LONDON: FA Cup specialist Ross Barkley appeared as a second-half substitute to lead Chelsea to a 1-0 quarter-final victory over Leicester in the clash of clubs fourth and third the Premier League. The England midfielder’s strike marked a dramatic shift in the balance of the tie.
Leicester dominated the first half. Chelsea appeared to be paying the price in fatigue for the efforts of their victory over Manchester City on Thursday. They found it hard to create any space and time for Tammy Abraham up front. Christian Pulisic saw a rare opportunity denied by the reflexes of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard did not hesitate to make three changes at half-time.
Cesar Azpilicueta, Matteo Kovacic and Barkley replaced youngsters Billy Gilmour, Reece James and Mason Mount. They immediately raised the tempo and put Chelsea in charge.
Lampard was rewarded for his positivity when Barkley edged in front of centre-back Jonny Evans to shoot Chelsea into the lead. Barkley has not scored in the league since October 2018 but he scored in both the third round win over Nottingham Forest and then 2:0 victory over Liverpool on March 3.
Arsenal are hoping the FA Cup will provide them with something to cheer at the end of another disappointing season. Eventual victory might even provide them with their only means of access to the Europa League next season now that their league form has left them ninth, in midtable.
The Gunners squeezed into the last four of the cup after a stoppage-time goal from Dani Ceballos secured a 2-1 win over unlucky Sheffield United. The Blades had an early ‘goal’ refused by VAR who then awarded Arsenal a contentious penalty converted by Nicolas Pepe.
A late equaliser from David McGoldrick appeared to have earned extra time before Ceballos scored the most important goal of his spell on loan from Real Madrid. It was Arsenal’s first, and only, shot on target in the second half.
Arsenal’s lengthy injury list was extended further with the loss to a muscle strain of centre-back David Luiz on his return from suspension. The casualties include Mesut Ozil who was again missing from the squad because of a back injury. Ozil has yet to kick a ball since the restart. He has been named on the bench in only two of Arsenal’s four matches but without playing a single minute.
In the semi-finals the Gunners will face Manchester City who won 2-0 at Newcastle.
The holders opened the scoring from the penalty spot when Kevin de Bruyne slotted past Karl Darlow following Fabian Schar’s needless push on Gabriel Jesus.
But after switching to a more positive formation in the second half, Steve Bruce’s team pressed higher up the pitch and the game opened up before a key turning point after the hour mark.
Although Andy Carroll caused problems of a physical nature on his first start since December, it was his replacement Dwight Gayle who had Newcastle’s best chance when he skied over from six yards following Allan Saint-Maximin’s low cross.
Within two minutes, Raheem Sterling raced down the other end and slotted into the bottom corner with an exquisite curling finish for his 22nd goal of the season.
Manchester United needed a goal two minutes from the end of extra-time to defeat Daniel Farke’s Norwich 2-1. Norwich played the extra 30 minutes without Timm Klose. He was red-carded on 89 minutes for pulling down Odion Ighalo who had earlier scored United’s opening goal.
United deserved to win despite not being at their best. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had made eight changes after Wednesday’s Premier League win over Sheffield United. Their unbeaten run now stretches to 14 matches in all competitions
Solksjaer said: “It’s important for this team to win their first trophy together or at least reach a first final together. That will help the club culture because we need to start winning things again.”
In the process of reaching Wembley Solksjaer became the first manager in English competitive football to use six substitutes: the newly-permitted five in normal time and then midweek hat-trick hero Anthony Martial in the extra 30 minutes.
The semi-finals, both at Wembley, will be on July 18 and 19 with the final on August 1.