Chelsea beats United, sets up FA Cup semifinal vs Spurs
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 14, 2017 10:44 AM
Chelsea players celebrate after Chelsea's N'Golo Kante, 2nd left, scored the opening goal during the English FA Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Monday, March 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer
LONDON (AP) — Chelsea prevailed over Jose Mourinho's forceful, spoiling tactics to end Manchester United's FA Cup defense and set up a semifinal derby with Tottenham.
On another gloomy return to Stamford Bridge for Mourinho, United's aggressive attempts to neutralize Eden Hazard backfired when Ander Herrera was booked twice for fouling the winger and dismissed 35 minutes into Monday's quarterfinal.
"We were complaining," Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said after the 1-0 victory. "We felt Eden was getting harassed."
Chelsea's trip to Wembley Stadium was secured six minutes into the second half when N'Golo Kante switched from midfield enforcer to match-winner. Paul Pogba failed to close down France teammate Kante, who found the space to score from 20 yards (meters) and keep the Premier League leaders on course for a domestic double.
It's rare for Kante to be in the scoring spotlight, although his only other goal since joining Chelsea last year came on United's last visit to west London. Even with 10 men, Mourinho avoided the humiliation of October's 4-0 league loss but only through an ultra-defensive display that saw United's possession drop to a season-low of 28 percent.
And also, according to Chelsea, by targeting Hazard.
"For Hazard, (for) 20, 25 minutes it was impossible to play football, because he received only kicks," Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. "A tactic to play and go to kick an opponent? It's not football for me. ... Sometimes when you play against players with great talent, you try to intimidate those players."
Chelsea's fans sought to intimidate through chants, and they pained Mourinho, the most successful manager in the London club's history before being fired for a second time in 2015.
"You're not special anymore," sang Chelsea fans, between expletive-filled chants directed at the self-styled "Special One" who they branded "Judas."
Mourinho responded with typical bravado, directing three fingers at the fans who once adored him to signal the trio of Premier League titles he won across two spells in charge at Chelsea. He waited until after the quarterfinal to deliver another riposte to fans with short memories.
"They can call me what they want," Mourinho said. "Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues for them I am the No. 1 ... Judas is No. 1."
But maybe not No. 1 come May. Mourinho is left with only one route to silverware — the Europa League — in his first season in charge of Manchester United.
Chelsea is No. 1 in the Premier League with a 10-point lead, while United has sunk to sixth. If Chelsea can beat London rival Tottenham, it will play either Manchester City or Arsenal in the FA Cup final in May to complete Conte's first season in charge.
The revival of a club in discord after Mourinho's December 2015 exit is in large part due to the revival of a player reviled toward the end of the Portuguese coach's tenure.
Hazard was a constant danger again against United, barreling through an ineffective resistance with his fleet-footed runs even when it was 11 vs. 11.
It was Hazard who was the first to test goalkeeper David De Gea after breaking away from Chris Smalling around the halfway and beating two more United players before his 16th-minute strike. From the resulting corner it took De Gea low at full stretch to keep out Cahill's close-range effort.
Hazard was becoming a target for persistent fouling. Herrera, though, seemed to be harshly penalized for the first time after Hazard ran into him. There seemed little to dispute the yellow card shown to Phil Jones for pushing Hazard.
But on the touchline, tensions were erupting between Conte and Mourinho. Conte was angered when Hazard was fouled again by Herrera right in front of referee Michael Oliver, and the trip saw the midfielder banished.
Mourinho was furious that Cahill escaped any form of punishment for a foul on Marcus Rashford, who overcame illness to fill the void left by Ibrahimovic's suspension.
The fourth official was struggling to contain the quarrelling managers and Oliver came over to the side to issue a warning.
The halftime whistle was well timed. The touchline tempers faded after the break and Kante found the net.
United could have finished with nine men had the referee judged Antonio Valencia as severely as Herrera. But both a sliding challenge on Hazard and a two-footed lunge on Kante went unpunished.
And only once did United come close to force extra time. Rashford spun away from David Luiz on halfway, past the back-pedaling Cahill, but he was denied one-on-one by Thibaut Courtois.