Chelsea are through to the FA Cup final to face Liverpool after beating Crystal Palace 2-0 at Wembley.
The first half was a fairly slow and uneventful affair, with both sides looking cagey in possession and Palace having the better of the few chances, Chiekhou Kouyate seeing one effort saved by Edouard Mendy, while Mason Mount’s cross drifted through to Jack Butland in the closest Chelsea came to a goal.
Despite more Chelsea possession after the restart it was again Kouyate who went close around the hour mark, nodding wide off a corner – but Ruben Loftus-Cheek finally broke the deadlock with a thunderous, deflected hit a few minutes later.
Mason Mount then side-footed home a second to wrap matters up, before Joachim Andersen headed over from two yards to spurn Palace’s big chance to get back in the game.
Here are five things we learned from the second semi-final at Wembley.
Palace progress on show
There’s a case to be made to suggest Crystal Palace’s improvement across the year can be chartered simply by looking at their games against Chelsea.
On the opening weekend of the Premier League season, a 3-0 loss in Patrick Vieira’s first fixture in charge showcased new faces and the fact there was plenty of work to do in terms of off-the-ball organisation, but that progression was evident in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park.
On that occasion it took a late Hakim Ziyech winner to split them – and Palace’s ongoing improvement is underlined by the fact they reached the FA Cup semi-final for the first time since 2016.
Cup keepers in the spotlight
After Zack Steffen’s horror show on this pitch one day earlier it was an interesting note to see Vicente Guaita left on the bench for Crystal Palace, with backup Jack Butland taking his place between the sticks.
The former Stoke stopper certainly couldn’t do anything about the game’s opening goal, a rifled effort which took a nick off a defend on the way through, though perhaps there was a hint of not quite being set for Mount’s low finish, which was well -placed but not entirely in the corner.
There’s no question of Butland having done anything approaching Steffen’s level of costliness, though, and a Wembley appearance is clearly the reward Vieira felt he deserved for being part of the team to reach the last four.
Mount hits top gear as season comes to final stretch
After a stuttering first half of the campaign, Mason Mount has really rediscovered his finest form at a good time for Chelsea.
They are out of the running to retain their European title, true, but domestic cup success and sealing a third-place finish in the league remain relatively lofty ambitions.
Including his Wembley strike here, Mount now has six goals or assists in his last three games, following one of each against Real Madrid and a brace plus an assist against Southampton.
Loftus-Cheek’s resurgence continues
He has been far from a first-choice starter all season long, but the 26-year-old Ruben Loftus Cheek has earned himself a regular role within Tuchel’s set-up again.
Strong in possession, great technique and recent evidence of his willingness to do what the team requires has made him a quick go-to player off the bench for the manager.
Having featured at wing-back recently, Loftus-Cheek got the nod in midfield when Mateo Kovacic picked up a first-half injury and hit a tremendous opening goal to go along with an all-round performance which could just see him play an even more prominent part in the season’s closing weeks.
Reds await in the end
Liverpool booked their spot in the final yesterday with a 3-2 win over Manchester City and they’ll start the next game at Wembley as favourites, but now know they’ll face another difficult game to triumph.
As was the case in the League Cup final, it’s Reds against Blues and Liverpool against Chelsea – that final went all the way to penalties, before Jurgen Klopp’s side triumphed.
Thomas Tuchel and Co will be out for a revenge mission, as well as to wart their rivals’ bid to triumph in three cup competitions this term and quite possibly even an unprecedented quadruple.
Another tremendous Wembley occasion will await.