At the end of a week where they were comfortably beaten 3-0 Barcelona, Chelsea made sure they weren’t knocked out of the FA Cup. The Blues overcame a spirited Leicester side after extra time and booked their place in the semifinal at Wembley against Southampton. Goals from Spanish pair Alvaro Morata and Pedro either side of Jamie Vardy’s equaliser were enough to see them through.
Alvaro on the counter
Antonio Conte finally chose to select Morata alongside Eden Hazard and Willian in attack and for the opening half an hour, he was largely isolated. Marc Albrighton had the first chance of the game within just a few minutes: he wrapped his weaker left foot around the ball but it flew inches wide.
Wilfred Ndidi then tested Caballero from range with his left foot, forcing the Argentine to parry the ball before he could stop it going for a corner. Then it was time for Chelsea to have a go: Morata saw a weak shot saved by Schmeichel after he was picked out brilliantly by Marcos Alonso. The former Real Madrid striker then had another chance – this time he hit the post after trying to squeeze the ball in at a very tight angle.
On the stroke of half-time, it was third time lucky for Morata as he was there to sting the Foxes after a lightning-fast counter-attack. Willian skipped past a few Leicester tackles before releasing his Spanish teammate in the final third. Morata won the foot race ahead of Wes Morgan and calmly slotted into the far corner from just inside the area. It was the perfect time for the Premier League champions to get their noses in front.
Foxes’ pressure prevails
Despite the one-goal lead, the visitors knew they would face an onslaught of Leicester attacks as the 2015/16 Premier League champions looked to get back in the cup tie. Vardy had the first real chance of the second period. Ndidi picked him out in the box completely unmarked, but the England international snatched at it and skied his header when he should’ve really brought it down.
He ensured he wasn’t going to squander his next chance as he levelled the score with 15 minutes to go. Vicente Iborra had two shots blocked in an almighty goalmouth scramble before Vardy emphatically thumped his effort into the back of the net. Cesar Azpilicueta must have felt aggrieved as his block was absolutely sublime.
The Blues nearly restored their lead straight after with a wonderful flowing move that saw Morata strike the crossbar from a few yards out. The offside flag was eventually raised to spare the 25-year-old’s blushes. Caballero then had to keep last year’s finalists in the cup as Vardy raced away through on goal only for his low drive to be well saved by the ex-Man City stopper. The full-time whistle sounded and both sides prepared for an extra 30 minutes.
Pedro takes flight
Conte chose to swap a tired Willian for Pedro just moments after the extra period had begun. It was that substitution that proved the difference. The former Barcelona forward was on hand to nod past Schmeichel after the Danish keeper had wandered aimlessly off his line. Kante’s cross was perfect and caught Ben Chilwell behind Pedro but Leicester’s keeper would’ve had a very easy save if he had stayed at home instead of venturing out. It left the hosts with a lot to do, too much in fact.
However, they did come knocking and almost equalised from another scrappy attack. Harry Maguire flashed a cross across the six-yard box but it was just behind Fousseni Diabate who eventually forced a heroic block from Gary Cahill. It was then Albrighton’s turn to block a shot as his former team-mate, Kante, rifled a half-volley goalwards only for the English winger to deflect it wide. Leicester couldn’t find another goal and were very unlucky to be dumped out of the FA Cup at home after dominating for large parts of the match.
Antonio Conte’s side need to dust themselves down, count themselves lucky, and fight for the top four and the FA Cup trophy.