Man City strike late to edge wasteful Chelsea and reach FA Cup final

Bernardo Silva’s late goal kept Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the domestic double alive after Pep Guardiola’s side secured a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final victory against Chelsea.

Reeling from their midweek Champions League exit on penalties at the hands of Real Madrid, which ended their hopes of back-to-back trebles, Guardiola’s side, who were without the injured Erling Haaland, struggled for rhythm for much of the game.

Chelsea were the team on the front foot at Wembley and in the end, they were made to pay for a host of missed chances. Nicolas Jackson was the main culprit as he was denied twice in quick succession by goalkeeper Stefan Ortega early in the second half.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were also denied a penalty when Cole Palmer’s free-kick struck the hand of Jack Grealish. Referee Michael Oliver waved away the appeals before VAR stuck with the on-field decision, much to the bemusement of Pochettino and his players.

It is understood VAR officials decided not to punish Grealish for the handball because he was trying to make his body smaller as Palmer’s free-kick came towards him.

Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Julian Alvarez jump in the wall as Cole Palmer takes a free kick
Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Julian Alvarez jump in the wall as Cole Palmer’s free-kick appeared to strike Grealish’s hand in the second half

In his post-match press conference, Pochettino hinted that he felt his side should have had a spot kick.

He said: “Maybe you had a better view? From the touchline is was difficult to see.

“Someone on my staff said it was a penalty. I said to the referee, ‘why not check the penalty on the TV?’ From what I saw after [he nods]… we move on.”

With extra-time looming, the breakthrough came. Silva, who made amends for his midweek penalty miss in the shootout against Real Madrid, converted Kevin De Bruyne’s cross at the back post to get City over the line and to keep their FA Cup defence on track.

They will be back at Wembley for their second successive FA Cup final on Saturday May 25 to face either Manchester United or Coventry, who face off in the other semi-final at Wembley on Sunday.

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal

How Man City returned to the FA Cup final…

Was their going to be a Man City hangover following their midweek exit from the Champions League? Chelsea certainly asked the question with Pochettino’s side making a very bright start at Wembley.

Conor Gallagher, starting in an unfamiliar left wing role, was snapping at the heels of the City defenders and won the ball back right on the edge of the penalty area before Jackson fired a shot straight at goalkeeper Ortega.

Player ratings

Man City: Man City: Ortega (8), Walker (7), Stones (6), Akanji (7), Ake (7), Rodri (6), De Bruyne (8), Bernardo (7), Foden (7), Grealish (6), Alvarez (7).

Subs used: Dias (6), Doku (7), Bobb (n/a).

Chelsea: Petrovic (7), Gusto (6), Chalobah (7), Silva (7), Cucurella (7), Caicedo (6), Fernandez (6), Madueke (6), Palmer (7), Gallagher (7), Jackson (6).

Subs used: Disasi (n/a), Mudryk (/a), Sterling (n/a), Chilwell (n/a).

Player of the match: Kevin De Bruyne.

Fresh from his four goals on Monday against Everton, Palmer showed his confidence is sky high as he tried to catch Ortega out with an ambitious lobbed effort from 45 yards. However, unlike against Everton, he didn’t quite catch his strike right with Ortega making a comfortable save.

Man City were struggling to find their rhythm. However, with the quality they possess they can turn it on in the blink of an eye. De Bruyne did just that with an exquisite pass to release Phil Foden in behind the Chelsea defence. The England international rounded Dorde Petrovic but his touch took him too wide, and with the angle too tight, Marc Cucurella got back to head the ball clear.

City couldn’t build on that moment as Chelsea finished the half strongly. Jackson sprung the City offside trap but didn’t look comfortable running through on goal. He did manage to round Ortega, but he was forced wide and declined to shoot before passing the ball straight to Nathan Ake.

Ortega then produced a huge moment just before the break as he got down low to his left to make a smart save to deny the in-form Palmer as the two sides went in at the break level.

Stefan Ortega makes a save from Nicolas Jackson (AP)
Stefan Ortega makes a save from Nicolas Jackson (AP)

Chelsea's Nicolas Jackson heads the ball towards the goal (AP)
Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson heads the ball towards the goal (AP)

Were Chelsea going to rue not capitalising on their dominance in the first half?

Man City, who brought Ruben Dias on to replace John Stones at half-time, were still being put under huge pressure Chelsea at the start of the second half. The chances kept coming for Pochettino’s side, but they kept being wasted.

Jackson was the culprit on this occasion. He was denied not once, but twice in quick succession by Ortega, with the second opportunity a header he really should have converted from close range.

Team news headlines

  • Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola made four changes from the side that lost on penalties to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday. Erling Haaland was not in the squad with Julian Alvarez replacing him. Stefan Ortega came in for Ederson in goal while Nathan Ake and John Stones replaced Ruben Dias and Josko Gvardiol in defence.
  • Chelsea made just one change to the side that thrashed Everton 6-0 on Monday. Enzo Fernandez returned in midfield with Mykhailo Mudryk dropping to the bench.

