Chelsea beats Southampton to face Man United in FA Cup final
LONDON (AP) — Chelsea will play Manchester United in the FA Cup final after beating Southampton 2-0 in the second semifinal at Wembley Stadium on Sunday with goals from Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata.
Giroud, who had been selected ahead of Morata to spearhead Chelsea’s attack, scored the first goal within 30 seconds of the second half after a mesmerizing piece of dribbling inside the Southampton penalty area.
Having been found by Eden Hazard, the Frenchman picked his way past Southampton defenders, like a slalom skier, to leave himself a simple tap-in from close range.
Morata, who came on to replace Giroud in the second half, got the second goal with an 82nd-minute header from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross, after peeling away from the Southampton defense.
Chelsea coach Antonio Conte had opted for Giroud, who was bought on the final day of the January transfer window from Arsenal, after his two goals last weekend against Southampton helped the Blues come from behind to win 3-2.
Conte said he started with Giroud over Morata because of his more physical nature and that Morata’s impact was “impressive” when he came on.
Chelsea had most of the possession during the first half but could not translate its dominance into goals. Willian went closest to giving Chelsea a lead in the first half but his 7th minute left-footed drive following a swift counterattack hit the bar.
Giroud’s goal saw Southampton adopt a more open approach and the Saints went close to equalizing in the 72nd when Nathan Redmond’s strike from just outside the area was parried away by goalkeeper Willy Caballero. From the ensuing corner, Caballero appeared to drop the ball into his own net but the referee judged that he had been impeded by Southampton forward Charlie Austin.
Southampton manager Mark Hughes said it was “poor goalkeeping” on Caballero’s part and that the referee should have referred the decision to VAR.
“If ever there was a situation for video referee, to play a hand and step in and say ‘Listen we need to probably review that’, I would have thought that was an opportunity to do that,” said Hughes, whose team is fighting relegation from the Premier League. “Clearly it’s a match-defining moment ... So why it hasn’t been referred I’ve no idea.”
Morata’s header effectively ended the game as a contest though Austin came close to narrowing the deficit in the 84th when his shot across Caballero hit the post.
Chelsea, which lost last year’s final to Arsenal, hasn’t won the FA Cup since 2012 when it beat Liverpool. Man United last won the competition two years ago against Crystal Palace.
The last time Chelsea and United contested the final was in 2007 with Chelsea winning 1-0.
The May 19 final at Wembley will see Conte face off against former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho. The two have feuded on-and-off since Conte took the Chelsea job in 2016.
Conte played down any future trouble.
“I think we have clarified the situation,” he said. “I have great respect for United’s story, for Mourinho’s story. I think they have the same respect for Chelsea’s story, for my story.”
Conte said Chelsea will likely go into the final as the underdog following a difficult season which could see the defending Premier League champion miss out on Champions League qualification. Chelsea is in fifth place, and five points behind Tottenham with four games to play.