THE EMIRATES FA CUP SEMI-FINAL
SATURDAY 22nd APRIL, 2017
CHELSEA 4(2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1)
Willian 5, 43 (pen)
Attendance:- 86, 355
Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Stuart Burt & Ian Hussin
Fourth official:- Neil Swarbrick
Reserve assistant referee:- Harry Lennard
Chelsea (3-4-3):- Courtois; Azpilicueta (Capt.), David Luiz, Ake; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonson; Willian (sub Hazard, 61), Batshuayi (sub Diego Costa, 61), Pedro (sub Fabregas, 74)
Subs not used:- Begovic; Zouma, Terry, Chalobah
Booked:- Alonso (foul on Alli), Kante (foul on Alli)
Spurs (3-4-2-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Dier, Alderweireld, Vertinghen;Trippier, Wanyama (sub Nkoudou, 80), Dembele, Son (sub Walker, 68); Eriksen, Alli; Kane
Subs not used:- Pau Lopez; Wimmer, Davies; Sissoko; Janssen
Booked:- Alderweireld (foul on Pedro); Alli (foul on Moses)
Pochettino? He's not so magic, you know.
This report will be tainted by the very fact that I am gutted to have lost our seventh consecutive FA Cup semi-final; to have lost it to Chelsea, and moreover by the fact that I confess to being mystified by the team selection and strategy of our much-admired manager, Mauricio Pochettino.
I'll be honest. I didn't even identify that we were apparently playing a 3-4-2-1 formation, basically because I do not identify Son Heung-min as a wing-back, which was his position on the left side of our defence today. Someone please explain to me why our best available left back, and our best available deputy (Kevin Wimmer) were de-selected today in favour of Son. My perception had been that Jan Vertonghen was covering this side for Spurs, but Son would turn up there to our cost just before the interval.
Kieran Trippier was given the nod on the right side today in preference to Kyle Walker. The selection of Trippier and Son alone tell me that our manager is prioritising the pursuit of Chelsea in the Premier League. That is all very well, but Spurs fans are clamouring for a) an FA Cup Final, and b) an FA Cup win.
Sadly, despite all the comments you will see about the best team losing, it is a fact that Chelsea will re-visit Wembley on May 27th, and not our beloved Spurs.
Antonio Conte also made changes today. One was enforced, with the absence of the ill Gary Cahill. The others were his choice, replacing Eden Hazard and Diego Costa with Willian and Batshuayi getting starts. Perhaps Conte is also keeping an eye on the Premier League, with a midweek game against Southampton looming, before Spurs visit Selhurst Park on Wednesday.
Spurs kicked off, but they were on the back foot within minutes. Pedro made a bee-line towards the Spurs area down the left channel, and Toby Alderweireld saw no alternative but to stop him in his tracks, unfairly. Referee Martin Atkinson waved an early yellow card at Alderweireld. It took a while for the free kick to be taken, but when it was , it was Willian who curled his kick beyond Lloris's left hand. This was not the start we'd hoped for.
Spurs dominated possession with little reward. After 16 minutes, Dele Alli was fouled, and Eriksen took the free kick, hit to Harry Kane, whose shot was deflected for a corner. After the corner, also taken as usual by Eriksen, our playmaker again crossed to Kane, who stooped to flick a beautiful headed goal across Courtois to make it 1-1, with all to play for.
Eriksen was fouled by Kante, but there was no card shown for the unfair challenge. After a header by Alli to Kane, Kante came to the rescue of his team to clear. David Luiz then spent time on the floor requiring treatment, but he recovered, sufficiently to stop Harry in his tracks 35 yards out. After a foul on Trippier, Eriksen's free kick won a corner, after which Dier headed wide from Vertonghen's swinging cross from the far side of goal.
A loose ball was picked up by Eriksen, who hit a powerful right footed shot, just held by Courtois above his head. David Luiz went down for more attention.
Against the run of play, Chelsea went ahead through another dead ball situation. This one was a penalty conceded by Son, who does not belong in his own penalty area, but he took down Moses. Mr. Atkinson took his time over the decision, taking advice from his assistant, but he gave the spot kick, and Willian made no mistake.
There was considerable applause around the ground (as there had been at the start of the game) after 44 minutes for Spurs' under-23 coach Ugo Ehiogu, who so tragically died this week at the age of 44.
Alonso was shown yellow in added time for his foul on Dele Alli.
Spurs got back on terms with a superb goal in the 52nd minute. Eriksen was the creator again, crossing from the right, and Dele Alli was the lethal finisher with his shot.
Conte made a double substitution on the hour with Costa replacing Batshuayi, and Hazard taking over from double scorer Willian. The big guns were in place.
Son was replaced by Kyle Walker, and Trippier moved to an unfamiliar left side. Spurs were dominating possession, winning more corners, without finding a finishing touch. Chelsea then took the lead from their one and only corner in the game. Hazard was found towards the left of the box, with enough space to fire home past the defenders and Hugo Lloris.
Things were starting to look ominous. Wanyama, who is still apparently struggling for full match fitness following his recent injury, was replaced by Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. However, almost as soon as he arrived, Chelsea had doubled their lead with another smash and grab goal, this one scored from over 25 yards with an excellent dipping shot by Matic, hitting the net off the underside of the bar.
There would be no way back for Spurs, although Harry Kane did so nearly squeeze an added time free kick beneath Courtois. However, by that time, many Spurs fans (including me) had started the race for home down Wembley Way.
So, for the seventh successive time, Spurs have been beaten in an FA Cup semi-final. That is a highly undesirable record. Chelsea had less than 40% possession, and only that one corner, but they were lethal when it counted, having been set on their way by Spurs in the first half.
My over-riding thought though is that I cannot remember being so desperately disappointed and mystified by a team selection. Mauricio Pochettino has to carry the can for me.
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