Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech helped Chelsea beat Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday evening and reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup
Chelsea have reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup after defeating Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday evening.
Few Blues were in attendance at the ground due to the club’s ban on selling tickets, yet that didn’t stop Thomas Tuchel’s side marching on in the north east. Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech were enough to secure a spot at Wembley.
The other three quarter-finals are due to take place on Sunday. Crystal Palace, Everton, Southampton, Manchester City, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool all remain in the hunt. Here are five talking points on a routine evening for Chelsea.
Chelsea made a quick start to the game, with Christian Pulisic almost getting on the end of a delicious low cross from Mason Mount. Lukaku got a similar chance in the 15th minute, one he dispatched with confidence to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Not only was the goal a sign of the quality the Blues posses, but it was also a good response to the difficult situation they find themselves in. Chelsea will remain under the threat of financial collapse until they secure a buyer. Several parties have made bids.
The European champions doubled their lead 15 minutes later. Picking up the ball on the right, Ziyech cut on to his left foot and his deceiving strike found the bottom corner. Perhaps goalkeeper Joe Lumley should’ve done better, but take nothing away from Ziyech.
Prior to recent events, Chelsea had all money in the world under Abramovich and only the very best academy graduates would earn a spot in the first team. Declan Rice was famously released by the Blues – and he’s now said to be worth more than £100million!
That fact alone proves how good Mount is, yet his performance on Saturday evening was another reminder of his class. Chelsea looked like causing havoc every time he got the ball in a forward position, as he repeatedly found pockets of space down the right.
Chelsea are anticipating an exodus of players this summer due to their off-the-field issues, but Mount is one player they can’t afford to lose. He’s believed to be one of the lowest earners in the squad and his existing deal expires in 27 months’ time.
If a rival comes calling, he may be tempted to leave Stamford Bridge. The post-Abramovich era is only just getting underway at Chelsea, but it would be a travesty for the club if that becomes the post-Mount era, too.
There was an interesting atmosphere at the Riverside on Saturday evening. Middlesbrough achieved their biggest attendance in five years against the Blues and their fans – excited to be challenging England’s elite again – were making all the noise.
The same couldn’t be said for the Chelsea supporters. Only around 700 were in attendance due to their ticket ban and a quiet cheer was heard in the distance when Lukaku’s tap-in found the back of Lumley’s net. It was strange to see so few Blues in attendance.
Although there weren’t many on them, the away fans still would’ve enjoyed their evening in the north east. Off the pitch, Chelsea are in disarray. On the pitch, they’re brilliant. Tuchel should be applauded for motivating his team in tricky circumstances.
Balogun scout report
Arsenal fans were watching the cup tie with interest, as Folarin Balogun started for Middlesbrough. The 20-year-old striker has done OK since completing a loan move to the Riverside – scoring twice – but failed to make an impression against Chelsea.
Balogun wasted a decent chance just after half-time – blazing an effort way over the crossbar – and didn’t get another sniff after that. Next season may be a year too early for the youngster to make an impression at the Emirates. Another loan move looks likely.
Arsenal are in a worrying situation when it comes to strikers. Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are both out of contract at the end of the season and it’s 50-50 whether they’ll continue their careers under Mikel Arteta. Fresh striking talent may be needed.
Boro’s run comes to an end
Although Middlesbrough’s slim hopes of winning the FA Cup are over, their fans can be proud of what Chris Wilder’s team have achieved this season. Those famous victories against Manchester United and Tottenham will live long in the memory.
Middlesbrough’s focus now switches back to the Championship – and Wilder’s team have a chance of achieving promotion to the Premier League. They’re currently eighth in the table, two points behind Blackburn in sixth with two games in hand.
At least eight teams are battling for a play-off spot. The promotion race is hotting up and Middlesbrough are certainly good enough to finish in the top six. They’ve lost just five league games since Wilder’s appointment in November. Watch this space.