Five reasons behind Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final failure
A look at how Chelsea were knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester City
Chelsea fans can't be majorly disappointed about being knocked out of the FA Cup to current Premier League Champions, Manchester City.
With that now-famous statistic of having won it three times in the last four years: their team obviously takes the competition seriously, and they did go out to a quality team under Roberto Mancini.
However, you cannot help but feel that with a few small alterations, they could dreaming of a fourth win against Wigan Athletic in the final. So here are 5 reasons why they did not progress past this thrilling semi-final tie:
Coming out of the blocks too slowly
At the beginning of the match, Chelsea could barely get out of their own half, with Petr Cech making several good saves. Eventually they eased into the match and started playing some more attacking football, but the fact of the matter is that it took them around 20 minutes to do so: almost half of the first portion of the game.
Secondly, and more importantly, was the way they started the second half. Rafa Benitez would surely have told them that at 1-0 down they were still right in the tie, especially with the improvement in their football towards the latter stages of the first half.
Right from kick-off, the ball got sent back to Cesar Azpilicueta, putting him under pressure and eventually giving Manchester City possession. A minute later, a possible debatable foul was given against Ramires, and a good finish by Sergio Aguero eventually followed. This gave Chelsea twice as much work to do, as well as allowing City to play more defensively.
At 1-0 down, Chelsea could have hoped for a lucky counter-attack, but at 2-0 down they needed to take the game to the northern side, who have the meanest defence in the league.
Waiting too long to make substitutions
The Chelsea were clamouring for changes as early as the 50th minute, but Benitez waited until the 66th minute to do so. Acceptably, it may have been a coincidence, but the Blues went on to score from the following attack, with Demba Ba acrobatically volleying home.
Chelsea had looked slightly lacklustre for the whole match, so why did Benitez wait so long if his original tactics hadn't really been working for the first 50/60 minutes, especially when he saw his side concede again.
When Chelsea were chasing a second goal, it would surely have made more sense to throw on a second striker, in the form of Fernando Torres.
Not playing the long ball enough
It may not have been pretty, but it was effective. When Torres (who has re-invented himself as a sort of target man) came on the supplement the struggling Ba in attack, it gave Manchester City's defence another more physical problem to deal with.
It was obvious right from Chelsea's goal that long balls were troubling City's defence, especially with Torres' speed allowing him to outrun both of City's central defenders. However, the West London's side midfield just did not play enough of these balls, instead passing it around a box filled with competent defenders to little avail.
A lack of pace on the counter-attack
With Chelsea set up fairly defensively, one might have though that they would be relying on the counter attack to get at Manchester City's defence.
Therefore it made little sense to play Ba instead of the faster Torres, who is far better suited to a counter-attacking style. Furthermore, when Chelsea did get on the counter there often weren't enough bodies getting forward, causing them to slow down and allow the City players to regroup and regain their positions as well as losing all the attack's momentum and most of its danger.
Questionable refereeing decisions
It never looks good to blame the referee for a loss, but even Manchester City fans will be willing to admit that Chris Foy did not have one of his finer performances. The major errors were only awarding a free-kick for Aguero's malicious stamp on David Luiz, and Vincent Kompany (who was already on a yellow card) pulling Torres' shirt up to his neck when the Spaniard was about to pull the trigger in the penalty area.
Of course, Torres' raking on Aguero's achilles was also not given the correct penalty, but Aguero arguably shouldn't have been on the pitch by then. In football matches it is normal that one team (usually the losing one) is unhappy with the refereeing decisions, but had Aguero seen red or Torres been awarded a penalty, the match would probably have gone to extra-time.
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