Image: Wikimedia Commons/MojNews
Image: Wikimedia Commons/MojNews

Liverpool and Chelsea to meet in FA Cup Final

Liverpool and Chelsea made their way through to the FA Cup Final in what will be a rematch of the Carabao Cup Final earlier this season, after both put on strong showings to see of Manchester City and Crystal Palace respectively.

Manchester City 2-3 Liverpool

A formidable first half display proved enough for Liverpool to survive a late scare to beat Manchester City and reach their first FA Cup final in 10 years.

Before the game, a minute’s silence had been scheduled to commemorate the anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 97 Liverpool fans tragically lost their lives. The minute’s silence was overshadowed by a section of the Manchester City fans chanting, forcing the referee to cut it short. City subsequently issued a formal apology to Liverpool.

The match was a repeat of both teams’ last Premier League fixture at the Etihad, but it was Liverpool who came out on top in the first half of the semi-final. Liverpool were ruthless in their pressing and passing in what Jürgen Klopp called “one of the best [first halves that they have] ever played”.

Klopp’s side opened the scoring inside 10 minutes by a looping Ibrahima Konaté header. The Frenchman’s third headed goal in his last three starts gave Liverpool early control of the tie.

The Reds were gifted a second through Sadio Mané after a mistake from goalkeeper, Zack Steffen. Mané led a relentless Liverpool press to force John Stones back to Steffen.

The American could not emulate the composure shown by City’s Number 1, Ederson, who was pressed by Diogo Jota during Sunday’s draw. Steffen’s miscontrol in the six yard box allowed Mané to slide in and tackle the goalkeeper to build a commanding, and somewhat unprecedented, lead.

Liverpool fans were sent into delirium after Mané got his second of the game to give the Reds a 3-0 first half lead.

The goal was catalysed by a trademark switch of play from Trent Alexander-Arnold on the stroke of half time. Thiago Alcantara found Mané to power a near-post volley past Steffen for the Liverpool forward’s third goal against Manchester City in a week.

Pep Guardiola’s side knew they had to score early to stand a chance of getting back into  the game. Gabriel Jesus’ run in behind Virgil van Dijk and ball across the box allowed Jack Grealish to score within two minutes of the restart.

City continued to pile on the pressure, with the looming threat of Kevin De Bruyne potentially being substituted on. Jesus spurned City’s best chance of the game, going through one-on-one with Alisson and forcing the goalkeeper into making a smart save.

Liverpool did manage a chance in the second half, with out-of-form Premier League top scorer, Mohamed Salah, skewing a chip into the side netting. Bernardo Silva pulled another goal back for Manchester City late on, which left four tense minutes of stoppage time for the Reds to endure. Klopp’s side survived a few scares late on but managed to secure the win.

Premier League all-time top scorer, Alan Shearer, suggested that the game was won and lost due to the choices of goalkeeper. “[U]ltimately, their [Manchester City’s] goalkeeper has made mistakes which have cost them. Alisson in that second half pulled off two very good saves,” Shearer noted. While Liverpool were not at their best in the second half, their goalkeeper was.

Liverpool’s hunt for an unprecedented quadruple remains on the cards. Their semi-final performance will give them greater confidence for the end of the season, with them hosting Manchester United and Everton next in the Premier League.

No team in history has ever lost three consecutive FA Cup finals and the Blues will not be looking to set any new records

Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace

Chelsea have reached their 16th FA Cup final after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 at Wembley on Sunday.

In what was politely described as a “stodgy game” by former Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison, the biggest chance in the first half came from the South London side.

Cheikhou Kouyaté’s shot through a crowd of bodies was well-saved and pushed away by Édouard Mendy, before Joachim Andersen hit the woodwork from an offside position.

The first half continued with bouts of Chelsea possession, but ultimately the Blues opted to pass sideways instead of forwards.

In the second half, Thomas Tuchel’s side began to prefer a more direct route to goal instead of their slow first half build-up play. The breakthrough came for Chelsea as Tyrick Mitchell was caught dawdling on the ball on the edge of his area.

Kai Havertz’s cut back was met by a thunderous strike from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had come on for the injured Mateo Kovačić. The substitute’s deflected effort flew past Jack Butland and gave the Blues a reward for their patience.

After going a goal down, Crystal Palace lacked the grit and determination that was once characteristic of their manager and the fate of Patrick Viera’s men was all but sealed 14 minutes from time.

Mason Mount grabbed his twelfth goal of the season after a one-two with Werner on the edge of the area. His excellent first touch allowed him to open up space to slot the ball past Butland.

Mount’s four goals in the last three games have come at a good time for Chelsea who are also looking to solidify their place in the top four.

Palace offered very little going forward in search of a way back into the final. Their only real chance came 10 minutes before time when Andersen mistimed a header from a corner. The defender really ought to have scored and so the wait for his first goal for Palace continues.

Chelsea managed to reach the final without facing many Palace attempts, but Viera’s side should be proud of their progress under the former Arsenal captain.

Thomas Tuchel lauded his side’s “patient” performance and were aware of not “tak[ing] too much risk” going forward. Liverpool can perhaps expect a more outgoing Chelsea side who might seek to neutralise the Reds’ attacking play.

No team in history has ever lost three consecutive FA Cup finals and the Blues will not be looking to set any new records. Having been knocked out of the Champions League earlier in the week, the FA Cup represents Chelsea’s only realistic chance to secure silverware this season.

What next for the FA Cup?

Chelsea and Liverpool will meet in the final at Wembley on 14 May. After the two teams met in the Carabao Cup final earlier in the season, which Liverpool won on penalties, fans can expect another tightly contested encounter. The final will be a repeat fixture of Liverpool’s most recent FA Cup final appearance in 2011-12, in which Chelsea beat the Reds 2-1.


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