Olivier Giroud’s brilliant semi-final goal helped Chelsea beat Southampton to reach the FA Cup final and set up a meeting with Manchester United.
Chelsea striker Giroud received the ball from Eden Hazard and jinked his way past two Southampton players in a crowded area before he stabbed the ball home.
Giroud was replaced by Alvaro Morata with 10 minutes to go and the substitute sealed safe passage with Chelsea’s second when he headed in at the back post from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.
9 – Alvaro Morata has scored nine headed goals in all comps; two more than any other Premier League player. Bonce.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 22, 2018
Southampton went close with Nathan Redmond’s low drive from distance while Charlie Austin hit the post.
It means Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will come up against managerial adversary Jose Mourinho at Wembley on 19 May.
There is no love lost between Conte and former Chelsea manager Mourinho, who have traded insults throughout the season.
The final is also repeat of 2007 when Mourinho guided Chelsea to a 1-0 victory over United in the first to be played at the rebuilt Wembley.
Conte’s Chelsea were beaten in last season’s FA Cup final by Arsenal, albeit as a club which appeared much more harmonious.
They went into that final as Premier League champions and a domestic double would have put the gloss on a fine campaign.
This season has been a stark contrast with the London club struggling to finish in the top four to secure a Champions League place.
Rumours have also swirled over Conte’s future at Stamford Bridge.
Victory in the FA Cup final will allow Conte to potentially provide a silver lining to what has been a difficult season.
To do so against Mourinho would also be particularly sweet for both Conte and Chelsea’s fans, with the Portuguese’s relationship with his former club having become strained since he took over at Old Trafford.
Encouragingly for Conte, there were flickers of the kind of form Chelsea showed at their best in that title-winning season in this game as they deservedly progressed.
Willian struck the crossbar after a rapid counter-attack, the impressive Hazard forced Alex McCarthy to tip the ball over the crossbar, while Morata twice went close at the end.
They will face much sterner opposition in United and Mourinho, though.
Giroud won the FA Cup three times as an Arsenal player and his fondness for the competition continued against the Saints with the crucial first goal.
It ensured that the France striker has had a hand in 22 goals in 26 appearances in the competition since January 2012, with 15 goals and seven assists – more than any other player in the competition during that period.
Giroud had scored twice as Southampton squandered a two-goal lead against Chelsea to lose 3-2 in their Premier League fixture at St Mary’s last weekend.
And after his strike at Wembley he has now scored eight goals at Southampton’s expense. Against no other side has he scored more since he arrived in England.
It was a goal which provided the game’s memorable moment. Giroud showed superb balance, poise and technique to finish as Southampton’s players dropped like dominoes.
The 31-year-old was substituted by Conte with 10 minutes left and the hearty congratulations he received from the Italian provided the sign of a job well done.
His replacement Morata could have had a had a hat-trick as Southampton poured forward in attempting a dramatic comeback.
In the end, the Spain striker had to settled for one goal two minutes after he came on when he nodded in from close range.