when asked about their quadruple hopes.
“We went through against City... and in three days we play again against Manchester United, who with their three points and the results from Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, the fight for the Champions League is open for all of the three.
“Then in a few days we play Everton... then we play Villarreal, (which) will not be a friendly game...
“Then Newcastle United and all these kind of things, so it’s just incredibly intense and it is really unlikely the team will win all the games,” he added.