The game was becoming more open as the second half wore on and Foden was denied by a smart save from Petrovic before Chelsea were denied a penalty by VAR when Palmer’s free-kick appeared to strike Grealish on the hand.

Man City finally started to get a rip on the game deep in the second half. Jeremy Doku replaced Jack Grealis and he was straight into action, but his low shot was kept out by the feet of Petrovic. Moments later, De Bruyne fired wide as City pushed for a winner.

The decisive moment came six minutes from time. Petrovic diverted De Bruyne’s cross into the path of Silva, who fired home at the far post to break Chelsea hearts and send his side into the final.

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal

Pep: I don’t know how we survived

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised his team for their endurance after their win over Chelsea in the FA Cup after their loss to Real Madrid.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola:

“It’s unacceptable to let us play today. It’s impossible, for the health of the players. It’s not normal. It’s unacceptable, 120 minutes, the emotions of Madrid, the way we lose, honestly. I know this country is special [with the FA Cup] but it’s for the health of the players. I don’t understand how we survived today.”

Asked whether he has raised it with authorities: “Do you think demanding will change something? The only power I have I say here. Why don’t we play tomorrow [Sunday]? Chelsea, Manchester United, Coventry didn’t play midweek.

“I thought a lot. I remember two seasons ago we had Dortmund on Wednesday – and Liverpool on Saturday [in the FA Cup semi]. They were 3-0 up at half-time. They destroyed us.

“Mentally so tough to recover. Rodri, the way he played today, Kyle, who was injured for a few weeks, I don’t understand how they survived. We want to play football. We love to play football but it’s too much. We defend our trophy. We’ll be here.

“They killed us on the transition. The game was so tight. [I thought] extra-time, no please.”

On what he told his players: “Don’t fight against your feelings. If you’re sad you’re sad. If you’re disappointed, you’re disappointed. I’m sad. I’m so down. We played an exceptional game. I said if you’re sad play with your sadness.”

Analysis: Man City grit their teeth to seal Wembley return

Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew at Wembley:

It’s easy to run out of superlatives when talking about Guardiola’s Man City.

So often the football last season’s treble winners play memorises and they blow the opposition away, but at Wembley that wasn’t the case.

After their midweek exploits when they suffered a Champions League exit on penalties at the hands of Real Madrid, City were made to work hard. They were pushed right to their limits and Guardiola knew it.

After the game, he said: “120 minutes, the emotions of Madrid, the way we lose… honestly. I don’t understand how we survived today.”

City had to show a different side. They were clearly still feeling the effects of being taken to extra-time by Real Madrid just three days ago. They were far from their fluent best but in the end, sheer determination got them over the line.

Full credit has to go to them for that as they keep their hopes of retaining the domestic double alive.

Poch: We must finish season in the best way

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino:

“The most important thing is to be clinical and not concede.

“Even if today we competed well, I cannot say we were the better side. We can take positive things from this game. This group of players need these kind of moments.

“Now is a time to finish the season in the best way and then talk about how we can be better.

“Now we play Tuesday against Arsenal, another very good team, and we need to be ready.

“Maybe Manchester City didn’t have enough time to recover, it’s also the same for us on Tuesday.

“We need to assess the team in a different way and not compare to the history of Chelsea. The evolution is good but we need to be ambitious and think how we can improve.”

Analysis: So near but yet so far for Chelsea

Sky Sports’ Joe Shread:

It’s been a case of so close, yet so far for Chelsea in the cups this season. They can claim to have been the better side in the Carabao Cup final in February and in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley – yet they failed to score, let alone win, on both occasions.

Chelsea’s failure to beat a severely depleted Liverpool was a huge missed opportunity for Mauricio Pochettino and his youthful side to win their first piece of silverware. And, while Pep Guardiola’s XI contained far more experience than the Liverpool side that ended the game against Chelsea two months ago, they were clearly drained from Wednesday’s defeat to Real Madrid.

This was probably as close as a Guardiola side will be to being there for the taking. Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden all looked off the pace for long periods, while Chelsea continually found space behind City’s defence.

But just like against Liverpool, the Blues could not take advantage. Nicolas Jackson was the chief culprit, spurning three glorious openings, but so many of his team-mates displayed a lack of precision in the final third.

Chelsea’s wastefulness left them open to a sucker punch and – just like against Liverpool – City delivered it. The west Londoners can point to the controversial decision not to penalise Jack Grealish’s handball but, in reality, the blame lies at their own door.

Until this young Chelsea side learns how to take their chances when it really matters, Wembley will continue to be a place of woe.

What’s next?

Manchester City travel to Brighton on Thursday April 25, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports.

Chelsea are at Arsenal on Tuesday April 23, kick-off 8pm.

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