Two second-half goals of the highest quality were enough to see Chelsea edge Southampton 2-0 in the second FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium, with the Blues setting up a May 19 date with Manchester United in the process.
Olivier Giroud, given the nod ahead of club-record signing Alvaro Morata, jinked past several Southampton defenders and their goalkeeper Alex McCarthy before stabbing home in the 46th minute.
Southampton had defended with their backs to the wall for the most part of the first-half but all their good work was undone early on after the restart thanks to the brilliance of Eden Hazard and Giroud.
The diminutive Belgian, in the midst of his most underwhelming season in the English top-flight, expertly controlled a lofted ball before laying it off for Giroud and the burly Frenchman showed how nimble he can be when the situation demands as he weaved his way past a number of challenges despite losing his balance in the end and found the back of the net.
Antonio Conte would bring off the excellent Wiliian for Tiemoue Bakayoko as the match progressed, seemingly settling for the 1-0 win but the way the Brazilian stormed off the pitch suggested that there was more to it than meets the eye.
In the end, the Italian tactician’s caution didn’t scupper his side’s chances as substitute Alvaro Morata would score a thumping header late in the tie to effectively end the Saints’ dream run.
Manchester United had on Saturday edged Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 to book their final berth and will go head-to-head with the Blues on May 19 in the final.
Mark Hughes’ side now need to channel their energies into Premier League survival after what has been a great run, while the West Londoners and the Red Devils battle it out to clinch one piece of silverware.