Match report as Chelsea overcome Crystal Palace at Wembley to book their place in the FA Cup final, where they will face seven-time winners Liverpool on May 14; Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount score in second half to seal a 2-0 victory for Thomas Tuchel's side
Monday 18 April 2022 13:22, UK
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount scored second-half goals as Chelsea earned a hard-fought 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Wembley to reach their third consecutive FA Cup final.
On a bright Easter Sunday afternoon in London, substitute Loftus-Cheek's first goal of the season (65) and Mount's composed finish 11 minutes later were enough to book a meeting with seven-time winners Liverpool on May 14 in a repeat of February's Carabao Cup final.
After suffering Champions League heartbreak in Madrid on Tuesday, Chelsea appeared to carry that disappointment into their second domestic semi-final of the season as they started lethargically and without any real conviction.
In a quiet and uneventful first half, the best chance fell to Palace, with Cheikhou Kouyate's volleyed drive forcing Edouard Mendy into a fine save before an offside Joachim Andersen hit a post with the rebound.
The tie needed a moment of magic and Loftus-Cheek, who had replaced the injured Mateo Kovacic midway through the opening period, delivered just that 20 minutes after the interval.
Chelsea: Mendy (7), James (7), Christensen (7), Rudiger (7), Azpilicueta (7), Jorginho (7), Kovacic (6), Alonso (7), Mount (7), Havertz (6), Werner (7).
Subs: Loftus-Cheek (8), Ziyech (n/a), Lukaku (n/a), Kante (n/a), Silva (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Butland (6), Kouyate (6), Anderson (5), Guehi (7), Ward (6), Eze (6), McArthur (7), Schlupp (6), Mitchell (6), Zaha (6), Mateta (6).
Subs: Ayew (6), Benteke (n/a), Olise (n/a), Milivojevic (n/a).
Man of the match: Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Palace left-back Tyrick Mitchell was caught on the ball and, after a couple of quick one-touch passes saw Kai Havertz advance into the box, his half-cleared effort was smashed home by Loftus-Cheek via a slight deflection for the opener.
The 26-year-old, who spent the 2017-18 season on loan at Palace and has struggled with injuries during his time at Stamford Bridge, punched the air in celebration as he ended a Chelsea goal drought stretching back to May 9, 2019.
Eleven minutes later and the tie was over. Timo Werner's simple square ball from the edge of the box was nicked past Andersen by Mount's first touch before the England international buried a finish beyond Jack Butland for his 12th goal of the campaign.
Romelu Lukaku then had a gilt-edged chance to make it 3-0 late on but the second-half substitute, who is yet to score a Premier League goal in 2022, could only strike the far post from a few yards out.
After losing to Arsenal in 2020 and Leicester last year, Thomas Tuchel's side will hope it is third time lucky at Wembley next month when they target a ninth FA Cup title. The result also capped a successful day for the club as a whole, with Chelsea Women having earlier progressed to their third FA Cup final in five years after beating Arsenal 2-0.
Timo Werner started in attack for Chelsea as Thomas Tuchel made three changes from the team that began Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg at Real Madrid.
N'Golo Kante was only on the bench, with Thiago Silva and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also out of the starting XI.
In came Jorginho, Andreas Christensen and captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira made four changes from the side that lost 2-1 to Leicester in the Premier League last weekend.
Cup goalkeeper Jack Butland replaced Vicente Guaita, James McArthur came back in as captain, Joel Ward started ahead of Nathaniel Clyne and Eberechi Eze replaced Jordan Ayew.
After losing to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final in February, Chelsea's Mason Mount is targeting "payback" as the two sides meet again next month with the Reds hunting an unprecedented quadruple.
"It's definitely time for us to win a final at Wembley, it's five finals I've lost. Now it's time to get our payback," he told ITV Sport.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said: "I don't care about Liverpool's other titles. We want to turn things around (against them) but it will not get us the Carabao Cup title back.
"We are here, we were here last season in the FA Cup Final in a game that means an unbelievable lot for us because it is the FA Cup, the most prestigious and most traditional cup in the world maybe and played at Wembley, so there are not a lot of bigger games to be a part of.
"That is why we are grateful and we will be well prepared because we play against one of the strongest teams in the world.
"It will be another hard fight, given the quality and run of form of Liverpool. It will be unbelievably difficult to beat them, but this is what a cup final is all about."
