The fact it was scored on his 29th birthday no doubt added some gloss to Hakim Ziyech’s FA Cup strike at Middlesbrough at the weekend, but it was the way the move unfolded that made the winger especially pleased as he looked back on an impressive goal.
Romelu Lukaku had given the Blues the lead as early as 15 minutes and Ziyech struck with half-an-hour played at the Riverside to make it 2-0, doing much to break the Championship side’s quarter-final challenge on what could have been a difficult evening for the Blues. Instead we saw off a team who had knocked Manchester United and Tottenham out of the Cup and had the backing of a vocal support.
‘The move started good on the left, we switched sides at the right moment and they get the ball to Mason,’ is his description of the build-up, with our defenders having passed through the Boro high press.
‘Azpi made the run behind me so I had two options. I found the space and thought I’ve got to shoot and then it went in so yeah, it was a perfect goal.
‘In this kind of game it is always important to score early. If you don't score in the first half they [the opposition] start believing in it and it will then be a difficult afternoon. We finished it quite early in the first half and of course Middlesbrough had some moments where you think maybe they could come back, but overall in the game we weren’t in a lot of trouble.
‘In the second half we had a couple good moments to make it 3-0 but in the end, 2-0 is good enough to go to Wembley.’
That semi-final will be against Crystal Palace, the side Ziyech scored a late winner against a month ago in our Premier League meeting at Selhurst Park. That kept our good recent run of results going.
‘We’ve played in so many different competitions and we are always ready,’ Ziyech said.
‘We always make it come true over 90 minutes and as a team, no matter how difficult the situation is we always finish the job. I think we can be proud of that and absolutely look forward to what's coming.’