Chelsea reached the FA Cup semi-finals as Ross Barkley came off the bench to secure a 1-0 victory against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday evening.
Brendan Rodgers started a very strong team, with Ben Chilwell and midfielder Dennis Praet drafted into the starting XI, while Ricardo Pereira was the only major absentee for the Foxes.
The Blues made a wholesome six changes from the side that beat Manchester City in midweek, as Frank Lampard handed starts for Willy Caballero in goal, Reece James, Kurt Zouma, Emerson, Billy Gilmour and Tammy Abraham. Willian was handed the captain’s armband in place of Cezar Azpilicueta who dropped to the bench.
After a relatively slow start from both sides, it finally appeared as though Chelsea got a bit of rhythm and passing, and they were soon on the attack when Antonio Rudiger launched a long ball over the top looking for Abraham, but the ball skipped away from him and landed safely into the hands of Kasper Schmeichel.
Moments later it was the hosts who had a chance at goal themselves after being awarded a free-kick after Reece James fouled Leighton Baines. Tielemans whipped in the free-kick and Chelsea were lucky to see Wilfred Ndidi’s header easily caught by Caballero.
On the 30th minute mark, Chelsea should have made the score 1-0 after taking a short corner. In-form Christian Pulisic was teed up by Gilmour before he unleashed a venomous shot from just inside the Foxes’ 18-yard box, only to be denied by Schmeichel who pulled off a superb one-hand save to tip the ball over the bar and keep the scores at 0-0.
The contest started to heat up and the Foxes had half a chance when Ayoze Perez lost Emerson down the right, before crossing into the box but James headed clear at the far post.
Just before the interval, the Foxes had another sniff at goal, this time Baines winning the battle in the middle of the park before playing it for the pacey Jamie Vardy who went one-on-one with Caballero, but his left-footed shot lacked power and precision, as it scuffed wide.
The beginning of the second period saw Chelsea make an intent with three substitutions, with Azpilicueta replacing James, Barkley coming on for Gilmour and Kovacic taking Mount’s place.
Five minutes in and Leicester came inches close to breaking the deadlock after Chillwell charged down the left before whipping in a cross that landed on the top of the cross-bar and went out for a goal kick.
After threatening for a few minutes, the Blues finally opened the scoring through Barkley in the 62nd minute, who got in at the end of Willian’s cross in the box to poke the ball past Schmeichel and give Lampard’s charges a 1-0 lead.
A minute later, it was almost 2-0 after Pulisic ran riot of the Foxes midfielders before setting up Barkley again but his effort was comfortably saved by the Danish number one.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Vardy came close to getting the equalizer after being teed up in the box, he turned and fired but Zouma did well enough to block his effort.
Barkley was again in the thick of the action with 10 minutes to go after receiving a pass from Abraham, but the English international’s attempted effort towards goal sailed high into the stands.
With five minutes left, the hosts were denied a goal in an unusual manner when a cross into the box was completely misjudged by Caballero but Soyuncu, who got in on the target, saw his header hit the back of Azpilicueta’s head and out for a corner.
Barkley was inches close to getting his brace of the afternoon after dispossessing Leicester off the ball in the middle of the park before charging forward. He played a pass through to Ruben Loftus-Cheek at the edge of the box, who played it back before taking a shot from 12 yards out by Schmeichel again was up to the task, making another superb save.
In the end, the Blues were too good for the Foxes, as Lampard’s charges booked their spot in the semi-finals and a trip to Wembley.
Leicester: Schmeichel (c), Justin, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Praet, Tielemans, Perez, Barnes, Vardy.
Subs: Ward, Morgan, Bennett, Fuchs, Choudhury, Mendy, Gray, Albrighton, Iheanacho.
Chelsea: Caballero, James, Rudiger, Zouma, Emerson, Kante, Gilmour, Willian (c), Mount, Pulisic, Abraham.
Subs: Kepa, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Pedro, Giroud.