Third Round Nottingham Forest (Home) Sunday 5th January
As usual, it seems in the past few years, Chelsea started their road to Wembley on the first Sunday in January (some form of gentleman’s agreement with Fulham possibly to play Sunday). This time the visitors were Championship high-flyers Nottingham Forest. Chelsea played the fixture in retro blue shirts marking 50 years since their first ever FA Cup triumph in 1970. Both teams made changes for the fixture, nine by Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
Callum Hudson-Odoi set Chelsea on their way early on, when his low drive put Chelsea in front in the sixth minute. VAR then stepped in to deny Forest a penalty which had been awarded by the match referee Peter Banks. However VAR ruled offside in the build up to the penalty award. Barkley added a second before half time and after that Chelsea never looked under threat for progression into round four.
Fourth Round Hull City (Away) Saturday 25th January
A Saturday early-evening fixture on the Humber. Chelsea came into the game having never lost an FA Cup tie against Hull so the omens were good against the Championship strugglers. With in-form Tammy Abraham out injured and Oliver Giroud not necessarily in favour, it represented a chance for Mitchy Batshuayi to impress Frank Lampard. He couldn’t have started better, putting Chelsea ahead with a deflected strike in the sixth minute. Hull came back into the game and went close through Herbie Kane and Jared Bowen.
Fikayo Tomori seemed to have settled the game in the 64th minute with a header. However the Tigers refused to lie down and Kamil Grosicki’s deflected free kick in the 78th minute led to a grandstand finish. Despite Hull pressure, Chelsea held on.
Fifth Round Liverpool (Home) Tuesday 3rd March
This one was a huge game, live on BBC Television on a Tuesday night. And for the first time ever, the Fifth Round would be played midweek and from this stage on there would now be no replays. So it was rather fitting for this FA Cup first that European Champions Liverpool visited the Bridge. This tie for many Chelsea supporters evoked memories of past glories against Liverpool at the Bridge in the FA Cup, no one will ever forget Clive Walker in 1978 when Chelsea beat the reigning league and European champions 4-2. They repeated this feat in 1982 with a 2-0 win with goals from Peter Rhodes-Brown and Colin Lee and of course that 1997 encounter with Chelsea 2-0 down at half time. A Mark Hughes inspired second half come back with Chelsea running out 4-2 winners going onto win the FA Cup that year so this was big. Liverpool came into the game runaway leaders at the top of the Premier League but had just suffered their first league defeat of the season losing 3-0 at struggling Watford. Liverpool, surprisingly to some, ‘rested’ a few headline names such as Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Allison, whilst Chelsea named a strong line up. Willian put Chelsea ahead in the 13th minute after goalkeeper Adrian fumbled his 20-yard shot.
In the middle, Frank Lampard named 18-year-old Billy Gilmour, he was superb on the night bossing the midfield with all the BBC pundits at the game, such as Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker labelling him man of the match. In truth, Liverpool were poor on the night and Chelsea got a deserved second through ex-Evertonian Ross Barkley in the 64th minute with a solo run and shot beyond Adrian to seal the game. Chelsea were back in the sixth round and scheduled to play Leicester City on the 21st March. However, little did anyone know, shortly after this game however, the world would change forever.
Sixth Round Leicester City (Away) Sunday 28 June
Coronavirus is a word many people prior to March 2020 had never really heard of in the UK. However, by the time Chelsea visited the King Power Stadium for a first ever FA Cup tie in June, everyone had sadly heard of it. The original date for this game on 21 March 2020 will be long etched in the memories of everyone, as this was the first day of a national lockdown to halt the spread of the deadly virus which lasted until mid-May. There was much talk as to whether the season would even be resumed and even if it did, that the grandest and oldest cup competition in the world would have to be abandoned to accommodate what was left of the Premier League season. Thankfully, given its history and reputation, an outcry ensured that there would be an FA Cup winner in 2020. In truth, Chelsea’s quarter-final at Leicester is a game that will not live long in the memory.
Both league matches had ended in draws and the teams were fairly well matched at the King Power until the 63rd minute when Ross Barkley got in ahead of Jonny Evans to send Chelsea back to Wembley to meet old foes Manchester United.
Semi-Final Manchester United (Wembley) Sunday 19 July
Wembley… without a crowd, is an odd experience. This is a game that would have had a sell out 90,000 crowd at the national stadium, with footballs most traditional colours of Blue and Red competing for a place in the FA Cup final. The clubs have met in the FA Cup final itself, contesting finals in 1994, 2007 and 2018 with Chelsea winning two of them in 2007 and 2018. They also had met in the competition in both 2017 and 2019, and again Chelsea claimed victory in 17, but United got their revenge in 19. Even in the current season they had met three times, twice in the league and in the League Cup with United winning all three games. United were the form team going into the semi-final having not lost a game in all competitions since losing to Burnley in January. As for Chelsea’s form, it was a little patchy coming into the game with a nervy 1-0 win over relegated Norwich City came off the back of the blue’s worst performance of the season in a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United. Frank used the 3-5-2 to combat United’s pacy attack whilst surprisingly, Ole Gunnar Solskjær matched Chelsea like for like. A live Sunday evening match on BBC Television with a 6pm kick off would ensure a titanic battle.
Many would describe the game as Chelsea’s best performance of the season. They played United off the pitch with a fantastic attacking display from Willian, Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud. The two midfield generals, Jorginho and Kovacic ate up whatever United offered in the middle and Chelsea’s best defensive display of the season in the back three system of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta stopped United’s attack. Giroud scored on half-time, getting in ahead of Maguire to nudge past David De Gea. After the restart, Mount made it 2-0 from range where a confident De Gea comfortably saves. The game was sealed in the 74th minute when Harry Maguire diverted Marcos Alonso’s cross into his own net under pressure from Rudiger. A late penalty from Bruno Fernandes couldn’t save United.
So Chelsea are into their fourteenth FA Cup Final and going for their ninth win. For the first ever August FA Cup Final, let’s hope Blue is the Colour at Wembley.