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Manchester City’s dream of a quadruple came to a screeching halt on Saturday as they fell 1-0 to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
A second-half strike from Hakim Ziyech was all the Blues would need to eliminate Pep Guardiola’s side from this competition.
A battle between two of the best defensive units in the Premier League lived up to its billing in this one.
Six minutes into the match and City were fortunate not to be a goal behind.
Ben Chilwell played a lovely ball down the left for Timo Werner.
The German played a superb pass across the goal for Ziyech to run onto as he placed his effort in the back of the net only to be flagged for offside.
The Sky Blues survived another close call in the 33rd minute off a Mason Mount corner, which Antonio Rudiger headed down into the path of Chilwell.
However, his strike went over Zack Steffen’s bar.
The Citizens nearly took the lead right at half time.
Raheem Sterling picked up a loose ball on the left, crossing it to Fernandinho who’s header glanced just wide.
Into the second half, City got dealt a huge blow when Kevin De Bruyne rolled his ankle a couple of minutes from the restart.
The Belgian was unable to continue as Phil Foden came on in his place.
His absence was felt, and Chelsea took full advantage going ahead in the 55th minute.
Timo Werner got behind the City defence in the left-hand channel after a lovely ball through from Mason Mount.
Werner did well to draw Steffen out of his goal before squaring it to a wide-open Ziyech to tap it into an empty net.
Ziyech nearly doubled the lead just before the hour mark.
The Moroccan fired a tame shot right into the feet of Steffen, and City were off the hook.
In the 69th minute, City squandered an excellent opportunity.
An brilliant looping free-kick towards the back post found Rodri, who directed a nice header across goal.
Ruben Dias climbed the highest, but his close-range header sailed just over the bar.
Zack Steffen came up big in the 77th minute to keep his team in the match.
Chelsea caught City napping after dealing with a Citizens free-kick before seeing them on the counter.
Timo Werner again raced down the left-hand channel and into the City area, but his effort was too close to Steffen who made the save with his foot.
Phil Foden created a couple of good chance in the final 10 minutes.
In the 80th minute, his corner found Azpilicueta at the near post forcing the Spaniard to head it away.
Two minutes later, he found a pocket of space towards the edge of the area feeding Rodri, who drilled a low right-footed shot straight at Kepa in the Chelsea goal.
In the fourth minute of injury time, City had one last chance to salvage the match.
Rodri did well to meet Phil Foden’s corner, he gott his header down towards goal, but Kepa made the save.
Chelsea hung on to upset the Sky Blues and advance to the FA Cup final.
Man of the Match
Timo Werner has had a difficult transition into the Premier League after signing from RB Leipzig last summer.
The German winger showed today he could do a lot more than just score goals as he created several quality scoring chances down the left-hand channel.
He set up the winning goal, and his speed and precise passing were a marvel to watch in a match with so much on the line.
He’s got 19 goal involvements for Chelsea in all competitions this season.
Losing at this stage is something many of these City players are used to, having fallen 2-0 to Arsenal in last season’s semi-finals.
The loss puts to bed any hope of a historic quadruple for Pep Guardiola’s side this season.
Man City have lost in the FA Cup semi-finals now in three of Guardiola’s five seasons in charge.
Getting it done
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has been a magician in London.
In a short period of time Chelsea’s gone from an underachieving side to a top club.
In his three months on the job, the German has led his team to the semi-finals of the Champions League, an FA Cup final and one point off the top four in the Premier League.
Since taking over from Frank Lampard, Tuchel’s side now has 14 clean sheets in all competitions.
With today’s victory, Tuchel becomes the first German manager to make it to an FA Cup final.
Since his dismissal from PSG, it’s safe the say things have only gotten better for the Chelsea boss.
A first time for everything
Losing has become a scarce feeling for Manchester City this year.
Until today it’s something their reserve keeper never experienced.
Making his 11th start in all competitions,Zack Steffen lost in goal for City for the very first time.
Showing up when it counts
It’s safe to say last summer’s big signing Hakim Ziyech has, for the most part, failed to live up to expectations this season for the Blues.
The Moroccan has only one Premier League goal in his first season in England, but he’s been at his very best when Chelsea have their backs against the wall.
Today was his fourth goal in a cup competition, showing he can be a difference-maker for Chelsea.
Following the match, City manager Pep Guardiola said his team struggled to break down a structurally sound Chelsea team.
“We played a good last 15 minutes. We had struggled to find our place in the pockets but congratulations to Chelsea in a tight game.
“We arrived sometimes in that position, but after that, we didn’t create. We conceded the goal, but after we reacted well, especially after Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan came on.
“The team that defends with eight players in the final third it is not easy. This type of game, the margin is so tight. In general, we controlled well. We didn’t create many clear-cut chances, but we arrived more than them.”
City will look to move a little closer to another Premier League title when they travel to Aston Villa on Wednesday.
The kickoff from Villa Park is at 8:15 pm. (JSL).