Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Romelu Lukaku (right). (Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chelsea reached their third consecutive FA Cup semi-final after a rare goal from Romelu Lukaku resulted in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough on Saturday from the league.
What could have been a potential upset, Thomas Tuchel’s side have never been troubled as they have racked up six straight wins since Roman Abramovich put the European champions up for sale.
Confused Belgium striker Lukaku opened the scoring with just his second goal in seven games.
Hakim Ziyech increased Chelsea’s lead before the break at the Riverside Stadium.
The Blues finished the quarter-finals with minimal fuss thereafter, securing a last-four appearance at Wembley in April as they seek to reach the final for a third straight season.
Chelsea operate under a special license that allows them to stage games following the UK government’s sanctions on Abramovich in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A multitude of bidders submitted their bids to buy Chelsea from Abramovich ahead of Friday’s deadline, hoping their current predicament will soon be over.
Tuchel admits he’s not up to speed on the sale but the German has impressively kept Chelsea’s players focused amid the off-field turmoil.
Chelsea have won 12 of their last 13 games, with the exception of their league penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool.
Things didn’t go smoothly and after a scathing reaction from Middlesbrough and even their own fans, Chelsea had withdrawn their bid to host the quarter-finals behind closed doors after being denied the opportunity to sell their entire ticket contingent due to the sanctions.
Tuchel feared his side would have to make a 10-hour bus journey to the game as spending away from home is limited before moving to a new owner.
But they were eventually allowed to fly to Teesside, where they comfortably bypassed any FA Cup turbulence.
Middlesbrough had shocked Manchester United and Tottenham in the previous two rounds but it quickly became clear there would be no third scalp.
Tuchel made five midweek changes since the Champions League Round of 16 win in Lille but still fielded a strong side including the much-maligned Lukaku, who was narrowly denied in the early moments by Mason Mount’s low cross.
If that miss was symbolic of Lukaku’s struggles this season, it gave a 15th-minute glimpse into the predatory instincts that led the Blues to pay a club-record £97million to sign him from Inter Milan last year .
Pushed deep in Middlesbrough’s own half, Thiago Silva and Ziyech combined to neutralize the hosts’ pressure in a series of passes.
Ziyech deflected a superb long pass to Mount’s lung-splitting wave down the right and the England striker lashed out at a precise cross that Lukaku found with a clean finish from six yards out.
It was Lukaku’s 12th club goal this season and his 16th in the FA Cup since his tournament debut in 2012.
Still, there is little sign of celebration or even a smile from Lukaku, reflecting the difficulties of a campaign that has seen him forced to apologize after hinting he was already interested in returning to Inter.
For all the huff and puff from Middlesbrough, they rarely threatened to shake Chelsea and the Blues’ extra quality was shown again as they doubled their lead in the 31st minute.
A gentle pass from Mount and Mateo Kovacic left Middlesbrough to chase Shadow and Ziyech sliced off the right flank to drill an evasive punch into the far corner from the edge of the area.
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Lumley might have done better but Ziyech wasn’t worried about that as he celebrated a goal on his 29th birthday.
Lukaku scores as Chelsea reach FA Cup semi-finals
Source link Lukaku scores as Chelsea reach FA Cup semi-finals