Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea
Only a week ago, I referred to the importance of scoring at certain times in a match and the significant influence it inevitably has on a result.
Well, this was a prime example.
This may not have been a Wembley classic but, as far as this FA Cup semi-final tie was concerned, it was certainly a classic example of scoring at exactly the right times.
Even if the misfortune to Eric Bailly prompted the first half to last an hour and possibly led to Manchester United being less than alert, that Chelsea opened the scoring in the 11th minute of first-half stoppage time and then again within seconds of the restart was evidence of perfect timing.
Frank Lampard’s men never looked back.
Highlights of the game
With a surreal atmosphere inside an empty Wembley Stadium, it had been a dull first half in which chances were few.
Marcos Alonso thumped a header over the bar from six yards, Bruno Fernandes saw a free-kick tipped over by Willy Caballero and Kurt Zouma headed narrowly over, clashing heads with Bailly as they dived for the ball.
It was to prove pivotal.
Moments later, Bailly clashed heads again with his own skipper, Harry Maguire, and in distressing scenes for both players, had to leave the field.
His departure on a stretcher in a neck brace was clearly of concern and prompted a lengthy spell of stoppage time, at the conclusion of which United switched off at the back.
After quick thinking from Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta and William, Giroud flicked home the opener and the Londoners had the lead.
If there was an argument that goalkeeper David De Gea should have done better, there could be no doubt he was responsible for a howler (not the first unacceptable mistake of late) of massive proportions almost as soon as play resumed after the break.
There seemed limited danger when Mason Mount, 35 yards from goal, ran towards goal, yet his routine low shot somehow went through the fingers of the Spanish number one and, realistically, it was contest over.
Chelsea, who looked much fresher from the start – no surprise given United’s schedule of late – had created more FA Cup 2020 highlights of their own and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, which had already beaten Chelsea three times this season, didn’t appear to have the energy or their belief they could come back.
A one-sided scoreline was capped off with the third goal, credited to an own goal by Maguire under pressure from centre-back Antonio Rudiger, as United went down to defeat.
Sure, it was the first time in 19 matches they had lost (a run going back to January) but it was the most important game of their season to date.
An accomplished penalty from Fernandes after substitute Anthony Martial was fouled in the penalty box was a mere footnote as the tireless Blues ran out deserved winners.
The SBOBET FA Cup 2020 betting odds may not have favoured an all-London final before the weekend began but that is what we have and it should be entertaining.
Chelsea are the most successful side in the FA Cup this century, reaching nine finals and winning six titles. This was their third semi-final appearance in four seasons, and 11th this century.
Giroud has scored 16 FA Cup goals in 29 appearances and provided eight assists.
Since his debut in the FA Cup in January 2013, only Manchester City frontman Sergio Aguero (19) has netted more in this period than the Frenchman.
This is the fourth season in a row Chelsea and Man Utd have met in the FA Cup and Chelsea have won three of the encounters.
The Blues have lost only one of their past 14 FA Cup ties (W10, D3).
Since his debut for Man Utd in February, Fernandes has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other Premier League player in this period (nine goals, eight assists).
This was United’s 30th FA Cup semi-final – a joint record with Arsenal. The Red Devils had progressed from 15 of their past 18 FA Cup semi-finals, losing on penalties against Everton in 2009 and 0-1 against Manchester City in 2011.
Two crucial league games await these sides now in less than 72 hours’ time.
Manchester United host West Ham at Old Trafford, while Chelsea visit newly crowned champions Liverpool.
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