Sports Xtra


Chelsea book FA Cup final date with Man Utd

Olivier Giroud's brilliant semi-final goal helped Chelsea beat Southampton to reach the FA Cup final and set up a meeting with Manchester United.

Chelsea striker Giroud received the ball from Eden Hazard and jinked his way past two Southampton players in a crowded area before he stabbed the ball home.

Giroud was replaced by Alvaro Morata with 10 minutes to go and the substitute sealed safe passage with Chelsea's second when he headed in at the back post from Cesar Azpilicueta's cross.

Southampton went close with Nathan Redmond's low drive from distance while Charlie Austin hit the post.

It means Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will come up against managerial adversary Jose Mourinho at Wembley on 19 May.

There is no love lost between Conte and former Chelsea manager Mourinho, who have traded insults throughout the season.

The final is also repeat of 2007 when Mourinho guided Chelsea to a 1-0 victory over United in the first to be played at the rebuilt Wembley.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Giroud double breaks Saints hearts

Substitute Olivier Giroud scored twice as Chelsea came from 2-0 down to win at Southampton and keep alive their faint hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Dusan Tadic's opener, a placed effort following Ryan Bertrand's marauding run, and Polish defender Jan Bednarek's left-footed shot looked to be lifting Saints out of the bottom three.

But, with Mark Hughes seemingly on course for a first league victory as Southampton manager since arriving on 14 March, Giroud sparked a listless Chelsea into life.

The France forward's header - his first league goal for Antonio Conte's team - and left-footed drive sandwiched Eden Hazard's left-foot finish as the Blues moved within seven points of fourth-placed Tottenham.

For an hour, Chelsea's performance epitomised their travails since the turn of the year, with the defending champions having collected just 12 points from the previous 33 available.

Willian's 55th-minute shot was their first effort on target, and there were question marks over the application of several players in the build-up to both Saints goals.

One of those players - wing-back Marcos Alonso - was also fortunate to escape without punishment for standing on the back of Southampton forward Shane Long's calf in the first half.

Southampton remain 18th as they try to avoid slipping into the Championship for the first time since 2011-12.

No respite for Southampton or Hughes

After being sacked by Stoke, Hughes is facing the ignominious prospect of playing a part in the relegation of two clubs this season.

The upturn in results the Saints board hoped for when the Welshman was brought in to replace Mauricio Pellegrino just over a month ago has not materialised.

While an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea is on the horizon, Hughes has presided over three successive league defeats, with three goals conceded in each match.

Following an abject 3-0 defeat at West Ham, there were encouraging signs in a 3-2 defeat at Arsenal last Sunday, and more of the same against Chelsea.

Southampton controlled proceedings for about 70 minutes, but their biggest problem is turning performances into points.

One victory in 20 league matches - against bottom club West Brom - does not bode well for the Saints, who could be six points adrift of safety later.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Conte says 3-0 Chelsea defeat 'unfair'

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte felt the 3-0 defeat in Barcelona which ended his side's involvement in the Champions League was "unfair".

Two goals from Lionel Messi plus one from Ousmane Dembele - his first in a Barca shirt - helped the Spanish giants to a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Defeat damages Chelsea's chances of Champions League football next season, with Conte's side now needing a top-four finish in the Premier League.

"We have no regrets," he said.

"If you watch the game, you can see the final result is unfair."

Conte acknowledged Messi - who also scored in the first leg - had been "the difference" between the sides.

The Argentina striker's second goal in the Nou Camp took him to 100 in the Champions League.

While Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo holds the record with 117, Messi reached three figures in 14 games fewer.

"We are talking about the best player in the world," said Conte.

"He scores 60 goals every season - he is a super top player. Barcelona were very clinical."

Chelsea led for 13 minutes of the first leg and hit the woodwork four times over the two matches.

N'Golo Kante and Marcos Alonso both went close in the Nou Camp, before Antonio Rudiger headed against the bar in the closing moments.

The Blues also had appeals for a penalty waved away when Alonso went down inside the area under a challenge from Gerard Pique.

"We didn't deserve to lose 3-0," said Conte. "We were a bit unlucky.

"I think we created many chances but we didn't take them.

"I must be very proud about my players - they gave everything and we have to continue in this way, with this will to fight and desire to fight together."

'I don't think we deserve to be out'

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told BT Sport: "I don't think we deserve to be out, but individual mistakes cost us in both legs.

