Chelsea will face Southampton in the FA cup semi final at Wembley after overcoming Leicester after extra time.
In many ways it was the proverbial game of two halves, with Chelsea controlling possession in the first period, albeit not having created too many chances. They did however take a one goal lead into the break thanks to Morata’s fabulous finish after Willian put him through from a lightning quick counter attack.
The second half saw Leicester in the ascendancy, pushing their full backs forward and stretching our backline as they had done when holding us to a draw at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season. The increased pressure pinned our wing backs into our own half. Combining this with a high press when they lost possession, Leicester were able to remain the dominant force in the half, as Chelsea’s use of the ball was poor. Turning over possession regularly, particularly with long balls out as Leicester pressed our back line, meant we remained on the back foot. The first half seemed a long time ago now.
Chelsea had looked the better side by far in the first forty-five minutes. After settling into the match, we were able to switch play to stretch the Leicester midfield, and Hazard and Willian were able to get on the ball between Leicester’s two banks of four. Other than the goal though, our only other chance of note was a Morata strike straight at Schmeichel from the edge of the box. Caballero was called into a stop low to his right after an Ndidi shot and came out of his area to cover off a long ball aimed for Vardy. The goal we took into the break came about as Iheanacho broke forward and found Mahrez. The Algerian was robbed by Alonso, who found Willian. He burst through the Leicester midfield at pace, and put in Morata, who placed his shot over and around the keeper. A text book counter attack.
The change in Leicester’s ability to influence the match in the second half, was in part due to better implementation of their tactics previously used at the Bridge, when they out played us in the league during a 0-0 draw. Full backs Chilwell and Simpson played higher up the pitch, Albrighton and Mahrez on each wing hugged the touchline, therefore stretching our defence as Azpilicueta and Rudiger often got pulled wide. The home side levelled things up with fourteen minutes remaining. Mahrez crossed low, Vardy had his initial shot well blocked by Azpilicueta, while Christensen did equally as well to block Iborra’s follow up, while a third effort on goal was saved by Caballero, but it bounced back out of his knee, and he couldn’t prevent Vardy’s follow up finding the net.
Vardy was put through by Mahrez shortly after, but Caballero blocked well as he closed off the angle. Into the last five minutes, it was clear this was heading for extra time.
Both teams appeared tired now, Pedro had come on two minutes into extra time, and our allotted fourth sub followed in the 105th minute in place of Morata. But by this time the decisive match winning play had taken place. Kante brought the ball out from midfield left of centre and floated a ball into the area. Pedro made a run between both centre backs but looked unlikely to get on the end of the ball. That was until Schmeichel rushed from his line and got nowhere near making contact with the cross. Pedro headed into the empty net.
A nervy second period of extra time played out, few chances were in the offing, but Chelsea were now mounting a rear-guard defensive as crosses and shots were blocked with regularity. A few corners were the best the home side could muster though, and Chelsea held out.
Leicester (4-4-2) 1 (Vardy 76)
Schmeichel; Simpson (Diabate 105), Morgan (c), Maguire, Chilwell;
Albrighton (Gray 115), Iborra (Silva 105), Ndidi, Mahrez;
Iheanacho (Okazaki 68), Vardy.
Chelsea (3-4-3) 2 (Morata 42, Pedro 104)
Caballero; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen (Cahill 101), Rudiger;
Moses, Kante, Bakayoko (Fabregas 45), Alonso;
Willian (Pedro 92), Morata (Giroud 105), Hazard.