Giroud goal lights up FA Cup semi-final as Chelsea beat Southampton
Former Arsenal striker scores after jinking run at Wembley, as west Londoners book their place in the final
22 April, 2018 — By Allan Ledward
FA Cup Semi-Final
CHELSEA 2 (Giroud 46, Morata 82)
A BRILLIANT goal from Olivier Giroud set Chelsea on their way to the FA Cup final in a match against struggling Southampton that they never looked in danger of losing.
After a tepid first half at Wembley, former Arsenal striker Giroud scored less than a minute after the restart, receiving a pass from Eden Hazard and weaving his way through defenders’ lunges with remarkable composure in the penalty area before stabbing the ball over the line. The Frenchman’s deft footwork showed again that he is much more than just a target man.
It was Giroud’s third goal in a week against the Saints, after he netted twice as a substitute at St Mary’s last weekend. This match lacked the drama of that Premier League fixture, as Southampton struggled to deal with the energy of N’Golo Kante, and the craft of Willian, Cesc Fabregas and Hazard.
Southampton, with the spectre of relegation hanging over them, played like a team with bigger things on their minds. But they had a golden opportunity to get back into the game in the 53rd minute when a clever dummy from Charlie Austin put Shane Long behind the Chelsea defence. The industrious forward took a heavy touch as he rounded goalkeeper Willy Caballero and the chance was gone.
The Saints were later controversially denied an equaliser when Caballero, under pressure from Austin, appeared to drop the ball into his own net, only for referee Martin Atkinson to rule that he had been fouled.
Speaking after the game, Southampton boss Mark Hughes suggested the decision should have been referred to the video referee.
He said: “The goalkeeper has made the wrong decision – basically he’s thrown the ball into the back of his net. If ever there was a situation for a video referee to say, ‘listen, we need to review that’, I would have thought that was an opportunity to do that. Cleary, it’s a match-defining moment at a key time for us.“
Hughes, who had already been knocked out of this season’s FA Cup once, as manager of Stoke City, added: “Our response after going behind was good. We needed a little bit of luck. Shane Long obviously miscontrolled at a key moment. He will feel that he should have scored.”
Chelsea made sure of their place in the final in the 82nd minute. Shortly after replacing Giroud, substitute Alvaro Morata scored with a powerful header after a deep cross from Cesar Azpilicueta.
The west Londoners, inveterate FA Cup finalists in the Roman Abramovich era, lost to Arsenal last year. In what has been a season of underachievement, they will now go on to face Manchester United in the final, after Jose Mourinho’s side squeezed past Spurs on Saturday.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, rumoured to be set to leave the club in the summer, acknowledged the impact Giroud has made at the Stamford Bridge club since his switch from Arsenal in January.
He added: “He has been a good signing for us. I needed a player with his characteristics, strong physically, to hold the ball up, to allow our other players to play in combination with him.”
Chelsea: Caballero, Rudiger, Fabregas (Pedro, 76), Kante, Hazard, Moses, Giroud (Morata, 80), Willian (Bakayoko, 64), Cahill, Azpilicueta, Palmieri.
Subs not used: Eduardo, Barkley, Zappacosta, Christensen.
Southampton: McCarthy, Cedric, Yoshida, Hoedt, Long (Redmond, 63), Austin, Romeu, Lemina, Bertrand, Hojberg (Tadic, 63), Bednarek (Gabbiadini, 78).
Subs not used: Forster, Carrillo, Ward-Prowse, McQueen.