Chelsea extends their unbeaten streak, marching into the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
After booking a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday evening, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea now had their sights set on a trip to Wembley and a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The Blues have played in the most quarter-finals of the cup since 2000, and have also featured within the competitions final in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Their opponents however have also seen success in the competition, reaching the quarter-finals for the second consecutive season.
Following the departure of Chris Wilder, the Blades are now in the hands of Paul Heckingbottom until the end of the season. Heckingbottom made 5 changes to his Sheffield United starting eleven, with the visitors facing injury problems to a host of first-team players.
Tuchel made 9 changes to his Chelsea side that saw victory in midweek against Atlético Madrid. The only players to keep their place in the starting eleven was Kurt Zouma and Mateo Kovačić, with the Croatian making his 100th Chelsea start.
To Heckingbottom’s delight, Sheffield United started the game positively. The visitors were pressing Chelsea well and impressed in the opening 10 minutes.
However, despite their encouraging start, luck wasn’t on United’s side, as they conceded an own goal on the 24th minute to gift Chelsea the lead.
The deadlock was broken following a Chelsea corner, with Mason Mount’s cross beating everyone inside the penalty area. The ball then fell to Ben Chilwell who put the ball back inside the penalty – striking the ball low and hard. Oliver Norwood got a foot to the ball, but was unfortunate to concede into his own net.
The Blades looked well organised, but lacked that creative spark to break Chelsea down. The Blues had 6 clean sheets from their previous 6 games – and look a tough nut to crack.
On the 41st minute, Chelsea should have found a second through Christian Pulisic. The American international did excellently to anticipate a bad pass from Norwood in the final third – leaving the attacker in a 1 on 1 situation. Pulisic however couldn’t beat Aaron Ramsdale, who did well to close down the Chelsea man and make a stop.
Following an effort from David McGoldrick that was comfortably saved by Arrizabalaga, the first half then came to a close – with Chelsea a goal to the good.
The second period was crucial for Sheffield United, with the visitors having everything to play.
Christian Pulisic stood out for Chelsea in the first half, and came close to scoring once again in the second.
With quick feet, Pulisic wiggled his way inside the penalty area and tested Ramsdale once again. Ramsdale did well to make a strong first save, with the rebound falling back to Pulisic who struggled to keep his effort beneath the crossbar.
Chelsea looked in control of the game until it approached the hour mark, with the Blades the beginning to apply pressure and fight their way back into the game.
The Blues looked uncomfortable from time to time, with McGoldrick missing a golden opportunity from point black range on the 66th minute.
Arrizabalaga then went on to deny McBurnie a minute or so later. Possession was suddenly being dominated by the players in salmon pink – who were performing well and hunting for their equaliser.
On the 76th minute, the visitors came close again. McGoldrick did excellently to get the best of César Azpilicueta as he dribbled along the by-line. The Irish international then saw his effort from an incredibly tight angle saved by Arrizabalaga – with the rebound nearly falling for Bogle and an inevitable tap in.
In the 90th minute, the Blades were pressing and continued to search for an equaliser. Rhian Brewster saw a powerful effort deflected – giving the visitors a chance from a corner.
Chelsea however defended it brilliantly, and later exploited their opponents who were depleted at the back. It was a 4 on 2 situation, with Chelsea looking to punish United in ruthless fashion.
As the move accelerated forward, Ben Chilwell then found substitute Hakim Ziyech inside the penalty area, who did brilliantly to beat Ramsdale with a sweet finish to secure Chelsea’s semi-final spot.
After the whistle:
It’s hard not to sympathise with Sheffield United, who played excellently in the match and arguably deserved something from it based on their second half performance. With the Blades destined for relegation, today’s fixture held extra importance – symbolising their last piece of hope for the current campaign.
With their set to be an international break over the next two weeks, the Blades won’t be in action next until the April 3rd, where they will travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds.
For Chelsea, it’s another win and clean sheet on their historic unbeaten run under Tuchel. As the weeks unfold, the Blues are beginning to look more and more impressive, with the both the FA Cup and Champions League to be played for in the coming weeks.
Chelsea will hope to continue their unbeaten streak after the international break, where they will face West Brom on April 3rd.
Chelsea 2-0 Sheffield United.
- Norwood (OG 24’).
- Ziyech (90+2’).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Christensen (63’), Zouma, Emerson; Hudson-Odoi (72’), Gilmour (72’), Kovačić, Chilwell; Mount ©, Pulisic (83’); Giroud (63’).
- Subs: Azpilicueta (63’), James (63’), Ziyech (72’), Havertz (72’), Kanté (83’).
Sheffield United (3-5-2): Ramsdale; Baldock, Jagielka, Stevens; Bogle (90’), Lundstram, Norwood (79’), Fleck, Osborn; McBurnie (75’), McGoldrick.
- Subs: Burke (75’), Brewster (79’), Mousset (90’).
Chelsea (63%) vs Sheffield United (37%).
Chelsea (8) vs Sheffield United (7).
Shots on target:
Chelsea (3) vs Sheffield United (4).
Chelsea (2) vs Sheffield United (4).
Chelsea (8) vs Sheffield United (14).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | BT Sport).
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).