Chelsea were good, but they could­n’t get the ball into the oppo­nen­t’s goal.

Eng­land. Cup. 1/2 finals

April 20, 19:15. Wem­b­ley (Lon­don)

Man­ches­ter city



Man­ches­ter City fans have expe­ri­enced a range of emo­tions over the past week. After the aes­thet­ic plea­sure of a spec­tac­u­lar draw with Real (3:3), there was a sud­den joy from the gift of com­peti­tors in the Pre­mier League and tak­ing first place in the table. True, then there was severe dis­ap­point­ment — elim­i­na­tion from the Cham­pi­ons League at the quar­ter-final stage in a match in which their favorite team had total con­trol of the ini­tia­tive.

Is there a Guardi­o­la curse? Man City are the best team in the Cham­pi­ons League, but that does­n’t mean any­thing

It’s hard to imag­ine what’s going on in the minds of Guardi­o­la’s play­ers now. But there is a pos­si­bil­i­ty that, giv­en such a busy sched­ule, they sim­ply do not have the strength, emo­tions, or time to seri­ous­ly com­pre­hend every­thing that hap­pens to them in this cycle. But still, fail­ure in the Cham­pi­ons League is a seri­ous event; you can for­get about a repeat tre­ble. This means that it was urgent­ly nec­es­sary to restore our rep­u­ta­tion and self-con­fi­dence in the next match. For­tu­nate­ly, “City” still played in the semi-finals — how­ev­er, not of the league cham­pi­onship, but of the FA Cup, where the “cit­i­zens” came across “Chelsea”.

Guardi­o­la, after more than 120 intense min­utes against Real Madrid, arranged the expect­ed rota­tion — Dias and Guardi­ol remained on the bench, and Haa­land was not includ­ed in the line­up at all due to injury. Plus, Orte­ga, who tra­di­tion­al­ly plays in Cup match­es, took his place in goal. Although Pep left the core in the cen­ter: Rodri, Foden, De Bruyne, Bernar­do Sil­va, Gre­al­ish — every­one was in place.

City approached the match as favorites, but even before the start­ing whis­tle there was a feel­ing that in fact, Chelsea in its cur­rent state was quite capa­ble of giv­ing the fight to the cham­pi­on. Pochet­ti­no’s team has not lost in the last eight match­es, Cole Palmer has returned to great form, and Fer­nan­dez and Ster­ling have returned to the line­up. True, the weak posi­tion remains the goal­keep­er, where Petro­vich replaces Sanchez. But in any case, Chelsea clear­ly did not come to Wem­b­ley to sit silent­ly in defense.

Pho­to by Reuters

Per­haps the Lon­don­ers would have used such tac­tics if they had scored first. And there were moments for this in the first half. From the open­ing min­utes, the blues began to imple­ment one sim­ple and at the same time very com­plex instal­la­tion on the field — press­ing. Palmer worked on a line with Nicholas Jack­son to keep City’s defense under pres­sure with­out the ball. It worked sev­er­al times, and after pro­voked mis­takes by the oppo­nent in the cen­ter of the field, Chelsea made a great run towards Ortega’s goal. City grad­u­ate Palmer was espe­cial­ly active, who in the 11th minute tried to throw the ball behind the col­lar of the same Orte­ga, and at the end of the half he rocked Rodri him­self and spec­tac­u­lar­ly shot from under the defender’s feet, but the Man­ches­ter goal­keep­er was again on his guard.

Chelsea showed them­selves well and even tried to take the ini­tia­tive, but it still, as expect­ed, belonged to Man City. In the first half, Pep’s team pressed the oppo­nen­t’s goal. There were gor­geous cut­ting pass­es from De Bruyne, and Foden’s break­through to Petro­vic, and Alvarez’s shots. But the favorite was unable to cre­ate a tru­ly poignant moment. Appar­ent­ly, fatigue from too many match­es was tak­ing its toll.

Imme­di­ate­ly after the break Chelsea came close to tak­ing the lead. Clever Palmer made a mag­nif­i­cent pass to Nicholas Jack­son, but Orte­ga dragged the Sene­gale­se’s shot into the far cor­ner, and a few sec­onds lat­er neu­tral­ized his sec­ond attempt to send the ball into the net — he effec­tive­ly par­ried it with his hand on the tape.

Five min­utes lat­er, City launched their sig­na­ture attack — De Bruyne played with Bernar­do, Rodri switched to the oth­er flank, Gre­al­ish burst into the penal­ty area and rolled towards Foden. A mag­nif­i­cent com­bi­na­tion that was stopped only by the Chelsea goal­keep­er.

Pho­to by Reuters

The ref­er­ee then made a con­tro­ver­sial deci­sion after Palmer’s free-kick hit Gre­al­ish in the wall. The VAR watched the episode, but did not prompt the ref­er­ee to point to the spot. Chelsea fans cer­tain­ly had rea­son to be out­raged.

At the end of nor­mal time, it became obvi­ous that both teams were tired. Chelsea’s attack was pro­pelled by the unstop­pable Palmer, while City was led for­ward by Doku, who replaced Gre­al­ish. The Bel­gian also added dri­ve in the match against Real Madrid with his drib­bling, and now he has seri­ous­ly strained the defend­ers on his left flank. After the 80th minute, Man City seemed to change gears and press Chelsea into the penal­ty area. At that moment, Doku made a pen­e­trat­ing pass to De Bruyne — Kevin crossed, Petro­vich kicked it to the far post, where Sil­va was already wait­ing for the prey — 1:0.

Pho­to by AFP

The ref­er­ee added eight min­utes to reg­u­lar time, so Chelsea def­i­nite­ly had time to win back. But Pochettino’s team, after con­ced­ing the goal, seemed to accept defeat and did not cre­ate a sin­gle inter­est­ing approach at all. City did not force things and calm­ly brought the mat­ter to vic­to­ry — 1:0 was enough to cov­er the neg­a­tive emo­tions from being rel­e­gat­ed from the Cham­pi­ons League. And we must thank Ste­fan Orte­ga for this, first of all, who made a num­ber of impor­tant saves.

Ahead of City is the final on May 25. Here at Wem­b­ley. The match will be against the win­ner of the Coven­try City — Man­ches­ter Unit­ed pair. So we can ful­ly expect that the Eng­lish sea­son will end with a bril­liant Man­ches­ter der­by.