Chelsea will face Arsenal in an all-London FA Cup final next month at Wembley Stadium, and the Blues largely have Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea to thank for Sunday’s 3-1 win.
Frank Lampard’s side got goals from Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount on either side of halftime before United defender Harry Maguire capped off his side’s nightmare day with an own goal with just over a quarter hour remaining. Bruno Fernandes did pull one back on from the penalty spot with five minutes to go, but it was too little, too late by then.
De Gea could and should have done better on the Blues’ first two tallies — especially Mount’s back-breaking second goal. It was a speculative shot that should have been routinely saved but somehow eluded the grasp of the Spanish backstop, whose amateurish mistakes have cost the Red Devils dearly on several occasions in recent seasons.
Let’s be clear: Man United’ defeat wasn’t all on de Gea. Chelsea, which unlike United fielded a less-than \-full-strength lineup as they chase Champions League qualification with just two Premier League games remaining, was the sharper, hungrier team by far from start to finish.
Even without white-hot American talisman Christian Pulisic leading the attack, the Blues outshot, out-chanced and out-possessed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, which switched to a three-man backline for the match. The tactical tweak didn’t work; United would’ve been lucky to get into the dressing room at the half on even terms, but Chelsea deservedly went ahead just before the intermission at Wembley.
Giroud’s opener came after a lengthy delay to attend to Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, who left the field on a stretcher with a suspected concussion after a scary clash of heads with teammate Maguire. The goal arrived in the 11th minute of first half stoppage time, with the veteran French striker stabbing a seeing-eye cross from Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta past de Gea:
United defender Victor Lindelof didn’t do de Gea any favors on the play, allowing the 33-year-old Giroud to get goal-side of him as Willian released an open Azpilicueta on the wing. But de Gea still wasn’t able to paw away Giroud’s redirect, which hit him on the right hand before spinning across the line.
If the match wasn’t over after the first two goals, it surely was when Maguire turned the ball into his own net. This time at least, there was nothing de Gea could do:
Chelsea will meet the crosstown rival Gunners on Aug. 1.
Meantime, Man United closes out its 2019-20 slate with Premier League matches against West Ham and fourth-place Leicester City, which did both the third-pace Blues and the fifth-place Red Devils a huge favor by losing to Tottenham Hotspur in the Prem earlier Sunday. The top four finishers in England receive a Champions League berth.
Lampard’s side faces champions Liverpool and Wolverhampton in its final two league games. It will also meet German titan Bayern Munich Aug. 8 in the second leg of its round of 16 Champions League series.
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