Chelsea are off to Wembley after a 1-0 win at Leicester City in the FA Cup quarterfinals. Ross Barkley slid on to a Willian cross in the 63rd minute to send the Blues just 180 minutes from a first trophy in the Lampard era.
Chelsea Close in on Critical First Trophy of Lampard Era
Leicester opened the game with a spring in their step, forcing Chelsea into several poor passes and errors, and had a handful of attempts to open the scoring in the first ten minutes. Chelsea weathered the storm and grew into the game as the first half wore on.
In the second half, Chelsea took control thanks to three substitutions at the interval. And those subs, Barkley in particular, made the difference, culminating with his goal.
Leicester desperately searched for an equalizer in the final few minutes, but Chelsea’s defence held firm.
Pulisic Powers Attack Again
Christian Pulisic was the lightning rod of the attack once again in his second consecutive start in all competitions. The American had the only shot on target for the Blues in the first half, blasting a shot on goal which forced Leicester’s keeper Kasper Schmeichel into a good save.
In the second half, Pulisic’s fancy footwork got him past Wilfred Ndidi once before ‘Captain America’ nutmegged him a few minutes later. Most importantly, in the 56th, Pulisic played in Tammy Abraham who found the back of the net, before the offside flag nullified the goal.
Pulisic was lively on the day, sparking attacks, carrying the ball smoothly, and driving the attack when his teammates were not, continuing his hot restart of the season. For a third game in a row, he rated a 7 or higher on SofaScore and was Chelsea’s second-best attacker against the Foxes.
With Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner coming in next season, Pulisic looked set to play odd man out. But over the past few games, including this FA Cup win, he has given manager Frank Lampard lots of food for thought.
After subbing out in the 72nd minute, Pulisic did receive what appeared as more than typical treatment on the bench on his left calf. Precaution or a knock? Hopefully just a precaution.
Lampard’s Superb Subs
Lampard’s substitutions since the restart have worked unbelievably well. And against Leicester, he was ruthless with them. At half time, Mason Mount, Reece James, and Billy Gilmour all came off for Mateo Kovacic, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Barkley with the gaffer putting experience on in place of youth. And boy did they work.
Kovacic tightened up the midfield, especially the passing and link-up play. Azpilicueta had a huge roll in the build-up to the goal. And Barkley scored the winner on a fantastic run to the near post, sliding to reach Willian’s cross and direct it across the six and into the bottom left corner of the net.
As Leicester sent everyone forward in the dying minutes, Azpilicueta cleared out some crosses and blocked shots when his team needed it most.
With the young core at Chelsea, they need to win a trophy. They need to take that major step in their development of getting over the hump and Lampard recognises that clearly and rightfully prioritizing the FA Cup.
Gilmour Growing Pains
Teenager Billy Gilmour started for the first time since the restart, which was hardly a surprise. However, he did surprise with how poorly he played. He completed 83% of his passes, according to SofaScore. But the ones he didn’t gave Leicester golden opportunities on the counter.
Gilmour impressed earlier this year in the FA Cup and in the Premier League as he became a regular member of the 18, whereas this game brought him back down to earth. Lampard yanked him off at half-time and the cameras cut to coaching staff speaking with him on the bench for an extended period during the second half.
All young players go through growing pains. And Gilmour will certainly bounce back from this without confidence having a huge dent in it.
Still, this is a ‘teachable moment’ for the young Scot. Gilmour showed his ability isn’t quite ready for the primetime. His next performance will show whether mentally he’s ready for the bright lights of a ‘Big Six’ club.