Chelsea edged past Manchester United to qualify for the semi-finals of the FA Cup on Monday night. N’Golo Kante’s strike in the second half was enough to secure Chelsea’s berth in the semi-final.However the game was marred by an incident in the first half, Ander Herrera was sent off for a second bookable offence on Eden Hazard. The red card tipped the game in Chelsea’s favor, as they dominated the game against United’s 10 men. Here are the major talking points from yesterday’s fixture.
1. Ander Herrera sending off:
Right from the start, it was clear that United had a plan to stifle Chelsea’s attack. The United players pressed high up the pitch, allowing no time and space for Hazard and Willian to work their magic. But Hazard slowly got into his stride to skip away from challenges and draw fouls from the opposing defenders. Ander Herrera received his first yellow card for barging into Hazard just outside the box. Less than ten minutes later, the Spaniard was sent off after clumsily bringing down Hazard again. However, on further replays, one might consider that a red card decision was a harsh verdict. The United players protested furiously against Referee Michael Oliver’s decision but to no avail. They would have to contend with playing the rest of the game with just 10 men. Marouane Fellaini was brought on immediately for Henrik Mkhitaryan to provide defensive reinforcement.
2. Jose Mourinho Vs Antonio Conte- An Intense Rivalry
Jose Mourinho might be regarded as Chelsea’s greatest ever manager, but Antonio Conte is the new messiah at the Bridge. The Italian has enjoyed a wonderful debut season at the bridge. Chelsea are currently sitting ten points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Mourinho suffered his heaviest defeat in English football earlier in the season as Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0 in September. The tension between the two managers was clearly evident as Mourinho was left unimpressed with Conte’s touchline antics. Much of the pre-match briefing was centred around the two managers. On Monday night, the two gaffers were at it gain, involved in another heated exchange of words on the touchline. Cries of ‘Judas’ aimed at Mourinho were echoed throughout the stadium as some of the Chelsea fans finally turned on the ‘Special One’. It is pretty clear as to who the real Special One is to the Chelsea faithful at the moment.
3. N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard- Premier League’s Finest
Eden Hazard ran riot against the United defence. The Belgian was instrumental for the Blues, orchestrating a majority of their attacking moves. Hazard left the United defenders in his wake with moments of breathtaking skill and finesse. The winger was fouled four times in the first 30 minutes of the game, which prompted Michael Oliver to show the red card to Herrera after clumsily fouling Hazard. N’Golo Kante put up an equally impressive performance for Chelsea, coming up with the all important goal to seal the tie. The Frenchman’s low drive outside the box flew into the far corner, evading the outstretched arm of David De Gea. Kante was all over the pitch allowing no space and time for the United midfielders on the ball. Paul Pogba had no answer against his French National teammate, putting up a disappointing performance for the Red Devils. If Kante can add more goals to his repertoire, he could turn out to be the Premier League’s most complete player.
4. Marcus Rashford- Silver lining for the Red Devils
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney all out of the tie, Jose Mourinho had to turn to Marcus Rashford to lead the line for United. The young Englishman was a late addition to the squad after initial reports ruled him out with sickness. Despite being isolated for much of the game, Rashford did provide some bits of magic. He was easily United’s best player on the pitch. However, the forward should have levelled for United in the second half after he was left through on goal, only for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to save the resulting shot. Rashford easily went past Gary Cahill after David Luiz’s initial mistake, but failed to convert the resulting shot. Nevertheless, Jose Mourinho was left extremely delighted with the youngster’s performance.
Chelsea will now face Tottenham in the semi finals at Wembley stadium, with Arsenal and Manchester City playing each other in the second semi-final.