The quest for silverware on two fronts continues as the Blues booked an FA Cup final date in May by emerging victorious in a game of six goals at Wembley.
Willian struck twice in the first half from a free-kick and a penalty but saw both goals cancelled out courtesy of Harry Kane and Dele Alli either side of the interval. With the scores level going into the final 15 minutes, our impact from the bench made the difference, Cesc Fabregas’s corner finding Eden Hazard and Hazard finding the bottom corner from the edge of the box. Nemanja Matic then fired into the top corner from distance to give us breathing space and ensure our return to north London for the final next month.
Antonio Conte made five changes to the side that lined up at Old Trafford last weekend. Thibaut Courtois returned in goal having recovered from an ankle injury while Nathan Ake made his third FA Cup start of the season in place of Gary Cahill, who missed out with illness.
Ake lined up alongside David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta, the latter wearing the captain’s armband for the first time and leading the Blues out at Wembley. Michy Batshuayi and Willian replaced Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, who started on the bench.
Players, staff and supporters from both sides joined for a minute’s applause before the action got underway to mark the sad and sudden passing of Ugo Ehiogu this week, the former Tottenham defender who had returned to the club and was coaching their Under-23 team. Both teams also wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
Mauricio Pocchetino matched our 3-4-3 despite being without both his first-choice wing-backs, Heung-Min Son starting on the left and Kieran Trippier on the right. Yet it was through the middle the Blues exploited in the opening exchanges on to strike an early semi-final goal. The action had burst into life right from the start with Tottenham threatening from a corner but it was Hugo Lloris, not Courtois, retrieving the ball from the back of his net with just four minutes played.
Pedro had instigated the danger with a run from midfield which was only halted by the flailing leg of Toby Alderweireld, the Belgian defender having gone to ground early. It was a presentable sight at goal for Willian just a couple of yards outside the box and the Brazilian’s curling effort arrowed beyond the desperate dive of Lloris for the opener.
From the stands and the skies there was acclaim for Conte’s side, the Chelsea fans in full voice and a plane overhead trailing the name of their manager. Kante advanced into the box but delayed a delivery and Batshuayi was quickly closed down before Spurs started to build up a head of steam down the other end.
A quick set-piece looked to have found Kane in space in the 18-yard box but Kante was typically alert to spot the danger and block the England striker’s effort at goal. However, Tottenham’s number nine soon had himself on the scoresheet as Pochettino’s side levelled after 18 minutes. Eriksen’s corner was initially headed clear by Ake but the Dane’s second attempt from the right was more accurate, inswinging to the near post for the stooping Kane to flick a header across goal and into the far corner.
First and second in the Premier League, these two sides had shared five goals in two meetings this season and this was proving to be another entertaining and open contest. David Luiz required treatment midway through the first half after a coming together with Alli but quickly picked himself up and was soon spraying a fantastic pass forward for Victor Moses to chase, the wing-back’s low cross cut out by Jan Vertonghen.
Azpilicueta was then forced into some penalty box defending of his own as Kane ran at him with the ball at his feet but our Spanish skipper watched carefully before making a well-timed challenge. Set-pieces were proving a regular threat for Spurs and Kante again thwarted Eriksen’s delivery, while Ake snuffed out the danger as Kane promisingly brought down Tripper’s long pass forward with a clever touch.
Courtois gathered Eriksen’s drive from 25 yards out after some loose play in possession at the back but we re-established our advantage at a crucial time, making it 2-1 just before the break. It was another set-piece maximised to the fullest extent by Willian, this time a penalty from 12 yards after referee Martin Atkinson had pointed to the spot on the advice of his assistant.
Son was the man penalised, the South Korean committing early to a sliding challenge on Moses, who was felled. Willian stepped up and staggered his run before firing right-footed to Lloris’s right for his second goal of the afternoon and his 10th of the season.
Our opponents’ French keeper was involved in further drama before the break as he rushed to the edge of his box and appeared to prod the ball back inside the area with his hand, though the officials waved away the vocal Chelsea appeals.
As the half-time whistle sounded, the Blues held a slender lead but the second 45 minutes was poised to be another well-matched affair. Spurs restarted the brighter of the two sides and David Luiz had to scamper across to the left to deflect Kane’s cross behind. Yet the fourth goal of the afternoon was on the horizon and it went the way of Pochettino’s side seven minutes after the restart.
Eriksen claimed the assist once again with a hoisted ball into the box from midfield that found Alli’s run in between David Luiz and Azpilicueta. The 21-year-old stretched to meet the dropping ball first time and finish high into the roof of Courtois’s goal.
Ake defended well up against the goalscorer moments later as Tottenham looked to come from behind to lead, the Dutch centre-back poking the ball away with an excellent sliding challenge in the box. Mousa Dembele’s drive was then charged down by Azpilicueta before Conte made his move from the touchline, introducing Diego Costa and Hazard on the hour mark.
Batshuayi and Willian were the departing duo as the new arrivals joined the attack and looked to disrupt the positive start Spurs had made to the second half. They were unable to stem the momentum right away and we were forced to soak up a period of pressure. Diego Costa’s first involvement was to head clear in his own box while Ake also won the ball in the air from Wimmer’s inswinging cross, the full-back now operating at left-back following Kyle Walker’s introduction.
Cesc Fabregas also joined the action and it was less than a minute after his appearance that we went ahead for the third time in the game. The midfield man swung in a corner from the right that found its way to Hazard and the Belgian fired low across goal with power and precision to find the bottom corner in front of the ecstatic Chelsea supporters.
The Blues were in front again and had 15 minutes to maintain their advantage to book our Cup final place. David Luiz leapt high to clear another Eriksen free-kick and then we struck the decisive, final blow. Fabregas and Hazard combined to great effect on the right and the latter rolled the ball back for Matic to strike an unstoppable drive into the top corner via the underside of the bar. Lloris barely moved and the Blues were heading for a Wembley return.
There could have been further goals in the final 10 minutes as Hazard skipped past Lloris and teed up Alonso, whose strike was blocked by the covering Walker, while Diego Costa headed wide after Fabregas had clipped in an inviting cross.
Spurs thought they had pulled one back in added time as Kane’s powerful free-kick looked to have squirmed away from Courtois but the keeper gathered at the second attempt. Once the final whistle sounded, the players and manager celebrated in front of the Blue half of the stadium. We will be back for the final against either Arsenal or Manchester City.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta (c), David Luiz, Nathan Ake; Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Marcos Alonso; Willian (Eden Hazard 60), Michy Batshuayi (Diego Costa 60), Pedro (Cesc Fabregas 74)
Unused subs Asmir Begovic, Kurt Zouma, John Terry, Nathaniel Chalobah
Scorers Willian 5, 43 pen; Hazard 75; Matic 80
Booked Alonso 45+3, Kante 90+2
Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-3) Hugo Lloris; Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen; Kieran Tripper, Victor Wanyama (Georges-Kevin Nkoudou 80), Moussa Dembele, Heung-Min Son (Kyle Walker 68); Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane, Dele Alli
Unused subs Pau Lopez, Ben Davies, Kevin Wimmer, Moussa Sissoko, Vincent Janssen
Scorers Kane 18; Alli 52
Booked Alderweireld 4, Alli 73
Referee Martin Atkinson