Chelsea beats Palace 2-0 to book FA Cup final against Liverpool

CHELSEA’S Ruben Loftus-Cheek scores their first goal. – REUTERS

LONDON – Chelsea reached their third straight Football Association (FA) Cup final with a hard-earned 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to set up a showdown with quadruple-chasing Liverpool.

Second-half goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount fired Thomas Tuchel’s side to victory in the semifinals and secured a place in the May 14 showpiece match versus Liverpool, who beat Manchester City 3-2 on Saturday.

In their fifth FA Cup final appearance in six years, Chelsea will look to make amends after being runner-up to Leicester City and Arsenal in the last two seasons and also try to avenge their League Cup final loss to Liverpool in February.

After an attritional first hour, a patient Chelsea side finally broke Palace’s stubborn resistance in the 65th minute through substitute Loftus-Cheek, who had replaced the injured Mateo Kovačić midway through the first half.

Kai Havertz’s cross from the right was deflected out to former Palace loanee Loftus-Cheek who hammered a ferocious shot that hit opposing defender Joachim Andersen and flew into the net for the 26-year-old’s first goal of the season.

Mount added a crucial second just over 10 minutes later and sealed the victory for Chelsea, playing Timo Werner’s ball from the edge of the box past Andersen with his first touch and beating goalkeeper Jack Butland with his second.

Patrick Vieira’s Palace had defended well to contain Chelsea until Loftus-Cheek broke the deadlock and were nearly rewarded for a gritty display, with Cheikhou Kouyate twice coming close.

Palace’s talisman Wilfried Zaha was unable to shake off his marker Reece James and make an impact, while Eberechi Eze offered little as a replacement for on-loan midfielder Connor Gallagher, who was unable to play against his parent club.

The win was a tonic for eight-times FA Cup winner Chelsea after Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal exit at Real Madrid, where the holder won the second leg 3-2 after extra time but was eliminated 5-4 on aggregate.

It also keeps them in contention to end a turbulent season with silverware when they take on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool again next month, having lost 11-10 to them on penalties in the League Cup final in February after a 0-0 draw following extra time.

“I think it took a little deflection but I’ll take it… it’s long overdue,” Loftus-Cheek said of his goal. “It’s been a tough road for me, with injuries and going out on loan.

“We want to get Liverpool back, simple as that. I thought the Carabao (League) Cup final was a fantastic game that could have gone either way. We’re looking forward to it, and hopefully we’ll get our revenge. ” – Reuters

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