CHELSEA reached the FA Cup final after a thrilling 4-2 win against Tottenham today – and boss Antonio Conte deserves all the credit.
Ahead of kick-off, there were many jumping on the bandwagon slamming the Italian manager for dropping/resting Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
But the top teams always have to rely on the squad, and not just the starting XI. And each and evey player stood up to task today at Wembley.
Keep up to date with all the latest news, gossip, rumours and done deals in SunSport’s live transfer blog
Spurs, for their part, played very well, but Chelsea simply know how to get over the line, and will meet either Arsenal or Manchester City in the final.
Here are five things we learnt from the game.
Willian in for Hazard was never a problem
The big news before kick off was that Chelsea had dropped (although Antonio Conte will say rested) Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
Sure, Chelsea are feeling the pinch at the top of the Premier League after a couple of shock defeats, but leaving arguably your two best players on the bench for the FA Cup semi-final is borderline crazy.
But at half-time with Chelsea 2-1 up, that had all been forgotten. Hazard’s replacement in the team, Willian, had scored twice.
But the Brazilian, like probably most of those watching, was staggered when he was replaced on 61 minutes for the Belgian.
But perhaps we shouldn’t doubt Antonio Conte. On came Hazard and he scored to make it 3-2 after 13 minutes on the pitch.
Perhaps it was scripted that Conte was going to give Hazard a fair run-out on the hallowed Wembley turf.
Positional changes affected Tottenham
Eric Dier was moved to centre-half, and him losing Pedro ended up with Toby Alderweireld fouling the little Spaniard. Then Willian cracked home a fine free-kick opener.
Jan Vertonghen was shifted out to left back, but with a tendency to want to shift inside, Son Heung-min will have been asked to make extra effort to track back and help out his full-back.
Son went on to clumsily crash into Victor Moses, the referee signalled a penalty and Willian did the rest.
Antonio Conte’s dropping of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa may have stole the headlines, but Mauricio Pochettino’s putting square pegs in round holes should be highlighted.
Chelsea can’t cope with the Erikson-Alli axel
Spurs bagged an equaliser just six minutes into the second half, and it was all-too familiar.
Christian Eriksen pinged the ball into the area and Dele Alli was on hand with a fine finish to bring it to 2-2.
He had nipped in between David Luiz and César Azpilicueta to slam the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
He also nipped in between two Chelsea defender, twice, during Spurs’ 2-0 home win in the Premier League this season to net a brace.
Spurs fans left their voices at home
Chelsea went 1-0 up after just five minutes and Spurs fans were stunned into silence. They equalised, and a few thousand maybe found their voices.
Then 2-1 down, they sank back to their seats. Dele Alli equalised for 2-2 and boss Pochettino waved his arms up to the crowd to get them going.
But sadly, his passion just wasn’t been reciprocated. As the camera panned around, either many had a tiring few hours this morning, or the belief was never really there.
Cue Hazard making it 3-2, Nemanja Matic banging in a fourth and those quiet Spurs fans were afforded an early exit out of the national stadium.
Nemanja Matic needs to shoot more often
He is not known for his goalscoring, but Nemanja Matic needs to listen to the Chelsea fans from now on.
He does tend to play as a deep-lying midfielder, but the shouts around Stamford Bridge when he collects the ball are often “shoot”.
And today at the national stadium, he showed just why he is urged to do so.
Picking up the ball from Eden Hazard’s beautiful cut-back, the Serbian unleashed a 25-yard piledriver that flew off the underside of the bar and beat Hugo Loris all ends up.
Chelsea fans will be looking for him to pull out a few more of these worldies before the end of the season.