Chelsea FA Cup Semi Final Wembley Lost 2 – 0
Both Chelsea and Southampton shuffled their packs for the cup semi final meeting, but whichever way you look at them, the only player from the opponents’ 16 who wouldn’t walk into our squad is reserve keeper Eduardo, and that’s only because he’s unknown. Mark Hughes selected Lemina after illness (allegedly – but they made the same excuse about Boufal, and now it seems there’s been a huge row) and lined up with both Long and Austin up front. The manager would surely have been criticised had he been more conservative in his approach, but we struggled to get much of the ball in the first half, and although Chelsea’s efforts at goal were limited to two efforts from Willian, we managed nothing in response. Willian’s first strike came after just seven minutes and it clipped the bar with McCarthy beaten. There were fears about his second as it was a free kick from the ‘Ibrahimović position’ but this year the ball drifted over the top. Saints had kicked off the first half and their second touch sent the ball tamely into touch; the Chelsea restart was altogether different, and after 29 seconds they’d opened the scoring thanks to an assist from Hazard and some light-footedness from Giroud who left three defenders plus the goalkeeper on the ground, and another just getting to his feet. Willian and Hazard continued to pepper the goal in front of their fans, but of course Saints still only needed one moment to get back into the game – and they got it too, only for Long’s first touch to be so poor that it not only took the ball away from danger, but also sent it rolling over the dead ball line. Actually a team enlivened by the introductions of Tadić and Redmond (and without Long, who was having a ‘mare) looked as though they were part of the semi final and a Caballero error almost allowed Redmond to score. The goalkeeper wasn’t over-extended in the game, but he looked vulnerable again when he fumbled a cross into his own net under pressure from Austin. It was the sort of incident that normally earns the goalkeeper a free kick, and sure enough that was Mr. Atkinson’s decision, but Southampton’s management do have a point in claiming that a VAR referral might have been appropriate, and replays suggesting minimal contact may just have produced a different result. Both teams made late substitutions, with Morata and Gabbiadini appearing for the final stages. They were to remember their day very differently, with Morata heading home within a minute – you rather hope and expect Hoedt had to spend his Monday morning back at work explaining what he was trying to do with his marking. The mountain left for Saints to climb would have been lower had Gabbiadini managed to get something on Austin’s cross shot either before or after it struck the post, and it’s still hard to fathom how he managed the feat. Three minutes added time seemed inadequate given the speed at which Chelsea’s substituted players left the pitch (slower than a fancy dress runner in the afternoon’s London Marathon), but we’d have had to have played a lot longer to rescue this one.
LSSC Man of the Match: Maya Yoshida. Far from sure about the decision as he too might have stopped Giroud, but I’m most annoyed at Wesley Hoedt for goal number two!