FA Cup: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0
By Football News
Chelsea defeated a lacklustre Manchester United 1-0 on Monday to set up an FA Cup semi-final clash with Manchester City.
A brilliantly constructed and executed Demba Ba volley was the difference between the two heavyweights as Rafael Benitez's team triumphed 1-0 in the quarter-final replay.
The other key moment was a stunning save-of-the-season contender from Petr Cech that denied Javier Hernandez an equaliser midway through the second half.
The game, staged just 48 hours after both clubs were involved in away league fixtures, did not come to life until the second half.
Juan Mata was the architect of Chelsea's comeback to draw 2-2 in the first game at Old Trafford and he was equally influential on home turf, with his most notable contribution the delicious chipped pass that set up Ba for the game's only goal.
The FA Cup holders did not score the second goal that their dominance merited but they still booked a Wembley date with Man City at Wembley on April 14 to keep alive their hopes of defending the crown they earned against Liverpool in last season's final.
As expected, both managers made wholesale changes to the teams that started in league clashes less than 48 hours previously.
Ferguson trumped Benitez in the rotation stakes by bringing in seven new players to the Chelsea manager's six, although Wayne Rooney was surprisingly not one of them.
The forward was omitted from the United squad for the second consecutive match with what Ferguson claimed was a groin injury picked up on England duty.
David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia were the only United players to start both Saturday's 1-0 win at Sunderland and keep their place.
Benitez notably dropped John Terry, Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres to the bench, with Ramires, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Demba Ba restored to the team, along with David Luiz and Ashley Cole.
Ferguson sprung a tactical surprise with Phil Jones anchoring alongside Carrick, Tom Cleverley tucked in on the left of midfield and Valencia deployed at right-back with Nani in front of him.
Chelsea were forced into an early change after Cole pulled up with a hamstring injury while chasing Danny Welbeck. He looked in severe pain as he hobbled off, to be replaced by Ryan Bertrand.
It took 30 minutes for the game's first real opening to arrive, which came when Hazard played in Ba on the right. The striker shot powerfully to De Gea's near post, but the United keeper was alert and smartly kept it out.
Hazard looked the most likely player to conjure an opener. Running with the ball from the left, he skipped past Jones and shared a one-two with Oscar before smashing his shot narrowly over the bar.
At the other end, Cech nearly became the victim of a hopeful Hernandez long-ranger. It did not wobble in the air as much as the goalkeeper's reaction suggested, but the captain's blushes were saved by his out-stretched right leg.
Chelsea took control early in the second half through a superbly constructed goal that blew the cobwebs off what had been a tepid encounter.
Mata seemingly had few options when he picked up the ball in a central area in the middle of the United half. But the Spaniard's feet are in perfect sync with his sharp football brain, and he picked out Ba's run with a perfectly weighted chipped pass.
The Senegalese had plenty left to do but, crucially, had the technique to match his confidence. A brilliant first-time hooked finish on the volley surprised De Gea to put Chelsea ahead for the first time.
United responded with typical vigour. Hernandez inspired one of the saves of the season from Cech with a diving header that had looked destined for the net. Robin van Persie and Ryan Giggs were then sent on in place of Cleverley and Nani to try and save United's FA Cup campaign.
Hazard gave United a let-off after 67 minutes when he burst into the penalty area following a mistake from Carrick only to shoot a yard wide of the goal.
That prompted a flurry of opportunities for the hosts, but their finishing did not match their approach play as chances sailed above and either side of the woodwork.
Despite some late United pressure, with Van Persie missing two decent chances, the hosts survived to reach the last four.