KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Olivier Giroud, discarded by Arsenal in January, will be back at Wembley in pursuit of a fourth FA Cup winner’s medal after leading Chelsea to victory over Southampton in the weekend’s second semi-final.
Chelsea will thus confront Manchester United for a third time in the final as well as Jose Mourinho, whom the Blues first brought into English football, in the Wembley final on May 19.
Giroud, who scored twice against Southampton in the Premier League eight days earlier, struck within 30 seconds of the start of the second half. His substitute, Alvaro Morata, wrapped up a well-deserved 2-0 victory with a first-touch headed goal nine minutes from time.
Southampton manager Mark Hughes can now direct all his team’s attention on the struggle to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Antonio Conte, one of Mourinho’s many successors at Stamford Bridge, has the prospect of ending his London stay with FA Cup success to add to the league title claimed in his first term a year ago. Conte has never won a domestic cup as a manager.
Saints gambled on playing twin strikers in Shane Long and Charlie Austin. That left them vulnerable in defence but somehow they survived to the interval despite Eden Hazard firing just too high after only five minutes and then Willian clipping the top of the crossbar.
Giroud’s goal sparked Saints into attacking life but claims for a penalty for hands against Giroud were dismissed by referee Martin Atkinson on the advice of VAR Mick Jones. The ex-Arsenal man was then substituted, to decisive effect, by Morata in the 81st minute.
** The FA Cup semi-final was preceded by tributes to the Chelsea’s former England internationals Roy Bentley and Ray Wilkins who died recently.
Wilkins played 84 times in the England midfield between 1976 and 1976 while centre-forward Bentley captained Chelsea’s first league title-winning team in 1955. Bentley had been the last survivor of the England team beaten by the United States in the 1950 World Cup.