Chelsea’s unbeaten start under Thomas Tuchel rolled on as Oliver Norwood’s own goal and a late Hakim Ziyech strike sent the Blues into the FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United.
Appearing in their 15th FA Cup quarter-final since the turn of the century – the most of any side – Chelsea were not at their sharpest at Stamford Bridge on Sunday but, as they have done in many of their 14 matches under Tuchel so far, managed to grind out a result.
Norwood’s own goal put Chelsea ahead, with David McGoldrick missing a golden chance to restore parity when he headed wide from five yards out.
Chelsea made their fortune count, holding firm in rather nervy fashion before hitting the Blades on the break and securing their progression thanks to Ziyech, reaching the semi-finals for the fourth time in five seasons.
Playing at the end of a difficult week personally following the death of his brother, Phil Jagielka might have put United ahead early on but failed to generate enough power on his header to trouble Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Yet United’s bright start ultimately proved fruitless – Chelsea striking first when Norwood diverted Ben Chilwell’s effort beyond Aaron Ramsdale.
3 – Among Premier League sides, only Arsenal (4) have scored more own goals in all competitions this season than Sheffield United (3), though Arsenal have played 10 games more than the Blades. Sabotage. pic.twitter.com/YNKFaVMAdr
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 21, 2021
Norwood was almost at fault for another goal before half-time when his stray pass was intercepted by Christian Pulisic, though Ramsdale rushed out to spare his team-mate’s blushes.
Displaying some terrific footwork, Pulisic engineered another chance straight after the restart, but Ramsdale again stood firm.
McGoldrick should have built on Ramsdale’s save, only to head wide of a gaping goal from point-blank range.
Kepa had work to do soon after – McGoldrick’s strike partner Oli McBurnie forcing a smart save out of the Spaniard.
Rhian Brewster then saw a strike deflected into the side netting, yet for all United’s pressure, Chelsea dealt the knockout blow when substitute Ziyech drilled in from close range at the end of a sweeping counter to ensure the Blues progressed.
What does it mean? Functional Blues back at Wembley
Last year’s runners up Chelsea have joined Southampton and Manchester City in the last four, with Leicester City or Manchester United to take the final spot.
After dispatching of Atletico Madrid in midweek, the Blues were given a rough ride by a Blades team with little to lose, and the scoreline was perhaps not a true reflection of the match. Indeed, Chelsea managed just one more attempt (eight) than their Championship-bound opponents, who also had four efforts on target compared to the hosts’ three.
Zouma comes up big
In and out of Chelsea’s defence lately, Zouma did his chances of remaining top of Tuchel’s centre-back list no harm with a dominant display at the back.
He led the way in clearances (six), while no player managed more interceptions (two – level with Chilwell and United’s George Baldock). The Frenchman won three of his six duels, and completed 63 of 67 passes, with his accuracy of 94 per cent second only to Chilwell among Chelsea players who started the game.
Blades’ own goal misery
While they are not mathematically out of the relegation scrap, matters look grim for United, whose last hope was at least salvaging a trip to Wembley from what has been a torrid campaign.
The Blades were chasing the game from the 24th minute when Norwood stabbed at Chilwell’s wayward shot. Among Premier League sides, only Arsenal (four) have scored more own goals in all competitions this season than Sheffield United (three), though Arsenal have played 10 games more than the Blades.
Chelsea host United’s fellow Premier League strugglers West Brom following the international break, while the Blades face Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.