Spurs’ FA Cup hopes shattered by Chelsea in Wembley thriller
Blues win 4-2 as Wembley serves up more heartache for Tottenham
FA Cup Semi-Final
CHELSEA 4, SPURS 2
IN the end, Wembley proved to be another deeply disappointing experience for Spurs, despite dominating this FA Cup semi final thriller against west London rivals Chelsea.
With four strikes on target resulting in four goals, the Blues were simply far more clinical, and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s decision to use star player Eden Hazard as an impact substitute proved ultimately key.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side fought back twice to come from behind, with a clever Harry Kane header in the first half and a brilliant goal from Dele Alli in the second, both provided by Christian Eriksen.
But Hazard, who came on when the score was 2-2, made the difference as he scored Chelsea’s third and turned provider for Chelsea’s fourth goal – an 80th-minute thunderbolt from Nemanja Matic that shattered Tottenham’s hopes of FA Cup glory.
Speaking after the game, Pochettino said he was proud of his young side and believed they had dominated the tie.
He added: “The result is difficult to explain. It is important to describe the momentum of the game – Chelsea scored the first time the went forward, and then we dominated. We played really well and showed great character. 4-2 looks impressive for Chelsea, but I feel very proud of my players.”
Pochettino said he expected his team to pick themselves up in time for Wednesday’s away fixture at Crystal Palace – and keep the heat on Chelsea in the Premier League.
He added: “It won’t impact on our league form. The players are very disappointed right now, but tomorrow they will come in for training and focus on the league. Play like that today and we will win games.
“It is important to remember we are building a team for the next few years. This is our second season fighting for trophies.”
Spurs, who have struggled at Wembley in European competitions this year, had fallen behind after just four minutes through a Willian free kick. The north London team struggled to find an answer, with Chelsea pressing high. The Blues could have got a second shortly afterwards after Spurs lost possession deep in their own half but Mousa Dembélé was able to come to the rescue in the box.
It looked as if Spurs played with fear. They lacked conviction in the tackle, in complete contrast to the way they have played at the Lane this season.
However, the game changed in the 16th minute, when Alli was brought down 30 yards from goal and was awarded a free kick, which resulted in a corner. Trippier found Eriksen, whose left-footed low cross found Kane’s head, and he sent it past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into the left corner, sending the white end of Wembley into a frenzy.
From then on Spurs started playing with greater confidence and started pressing Chelsea – who started without Hazard and striker Diego Costa.
Chelsea seemed happy for Spurs to have the ball – as they had already proven to be dangerous on the break – but the Blues looked vulnerable.
Yet, Spurs failed to convert dominance into a lead, and the game was about to be turned on its head again when out of nothing Chelsea got a cheap penalty after Moses’ dived over Son’s outstretched legs in the box.
Willian sent Lloris the other way and Chelsea were 2-1 up, against the run of play. It was a big blow for Spurs, who had dominated the game completely since Kane’s 10th minute goal.
It also confirmed that playing Heung Min Son, who had a poor game playing in the left wingback position, was an error by Pochettino, who had chosen that formation to counter Moses.
However, Spurs came back strong out of the dressing room. In the 52nd minute, Kane found Trippier, who gave the ball to Eriksen. The Dane’s inch-perfect, right-footed cross found the Alli, who ended his run into the box by powering the ball past Courtois.
For the the next five minutes, the Alli song filled the Brent air and Spurs went in pursuit of another goal.
Then, in a repeat of what happened in the first half, sustained pressure from Tottenham resulted in nothing, and Chelsea broke through the excellent Moses. The resulting corner was initially cleared, but then fell to the feet of Hazard on the edge of the box. His left-footed finish found the bottom corner and Chelsea were in front again, against the run of play.
Five minutes later saw another foray by Hazard into the box, and the Belgian found Matic, who powered the ball against the crossbar and in with a terrific left-footed strike.
Chelsea will face the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Manchester City and Arsenal in the final on May 27.
SPURS: Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Trippier, Son (Walker, 68), Wanyama (Nkoudou, 80), Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Kane.
Subs not used: Davies, Lopez, Janssen, Sissoko, Wimmer.