Chelsea knocked out holders Manchester United from the FA Cup on Monday night after securing a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in their keenly contested quarter-final tie.
N’Golo Kante scored the only goal of the game in the 51st minute following a highly eventful first half, which saw Ander Herrera sent off for his two fouls on Eden Hazard – within 15 minutes of each other.
Chelsea took advantage of the dismissal when Kante – who also scored when Chelsea beat United 4-0 in the Premier League back in October – received Willian’s ball and drove in a low shot past David De Gea.
The victory books Chelsea’s place in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley while United will now turn their attentions to the Europa League having already won the EFL Cup trophy this season.
Despite having turned their form around since being humiliated by Chelsea here five months ago, United arrived at their FA Cup clash with the Blues with a striker crisis on their hands.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ruled out through suspension while Anthony Martial was injured as was captain Wayne Rooney. Marcus Rashford had also been ruled out with illness, so it came as a surprise when the young striker was named in Mourinho’s starting team and proceeded to put in a lively showing in the opening stages of the game.
Mourinho had opted for a very defensive side for the trip to Stamford Bridge, perhaps with the last encounter between these two teams earlier in the season still in his mind.
And it appeared to work early on, with United containing Chelsea well and carving out chances of their own. Paul Pogba helped create the first of United’s attacks after slipping in Rashford, who delivered the ball to Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Armenian ran into space before sending a low effort just wide of the post before Chelsea responded by using their star quality – in the form of Eden Hazard – to great effect.
The Belgian latched onto the ball deep in midfield, turned and then set off on a fine run before firing a low shot just wide. It proved a warning sign as David De Gea was forced to make a crucial one-handed save to deny Gary Cahill from close range moments after.
As the pace of the game and, indeed, the noise around the ground began to settle down, a small section of Chelsea fans near the away dugout decided to make their thoughts on their former manager clear.
About a dozen Chelsea supporters stood up on the half-hour mark and began to chant “F*** off Mourinho”, which was clearly audible to those around, including the Portuguese coach who refused to turn to look at the fans.
Instead, he held up three fingers in reference to the number of Premier League titles he won during his two stints at Chelsea.
If those who heard the chants thought that would be the end of the drama at the Bridge, then they were wrong. Herrera, who had earlier been cautioned for a foul on Hazard, was shown a red card for another foul on the Belgian winger – moments after referee Michael Oliver had warned Phil Jones for a similar tackle on the Chelsea man.
Conte was furious with Jones for his foul and proceeded to tell the United defender off for it to which Jones responded in kind. But it wasn’t the end to the Chelsea manager’s anger at the number of fouls being delivered on his players.
Indeed, Conte was further incensed when Antonio Valencia brought down Marcos Alonso near the touchline – and let rip at Mourinho. The pair had to be separated by the fourth official before being told to calm down by Oliver which brought to an end an eventful first half.
The hosts came back out the better of the two sides, and went ahead in the 50th minute when Kante received Willian’s ball from the left and then sent a low, long-range effort into the corner of the net, which De Gea was left with no chance to save.
United responded soon after through Rashford who was sent through on goal by a lofty ball over the Chelsea defence. The striker got the better of Cahill but saw Courtois stand tall and block his goalbound effort.
From that chance, Chelsea launched a swift counter-attack which nearly resulted in Diego Costa scoring another Chelsea goal but the Spain international could only head wide before Willian combined with Kante and fired over in the 61st minute.
The hosts appealed for a penalty soon after when Marcos Rojo poked the ball clear from Costa’s feet in the box but saw the forward go down in the process. It wasn’t given and, with Chelsea firmly in control of the tie, United’s frustrations were clear to see.
Ashley Young earned himself a yellow card after cynically bringing down Victor Moses near Conte, which left the Chelsea manager fuming.
But it would be the Italian who would be left celebrating as the Blues held on to knock United out of the FA Cup and book their place in the semi-finals.