"The first goal... I didn't expect Lionel Messi to shoot from that angle and I was too late in closing my legs. It was a mistake on my part.

"The weakest point is between the legs of a goalkeeper. It is annoying. I cannot hide inside, I have to be a man and come out."

Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso told BT Sport: "We knew they have top players and we cannot give them one metre because they can create and score.

"We have to improve and when you lose, you have to train and get better."

Credit: BBC

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Conte defends Chelsea approach in Man City defeat

Antonio Conte defended his tactical approach as Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon.

Bernardo Silva scored the only goal as City took another stride towards the Premier League title with a 1-0 victory over their lacklustre opponents.

The scoreline did not reflect City’s dominance of a one-sided contest at the Etihad Stadium, with fading champions Chelsea offering little as they slipped to a fourth defeat in five league games.

The visitors did at least make City dig deep for their victory as, playing without a recognised striker they sat back, but Silva’s 46th-minute breakthrough was no less than the hosts deserved.

It extended City’s lead at the top of the table to 18 points and left them only four wins from the title, while Chelsea were cut five points adrift of the top four in fifth place.

“In this moment it is very difficult to play against Manchester City,” Conte told Sky Sports.

“They are a really strong team with fantastic quality. We tried. It’s a pity for the goal we conceded after 30 seconds of the second half, that changed the game. My tactics were to not concede space between the lines, if you do that you risk losing by many goals.

“They have a fantastic mentality when they lose the ball, they want to run and press and are a really strong team.”

Conte was asked if his team were adventurous enough, with criticism directed towards Chelsea’s negative approach after the game.

“Do you think this? If you give City space behind us the game can finish not 1-0. It’s not good enough but this is the truth, I don’t think this is because of the tactics.

“It’s not simple to play against Man City. They have great intensity of every moment of the game we tried to do this and defend well but we conceded a goal after 30 seconds of the second half and it’s very difficult to come back from that but don’t forget we were missing N’Golo Kante who is a crucial player for our balance.”

Written by Gideon Sarpong

City edge to within four wins of title

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has defended the use of his tactics in his side's defeat at league-leaders Manchester City.

The Blues produced a surprisingly negative display and failed to have a shot on target in the match as Bernardo Silva's goal less than a minute into the second half sealed the game and pushed Manchester City closer to the Premier League title.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville called Chelsea's display "absolutely unacceptable" and accused Conte's players of being "mannequins", while colleague Jamie Redknapp called their approach "anti-football" and "a crime against football".

Conte responded: "I think in this moment you have to accept every critic, but I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and to lose 3-0 or 4-0.

"If I remember well, a few days ago, Arsenal played twice against them and then you criticise a lot (Arsenal manager Arsene) Wenger because they concede three goals in only 30 minutes.

"I think that the pundit has to use the head to understand when you speak about tactics because I think that you must have knowledge to speak about tactics and not only to speak in a stupid way."

When asked if Chelsea could have been more ambitious in their play, striker Olivier Giroud, who came on as substitute, said: "It is a good question. The coach made his tactics. We tried to respect it."

Pep Guardiola's side were forced to bide their time before making the breakthrough on Sunday and it came when Bernardo Silva stole in ahead of Marcos Alonso from David Silva's cross to beat Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and give City a mammoth 18-point lead at the top of the table.

Chelsea did not register a single shot on target, leaving Manchester City keeper Ederson a virtual bystander as he was even able to watch Alonso's timid shot drift wide with seconds left.

It was a disappointing day for Chelsea and manager Conte - and of even greater concern is that they are now five points adrift of Tottenham in fourth place in the race for spots in next season's Champions League.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Conte says top-four push 'won't be easy'

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte conceded "it won't be easy" for his side to finish in the top four of the Premier League after a 2-1 loss at Manchester United.

The Blues slipped to fifth as Tottenham climbed into the Champions League places with a win at Crystal Palace.

Spurs are two points clear of last season's champions with 10 games left.

"There is this risk," said Conte. "We must be ready to be concentrated, and to understand this target is an important target for us."

Willian put Chelsea in front at Old Trafford but goals from former Blues striker Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard took United back up to second in the table.

Chelsea's next match is against runaway leaders Manchester City next Sunday (16:00 GMT), a day after Tottenham take on Huddersfield (15:00 GMT).

Written by Gideon Sarpong