LONDON: Manchester City finally got the better of Southampton at the third attempt this season with a 4-1 win to move into the FA Cup semi-finals yesterday. Crystal Palace also hit four to thrash struggling Everton 4-0 to make the last four. City’s bid to retain their Premier League title has been hindered by two draws against the Saints and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men held their own again for an hour at St Mary’s.
Adam Armstrong nearly made the most of a rare start when he hit the post early on for the home side. But just seconds later Raheem Sterling opened the scoring with a cool finish from Gabriel Jesus’ pass. Ilkay Gundogan then hit the woodwork, but Southampton got the equaliser their first-half performance deserved when Aymeric Laporte deflected Mohamed Elyounoussi’s cross into his own net.
With the tie delicately poised, the Saints’ good work was undone when Mohammed Salisu needlessly dived in on Jesus to concede a penalty. Fraser Forster got a hand to Kevin De Bruyne’s spot-kick but could not keep it out. City’s strength in depth off the bench then took the game away from the hosts as substitutes Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez produced lethal finishes to give the scoreline a harsh reflection on Southampton.
Vieira’s Palace progress
Earlier, Palace stormed into the last four for the first time in six years by seeing off sorry Everton. Marc Guehi, Jean-Philippe Mateta, Wilfried Zaha and Will Hughes got the goals as the Eagles continued their impressive first season under Patrick Vieira. “Going to Wembley is fantastic,” said Vieira. “You can hear the atmosphere in the stadium, the fans; this is what they wanted and we wanted to give it to them.”
Everton’s focus now turns to just staying in the Premier League as they sit perilously just above the relegation zone. “We allowed them a free pass into the semi-final without Palace even playing particularly well,” said Everton boss Frank Lampard. Everton managed just a second league win in 12 games against Newcastle on Thursday and started like they could build on that confidence boost.
However, there was no way back once their frailty from set-pieces was exposed for the opening goal. Guehi was called into the England squad for the first time this week and celebrated with his fourth goal since joining from Chelsea as he headed in Michael Olise’s corner. The combination of Olise, Zaha and Eberechi Eze then began to cut Everton apart, no more so than in a flowing move for the second goal.
Eze’s quick feet freed Zaha down the left and his low cross was swept in by Mateta. Two more goals in the final 11 minutes set the seal on a resounding Palace win. Zaha was alert after Olise’s shot looped up onto the post to slot home his 10th goal of the season. And Hughes rounded off the scoring with his first goal since 2019 on the rebound after Jordan Pickford produced a stunning save to deny Conor Gallagher. The winners of Liverpool’s visit to Nottingham Forest will complete the semi-final line up alongside Chelsea, City and Palace.
In another development, Thomas Tuchel saluted Chelsea’s focus as they reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the third successive season after Romelu Lukaku inspired a 2-0 win against Championship side Middlesbrough on Saturday. In what could have been a potential upset, Tuchel’s team were never troubled as they made it six successive victories since Roman Abramovich put the European champions up for sale. Unsettled Belgian striker Lukaku opened the scoring with just his second goal in seven games. Hakim Ziyech increased Chelsea’s advantage before the interval at the Riverside Stadium.
The Blues killed off the quarter-final with minimal fuss after that, ensuring a last-four appearance at Wembley in April as they look to reach the final for a third consecutive year. Chelsea are operating under a special licence allowing them to fulfill fixtures after the UK government sanctions on Abramovich in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A host of bidders submitted their offers to buy Chelsea from Abramovich before Friday’s deadline, offering hope that their current predicament will soon be over.
Tuchel admits he is out of the loop with regards to the sale, but the German has impressively kept Chelsea’s players focused amid the off-field turmoil. Chelsea, third in the Premier League and through to the Champions League quarter-finals, have won 12 of their past 13 matches, with the exception the League Cup final penalty shoot-out loss against Liverpool.
“We were very focused and very serious from the beginning. We showed quality in decisive moments and scored two early goals which gave us a comfortable lead, but the effort was huge to not allow big chances,” Tuchel said. “I’m impressed with the players’ focus. We accepted the ownership situation because we didn’t cause it. It isn’t in our hands, but it was important we showed the right spirit and took responsibility. “This is very good. If you have the talent, it is a responsibility to show it.”
It has not all been plain sailing and following a scathing response from Middlesbrough and even their own supporters, Chelsea had withdrawn their request for the quarter-final to be played behind closed doors after they were denied the chance to sell their full allocation of tickets due to the sanctions. Tuchel feared his squad would have to make a 10-hour bus journey to the match because of limits on the amount they can spend on away travel before the transition to a new owner. But they were eventually allowed to fly to Teesside, where they comfortably avoided any FA Cup turbulence.- AFP