Ruben Loftus-Cheek told ITV Sport: "It's been a tough road, injuries and going on loan to find my form again, I always believed in myself and I always wanted to play for Chelsea.
"The reason I'm still here is my mentality. I still believe in myself. I said for many years my time will come.
"Everyone wants to play and I feel I've done well in the last couple of games and wanted to keep the momentum. The strength in depth in the squad is fantastic but I have to be ready to step in."
Tuchel added: "Hopefully it is a big moment for Ruben.
"It was nice because he is normally a very calm, quiet guy and to see him like this and jumping and celebrating a goal was good.
"He is the opposite of overconfident, we need to instil this confidence into his body and into his game. These are the next steps for him."
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira wants the semi-final defeat to be a platform for his side and praised the club's supporters.
"This is the kind of game the club wants to be involved in. We have to keep building the team, working well, and the fans were unbelievable," he said.
"I believe playing these kinds of games with a lot of tension will make us a better team.
"We had chances and we didn't score, it's not just about those chances but the decision-making as well.
"I don't think it was bad luck. We tried to play our best but Chelsea were too good on the day for us.
"I am proud of the team with their approach to this game. In the first half we were brilliant."
Sky Sports' Ron Walker:
Thomas Tuchel defended Chelsea's laborious, turgid opening 45 minutes against Crystal Palace in their FA Cup semi-final win by insisting it was the only way to play against Patrick Vieira's counter-attacking team.
This was a Palace side who sit 13th in the Premier League, with eight league wins all season and appearing in their fifth ever FA Cup semi-final, up against the reigning Champions League, Club World Cup and European Super Cup holders.
Vieira's men were also starting without their player of the season Conor Gallagher or brightest playmaker Michael Olise, playing a shape they have not deployed all season.
Tuchel has little need to make excuses for himself or his side given his achievements at Stamford Bridge since he joined 14 months ago, and the Blues would have been forgiven for showing signs of a Champions League hangover after their extra-time exit at Real Madrid in midweek.
But his reasoning doesn't wash. Chelsea's tempo and intensity was lacking throughout the first period at Wembley, and it was no coincidence that their two goals came from quick, incisive play later on - the kind Tuchel had suggested wasn't possible because of Palace's threat on the break.
The proof will be in the FA Cup final-shaped pudding on May 14, when Chelsea return to face Liverpool, hoping to avoid finishing as runners-up for the third season in a row.
Against a disciplined but limited Palace side, they could afford to take their time to get their rhythm, and were given a let-off in either half when Cheikhou Kouyate came close to scoring for the Eagles.
A Liverpool side still on course for the quadruple, who cut Man City apart so easily in Saturday's other semi-final, will not be so generous. Anything approaching a repeat performance in four weeks' time would be sure to continue Chelsea's recent FA Cup run of being always the bridesmaid, and never the bride.
"I'm in a really good place, at a wonderful football club with good people and I want to take the club to another level."
That was Patrick Vieira's prevailing emotion after leading the club to a rare Wembley cup appearance and pushing Champions League holders Chelsea all the way in just the fifth FA Cup semi-final in the club's 117-year history.
With seven games to go in the Premier League, Palace have exactly the same number of points as they did at the same point of Roy Hodgson's final season at Selhurst Park. But the feeling around the club is very different.
Where Palace ended 2020/21 fielding the oldest average line-up of any Premier League club, now the likes of Michael Olise, Ebere Eze, Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen have rejuvenated the club and brought a new air of youth to south London.
Not only that, but Hodgson's robust, effective style which helped to establish Palace as a Premier League side has now evolved into an expansive, attractive brand of football which even during rough patches this season has kept fans onside with the Vieira project.
Sunday's defeat at Wembley was just not Vieira or Palace's day. The manager conceded his side would have had to been at their best and take the three half-chances that fell their way to stand any chance of reaching the final, and it just didn't happen.
But his belief in the Eagles remains justified. Taking over such an ageing side was never going to result in a one-season rebuild, but the philosophy which has penetrated the club in such a short space of time, while reaching a cup semi-final and securing another season of mid-table security promises more success on the horizon.
On another day, their determination and discipline might have snuck a result against Chelsea and got Palace into the final. On this season's evidence, their next opportunity might not be so far away.
Chelsea host Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday at 7.45pm - live on Sky Sports Premier League. Up next for Crystal Palace is a trip to Newcastle at the same time.