Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace: Loftus-Cheek and Mount hit Blues’ third consecutive FA Cup final

Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit the ball, giving Jack Butland no chance. Mason Mount hesitated, then pushed home the second. The Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea lives on. His club will be back here on May 14. to play against Liverpool again.

Russian-owned Chelsea could be sold in the coming weeks, but it remains the team built with Sibneft’s money and the coach appointed by Abramovich’s relentless quest for success. There’s no new name above the door yet, which means it’s still the dying embers of his mission. Now Chelsea are set to face Liverpool in the FA Cup final, the final highlight of Abramovich’s time at the club. The border will then be drawn between this season and the next, between the past and an uncertain future.

Can they go out on a high? Don’t rule it out. It was an often slow, but hard-fought victory, and perhaps more impressive for that. Chelsea could have capitulated, could have let this and their season pass. They looked exhausted from their ultimately futile efforts in Madrid in midweek, but rallied enough, late in the second half, to dispatch a woefully short-sighted Crystal Palace side.

Chelsea cruised to a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in a hard-fought FA Cup semi-final on Saturday afternoon

Ruben Loftus-Cheek's superb strike from the edge of the box sent the Blues ahead 20 minutes into the second half

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s superb strike from the edge of the box sent the Blues ahead 20 minutes into the second half

There is a lot of talent in this Palace team and who knows what they could have achieved if Patrick Vieira had let them down a bit. Instead, they waited to hit Chelsea on the counterattack and in doing so squandered what could have been a great opportunity. If he wasn’t exactly there for the taking, Chelsea certainly could have been vulnerable against a team with verve and speed. Palace have that and tried to demonstrate it late in the second half, but by then it was too late. Had Palace started as they had finished, who knows? Chelsea were far too slow for the first 45 minutes, and Jorginho had one of his crabbing turns in the heart of midfield. Improved pace after half-time saw Chelsea lead the game at Palace and get the breakthroughs that left them comfortable at the end.

If only Palace’s approach had echoed that of their fans. They were brilliant and far better than their team, sensing the specialness of the occasion and putting on a defiant spectacle of flags, sounds and colored smoke. The team, unfortunately, could not match it. Throughout the first half and until the game was taken from them, Crystal Palace fans maintained a constant barrage of noise and excitement which at times showed they failed to grasp the reality of the situation.

Because, god, the first part of the game was boring and Palace’s contribution disappointing. Hardly a stop, hardly a chance, and at each end too. Chelsea were patient and Palace bided their time waiting for the counter. Except patience was definitely no virtue, and the counterattacks looked a lot like West Coast trains this weekend: canceled.

Loftus-Cheek broke the deadlock after coming off the bench early on, sending Chelsea on their way to a third straight final

Loftus-Cheek broke the deadlock after coming off the bench early on, sending Chelsea on their way to a third straight final

Mason Mount then produced a cool finish from inside the box to double their lead and give Palace a mountain to climb

Mason Mount then produced a cool finish from inside the box to double their lead and give Palace a mountain to climb

Mount's strike was enough to seal the west London club's place in the final, where they will meet Liverpool next month

Mount’s strike was enough to seal the west London club’s place in the final, where they will meet Liverpool next month

Tuchel's men have finally crossed the line after a grueling Champions League clash with Real Madrid last week

Tuchel’s men have finally crossed the line after a grueling Champions League clash with Real Madrid last week

Palace had their moments at Wembley but Vieira's men were eventually upgraded after a brilliant start to a draw

Palace had their moments at Wembley but Vieira’s men were eventually upgraded after a brilliant start to a draw

So fast forward to what matters. The problem with an elite side like Chelsea is that no matter how strong the opposition, any mistake risks being punished. That’s what happened after 65 minutes when Tyrick Mitchell gave away the ball. Kai Havertz was the beneficiary and his cross cut off Marc Guehi and veered into Loftus-Cheek’s path. He sat down softly and the midfield contact was just as good. It was a ferocious blow into a busy penalty area and left the goalkeeper no chance, his first goal since playing for Fulham on loan on November 22, 2020, against Everton. In a Chelsea jersey, it would be necessary to go back for a semi-final second leg of the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt on May 9, 2019, under the reign of Maurizio Sarri. That was three managers and almost three years ago. Perhaps that’s why Loftus-Cheek is 26 and still struggling to claim a regular spot.

Just five minutes later, and the game is over. Jordan Ayew lost the ball down the left, Timo Werner – who had another impressive game, but failed to score – slotted inside Mount and his first touch saw it deftly through Palace’s defensive barrier before to push the ball past Butland. It was his 12th goal in all competitions this season, the best return of his career. It was also the first time two England players had scored for Chelsea in the same game at Wembley since Peter Housemann and Ian Hutchinson in the 1970 FA Cup final. And they haven’t exactly been strangers to the place since then.

There could have been a third. With a minute left, Romelu Lukaku hit a post from another pass from Werner, and Hakim Ziyech couldn’t convert the rebound. Some of the names on the pitch then provided another explanation for Chelsea’s supremacy. Then come Lukaku, Ziyech, Thiago Silva, N’Golo Kante. Some bench. Via the loan system, Chelsea could also deny Palace one of their best players this season, Conor Gallagher. Who helps.

Of course, Palace had their moments, mostly from set pieces, with Cheikhou Kouyate and Joachim Andersen coming close in the second half. In the first, a defensive header from a free kick didn’t go the distance and fell on Kouyate, who fired it with venom. Edouard Mendy makes an excellent save by descending sharply to his left. Imagine choosing your best goalkeeper for an FA Cup semi-final. What a strange man Tuchel is: it’s almost as if he wants to win it.

Joachim Andersen fended off a glorious chance for the South London outfit from a corner in the second half

Joachim Andersen fended off a glorious chance for the South London outfit from a corner in the second half

Ultimately, they fell short in this last clash and may regret not rising to the occasion like their fans.

Ultimately, they fell short in this last clash and may regret not rising to the occasion like their fans.

Chelsea comfortably arrange another fateful date with Liverpool and a third successive FA Cup final appearance

Chelsea comfortably arrange another fateful date with Liverpool and a third successive FA Cup final appearance

Outside the penalty area, meanwhile, fatigue showed, particularly early on when Chelsea struggled to advance. Mateo Kovacic apologized and left after 25 minutes, and clearly the teams that have traveled to the Spanish capital this week have looked below par on their outings at Wembley, if you take into account of Manchester City’s departure against Liverpool. It was Kovacic’s disappearance that made way for Loftus-Cheek, so every cloud…

Even so, it took Chelsea 29 minutes to muster a chance and when he arrived Werner’s chip was completely missed by captain Cesar Azpilicueta, gently turning his boot for a goal kick. He too was in a good position.

Shortly after, Mount had a shot, but again it wasn’t hit properly and flew harmlessly over the bar. Still, it was a great win and maybe still a great finish.

The only negative was a 38th-minute incident when Havertz was booked by referee Anthony Taylor for a blatant dive without any pressure from Guehi, who in effect pulled his leg out. He could pay that by the end of the season. Good luck making a decision. Referees also watch TV, you know, if they weren’t asleep at the time.

Relive Sportsmail’s live blog of the FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Crystal Palace below.

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