Chelsea punched their way to a second consecutive FA Cup final in a 2-0 victory over Southampton at Wembley on Sunday.
Goals from Olivier Giroud (46′) and Alvaro Morata (88′) ensured the club’s 13th appearance in the final of the oldest football competition in the world.
Southampton bow out of the tournament, and they now have to focus on getting out of the relegation zone in the Premier League with only four games to go.
Here are five things we learned from Chelsea’s win over Southampton.
First half blues
The first 45 minutes were pretty pedestrian to say the least. Southampton sat back to stifle any Chelsea attack, leaving very little to say about the opening half.
Chelsea did end up with nine shots, but none of them were on target. The Saints blocked four of them, and the closest to goal was Willian’s screamer that grazed the crossbar.
Meanwhile, Southampton only managed to attempt two shots. They did have to force a save out of Willy Caballero, but Chelsea were otherwise unfazed. The South Coast team focused more on protecting their goal after their 3-2 loss to the same Blues only eight days before.
It’s entirely understandable if fans took their time to get back to their seats to start the second half. Unfortunately, they would have missed the first goal of the game.
Giroud doesn’t lose at Wembley
The striker has played ten club games at Wembley, and never lost any of them.
His last big win at Wembley was with Arsenal in the 2017 FA Cup final, defeating Chelsea, the club he now plays for.
Giroud was destined to keep his unbeaten streak alive, and he made sure of it by hustling past four defenders for the opening and deciding goal against Southampton.
The France international has won three FA Cups with Arsenal, and he’s now looking to win his fourth with his new London club. Only Manchester United stand in the way at another date of destiny at Wembley.
Willian is unimpressed, and so are the fans
The winger was taken out of the game with 25 minutes remaining. Chelsea only led by one at the time.
Willian’s body language in reacting to the substitution was telling. Shaking his head in disgust, he slowly walked to the tunnel to head back to the changing rooms without even looking his manager in the eye.
The substitution tells the story of Chelsea’s season tactically. Once they get a lead—no matter how slim—they set up to defend it. Antonio Conte brought on Tiemoue Bakayoko to bolster the middle.
Instead, Chelsea invited pressure with that switch. Southampton started to attack with intensity, and the Blues had to hold on by the fingertips. Willian was one of their best counterattacking outlets, and he was removed from the game. Luckily, Chelsea were able to bag another goal to seal the deal, only after Pedro was brought on to play a Willian style of role.
This was the same thing that Antonio Rudiger complained about before he was excluded from the squad against Southampton in the Premier League. Hopefully the Brazil international won’t suffer the same fate because he’s needed in Chelsea’s quest for Champions League qualification.
Caballero heroic again at Wembley
The backup goalkeeper lives up to the occasion whenever he’s called upon, as long as it’s under the arch in the England capital.
Southampton were close to levelling the match soon after the Willian substitution. It seemed as if the narrative was going to stay the same: Chelsea leads, Chelsea gets complacent, Chelsea gives up lead.
Caballero had his own narrative in mind: being a hero at Wembley. He’s a name in Manchester City folklore when he saved three penalties in the League Cup final against Liverpool in 2016 after Manuel Pellegrini selected him over first-choice keeper Joe Hart.
The 2018 tale won’t be as legendary, but Caballero ensured Chelsea got their ticket to the final against Manchester United. Time will only tell if he’ll get another chance to be a hero once again.
Azpilicueta to Morata, again!
It’s been a while since the two linked up for a goal. It’s been a while since I talked about how they were the new dynamic duo. I may have said some things that I regret in hindsight.
The Spain internationals haven’t created a scoring storm in the Premier League this season after I predicted they would be integral to Chelsea’s success. Perhaps Morata’s quiet season was one of the reasons Chelsea’s title defence was abysmal this season.
Nevertheless, a Cesar Azpilicueta cross has met Morata’s head, ultimately leading to the goal to put Southampton’s comeback hopes to bed.
I’m cautious in making bold predictions for next season, especially since nobody knows who the manager will be for Chelsea. I’m just quietly hoping Morata and Azpilicueta pair up for even more goals.