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Crystal palace

      Report: Palace's FA Cup run ends at Wembley

      Loftus-Cheek 65'
      Mount 76'
      Crystal Palace

      For Crystal Palace, once English football’s reliable yo-yo side, a trip to Wembley is a uniquely conducted occasion. 

      Despite its result, Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea proved no different. From the thunderous pre-match support through to each of the players on the pitch, Crystal Palace did itself proud.


      • Patrick Vieira makes three changes to the team that beat Everton 4-0, with Michael Olise and Tyrick Mitchell both in the squad
      • The game begins fairly calmly, with Palace enjoy possession. After 10 minutes, Chelsea begin to push harder
      • Chelsea are forced into a change when Mateo Kovačić goes down injured after 25 minutes
      • Palace have several counter-attacks denied as Chelsea see a handful of chances fly past the goal-frame
      • Cheikhou Kouyaté forces Edouard Mendy into a save and Joachim Andersen strikes the post from an offside rebound; moments later Kai Havertz is accosted for diving
      • Half-time: Chelsea 0-0 Crystal Palace
      • Jordan Ayew takes to the field in the 55th-minute with Chelsea enjoying a bright return
      • Zaha carves-out a chance from the right-wing, and Kouyaté heads narrowly wide from the resulting corner
      • Chelsea take the lead when Ruben Loftus-Cheek strikes in first time from the edge of the box
      • Vieira responds by sending Olise and Christian Benteke onto the turf
      • Palace look much brighter after the change, but Chelsea add a second through Mason Mount
      • Full-time: Chelsea 2-0 Crystal Palace

      The acrylic smell of red and blue smoke still hung in the air when Crystal Palace kicked-off against Chelsea to start the second of the 2021/22 FA Cup semi-finals.

      Palace players burst balloons under their studs and the vast support behind them roared the game into life. This would be an occasion to remember, whatever the outcome.

      Patrick Vieira started the afternoon with a back five: Marc Guéhi, Joachim Andersen and Cheikhou Kouyaté in the centre, and Tyrick Mitchell and Joel Ward pushing high on the flanks.

      For all the pressure and buildup that accompanies a game like this, the clash began in relatively calm fashion. Chelsea appeared content to let Palace hold the ball in defence, with Andersen in particular looking to pick the right cross-field ball.

      Possession stacked in Palace’s favour over the first few minutes, perhaps in contrast to how many predicted. This gave the game a sanguine air on the pitch, with anticipation and any nerves seemingly confined to the stands.

      With the match settled Chelsea began to receive the ball more. Their approach of trying to pass their way through the back five produced some attractive, pacy sequences, but was largely met by a solid bank that restricted the Blues’ best effort to a tame 25-yard shot from Mason Mount.

      The balance of power ebbed and flowed for this game’s first 20 minutes without either side creating a major chance. Palace largely caused trouble from the wings whereas Chelsea’s intent was more central.

      Pivotal to that approach was Mateo Kovačić, Chelsea’s dogged central midfielder, but the Croatian No.8 was forced from the pitch after just 25 minutes to be replaced by former Eagle Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

      So half an hour passed and while neither ‘keeper had seriously muddied their gloves, both approaches had clear potential to succeed. Palace will have taken heart from a succession of counter-attacks they produced up to the final ball, with Chelsea standing strong to prevent anyone in red and blue getting through against Edouard Mendy.

      Perhaps with these denials building Palace tried their luck in a different fashion, and Mendy was soon forced into action from further out. Cheikhou Kouyaté unleashed a volley towards his compatriot’s goal, which the goalkeeper blocked low to his left. He was back up to watch Andersen’s rebound hit the post; the Dane, however, was flagged offside.

      Chelsea also tried their hand at a new approach, but referee Anthony Taylor put a swift end to it when he blew for a penalty-seeking dive by Kai Havertz.

      These moments sparked a handful of Palace openings down their left-wing, but on each occasion the recently returned Reece James defended well, stopping both Wilfried Zaha and Jean-Philippe Mateta from triumphing along his flank.

      The south Londoners tried another trick to beat him – pinging a quick free-kick forcefully to Mitchell at the byline – but this time another figure in yellow stumped their efforts by blocking Jeffrey Schlupp from striking inside the area.

      Defensive assurance on both sides meant the half-time whistle sounded with the game, probably fairly, level.

      Chelsea appeared purposeful when returning for the second-half, passing with intent and enjoying possession deep inside Palace’s half. Mount and Antonio Rüdiger both shooting wildly wide from distance after lengthy passages was perhaps indicative of their frustration with the Palace defence, but the Blues looked lively nevertheless.

      Timo Werner put the backline under the most pressure when racing towards Jack Butland, but between the ‘keeper and Kouyaté the German international was kept off the ball.

      Vieira reacted with a change, bringing on Jordan Ayew in place of Mateta, possibly to stymie Chelsea’s ball-playing style at the first opportunity. This switch saw Zaha move up-front and Ayew take to the right-wing, but it was the former who produced the biggest scare from this flank.

      Zaha collected the ball close to the touchline and drove towards the Palace fans. He cut and turned until Andreas Christensen couldn’t keep up and eventually chopped in a threatening cross. Cesar Azpilicueta took no chances and knocked it behind for a corner, and from the resulting cross Kouyaté headed inches wide.

      Before long however Chelsea’s approach bore fruit. Havertz pushed the Palace defence back from the right-wing and saw his squared-ball deflect off Guéhi’s leg and into a dangerous area.

      Substitute Loftus-Cheek was best place to respond, and struck the bouncing ball first-time with pace to put the south-west Londoners ahead.

      How Palace responded would be the crucial next step in this tie, and Vieira had the bench to do so with venom: bringing on Michael Olise and Christian Benteke to energise his side.

      The south Londoners’ attacking five looked immediately refreshed, with each of them linking-up well in a lengthy spell camped on the edge of Chelsea’s box.

      Despite their newfound verve, Palace were set back again when Chelsea added a second. This time Mount found the target from a central position, touching past his marker and striking in confidently.

      There remained 15 minutes on the clock for Palace to fight back, and their approach very much suggested they intended to. Within minutes of conceding the south Londoners created a sublime chance, Kouyaté heading to Andersen at the back post, and the support in Wembley’s western half again urged the team on.

      The game soon entered a lull with five minutes left, Chelsea looking to see-out their victory while Palace tried as best they could to break them down.

      The final throes saw Olise threaten from the right, Ayew from the left and the team continually push for a goal of their own.

      At Taylor’s whistle, Crystal Palace had to contend with exit from the cup, but could at least look back on a landmark competition marking a new era for the club. They were cheered at full-time with a surge fit for victory, as Palace's full support roared firmly behind the team for one last time in this year's FA Cup.

      Chelsea: Mendy, James, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Kovačić (Loftus-Cheek 25), Christensen (Silva 82), Mount (Ziyech 75), Jorginho (Kanté 75), Werner, Havertz (Lukaku 75).

      Subs not used: Kepa, Sarr, Niguez, Pulisic.

      Palace: Butland, Mitchell, Guéhi, Andersen, Ward, Schlupp (Benteke 72), Kouyaté (Milivojević 84), McArthur (Olise 72), Eze, Zaha, Mateta (Ayew 55).

      Subs not used: Guaita, Clyne, Tomkins, Kelly, Edouard.