Ruben Loftus-Cheek crowned his impressive comeback with a premiere Chelsea Goal since May 2019 when the Blues beat Crystal Palace 2-0 to reach their third consecutive FA Cup final.
oftus-Cheek’s thunderclap finish snapped the Blues from a sluggish performance into a 16th FA Cup final, with Mason Mount’s angled shot sealing the deal.
England midfielder Loftus-Cheek spent the 2017/18 season on loan with the Eagles, even blazing his way to the World Cup after his season at Selhurst Park.
But the 26-year-old showed no divided loyalty as he knocked his former side out of England’s Premier Cup competition.
Loftus-Cheek’s first Chelsea goal since the 1-1 Europa League draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on 9 May 2019 spurred the Blues to overcome their apparent fatigue and advance to another final.
Chelsea relinquished their Champions League crown despite beating Real Madrid 3-2 at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night, leaving the European stage just 5-4 on aggregate and after extra time.
That fourth overtime in a tough season took its clear toll as Chelsea struggled to meet their usual rigors against Patrick Vieira’s well-organized and talented Eagles.
However, just as Vieira’s men began to threaten surprise, Loftus-Cheek emerged with a powerful punch.
Chelsea’s nerves finally settled, Mount quickly snagged Timo Werner’s inside ball and scored home to end the contest.
Loftus-Cheek excelled in Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Southampton and in that boastful victory in Madrid in a hybrid role, mixing right-back and midfield.
But at Wembley, the Chelsea academy graduate was forced to spring into action in defensive midfield after Mateo Kovacic picked up an ankle problem in the early substitutions.
And that opportunistic finish showed another side of his talent for a man who suffered a nasty torn Achilles tendon in a friendly at New England Revolution in Boston on May 16, 2019.
Loftus-Cheek only started hitting his full straps again this season after undergoing surgery to repair his Achilles tendon and the resulting back problems.
His decisive goal here certainly deserves to be seen as a major turning point in his Stamford Bridge career.
Chelsea’s midweek heroics took a significant toll on the sluggish Blues, who failed to push the pace or rhythm in a choppy first half.
Thomas Tuchel’s men just didn’t move the ball fast or crisply enough for Palace to eliminate them through regimented defense and relatively high pressing.
Losing the influential Kovacic didn’t help as the Croatian star failed to parry an early punch.
The Eagles actually had the best chance of the half when Cheikhou Kouyate’s volley forced Edouard Mendy into a fine save.
Joachim Andersen hit a post with the rebound, but was clearly offside anyway.
Kai Havertz was cautioned for a glaring leap into Chelsea’s half-time low, the German striker falling in anticipation of a challenge from Marc Guehi that never came.
Werner should have opened the second half with at least a shot on target but was slowed down by Kouyate when he was sent on target by Loftus-Cheek’s pass.
Chelsea couldn’t build on that opening, however, and Kouyate nodded a wrong-post corner after Wilfried Zaha turned Andreas Christensen inside out.
The Blues needed to pull something out of thin air, and Loftus-Cheek’s thundering punch certainly appeared out of precious loose change.
Tyrick Mitchell was robbed deep in his own half and Chelsea refused to squander that gift of possession.
Havertz’s deflected cross was friendly for Loftus-Cheek, and he lashed home.
His ebullient celebrations of flapping in the air and lifting off the ground showed relief as much as exhilaration.
Mount quickly doubled Chelsea’s lead with a fine finish into the corner of the net to end the tie and cement the Blues’ path to another FA Cup final.
Substitute striker Romelu Lukaku hit a post from close range after Werner’s pass, but the miss didn’t matter at the time.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/chelsea-set-up-fa-cup-final-clash-with-liverpool-following-victory-over-palace-at-wembley-41561915.html Chelsea were preparing for the FA Cup final with Liverpool after beating Palace at Wembley