Image: Britain Football Soccer – Chelsea v Manchester United – FA Cup Quarter Final – Stamford Bridge – 13/3/17 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrates after the match with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte got the upper hand on Jose Mourinho for the second time this season as his double-chasing side beat 10-man Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to reach the FA Cup semi-finals on Monday.
N’Golo Kante’s precise 51st minute strike was enough for Conte’s team to break United’s hold on the Cup after the visitors had Ander Herrera sent off after 35 minutes for a second yellow card — both for fouls on Eden Hazard.
Premier League leaders’ Chelsea’s reward is a Wembley clash with Tottenham Hotspur next month, while the other semi-final will be between Arsenal and Manchester City.
United, who face a Europa League last 16 tie on Thursday against Russian side Rostov, were missing the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic and injured Wayne Rooney and offered little threat once Kante had beaten David de Gea with a precise low shot.
Mourinho was spared the humiliation of the 4-0 thrashing his old club dished out in October’s league meeting — his first return to Stamford Bridge since being sacked last season — but his United side were again found wanting.
Mourinho’s frustration boiled over at times and the Portuguese and Italian Conte had to be separated after an angry exchange shortly after Herrera’s sending off.
“The game was completely under control (before the red card),” Mourinho, whose players targeted Hazard for especially close attention, told reporters. “They couldn’t find what is their game. I cannot be more proud of the players.”
Chelsea, chasing the Premier League/FA Cup double they last achieved in 2010, dominated possession and could have scored more goals, though holders United had their moments.
Much was made of United’s lack of striking options ahead of the game but Mourinho’s somewhat depleted side started in confident fashion and Henrikh Mkhitaryan fired just wide in the 13th minute following a strong run by Rashford.
That escape sparked Chelsea into life though, particularly Hazard who was soon skipping his way past defenders to force De Gea into a great save from his deflected shot.
United’s keeper then did equally well to claw out Nemanja Matic’s low shot from the resulting corner.
Herrera then took matters into his own hands with two ill-judged tackles on Hazard, both punished with yellow cards by referee Michael Oliver.
Mourinho reacted to the dismissal by hauling off Mkhitaryan and sending on the combative Marouane Fellaini.
It was a tactic designed to frustrate Chelsea but the irrepressible Kante opened them up six minutes after the break, delivering a right-foot shot of unerring accuracy past De Gea.
Diego Costa should have made it 2-0 but United should have levelled when the galloping Rashford left David Luiz and Gary Cahill trailing but shot straight at Thibaut Courtois.
Chelsea were relatively untroubled, though, as they set up a juicy-looking semi-final against London rivals Spurs — the last team to beat them in any competition.
“We must be pleased because to arrive in the semi-finals and play at Wembley gives us great satisfaction,” Conte said. “It’s another tough game against a strong team.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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