Olivier Giroud, Alvaro Morata prove their worth as Chelsea reach FA Cup final
Chelsea coasted into the FA Cup final with a comfortable 2-0 win over Southampton on Sunday.
Having failed to take their chances in a scoreless first half, the Blues went in front immediately after the break when swashbuckling striker Olivier Giroud muscled his way through the Saints defence and netted with aplomb. Alvaro Morata replaced Giroud with 10 minutes left and sealed victory for Antonio Conte's side with a fine headed goal. A breathless end to the match saw Charlie Austin hit the post for Southampton and Morata have a shot cleared off the line and another saved by Saints keeper Alex McCarthy.
Chelsea played with a degree of unity and desire that has been lacking on plenty of occasions this season. Eden Hazard was at his defence-traumatising best and both Giroud and Morata proved their worth as strikers. Manchester United will provide far sterner opposition in the final than Southampton did, but Blues supporters have every reason to be optimistic about their side's chances if they can play with the same spirit and motivation.
Chelsea's propensity to squander chances remains a source of frustration. Better finishing could quite easily have brought a further five goals. Opportunities will be harder to come by in the final against Man United, squandering them could prove costly.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- The biggest call Conte made was starting Giroud up front and it paid off as did his decision and the timing of it to replace the France international with Morata. In defence, the Italian's decision to opt for the experience of captain Gary Cahill also looked vindicated as Chelsea looked robust in that department.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 7 -- A spectator for much of the game, Caballero was finally called into significant action when somehow keeping out Nathan Redmond's seemingly goal-bound effort in the 73rd minute with the score still at 1-0. As with goals, when it comes to saves, they all count. It will be interesting to see if Conte retains fans' favourite "Big Willy" who has played all the cup games for the final or goes with regular custodian Thibaut Courtois.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Largely untroubled in defence, Azpilicueta's main contribution to Chelsea's cause was to ping a neat cross for Morata to head home. That made it seven assists for "Dave" this season -- each of them provided for his countryman Morata.
DF Gary Cahill, 7 -- The twin Southampton threat of Austin and Shane Long never manifested itself, and given the majority of the game was played in the Saints half, Cahill had very little to do for much of it. Looked composed enough when involved in the action and having been on the periphery of Conte's thinking for much of the season may once again find his experience will be called on for the final.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Formed a cohesive unit with Cahill and Azpilicueta, Made several decent blocking tackles and had the pace and awareness to close down Southampton's forward play, including dealing fairly with Long when the Saints striker appealed for a penalty having gone down following a challenge.
MF Victor Moses, 6 -- Never really got going and found it difficult to get past Ryan Bertrand on the right flank. Did have some success drifting infield and linking up with Hazard.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- The wide-open spaces of Wembley and blazing sunshine don't faze rare beasts like Kante, who can run and run and run. Bossed midfield, and as usual looked like he could have carried on playing until midnight without getting fatigued.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 -- The hub of Chelsea's early creative play. Linked up well with Willian, Hazard and Giroud, and initiated the opening goal but looked increasingly jaded in the second half and was replaced by Pedro in the 76th minute.
MF Willian, 7 -- Struck the bar early on and had a further chance from a free kick but it wasn't to be for the Brazil international, who looked distinctly unimpressed when substituted in the 64th minute and headed straight down the tunnel.
MF Emerson, 6 -- Saw very little of the ball as Chelsea channelled their play through the middle of the pitch. Did have a couple of decent runs with the ball but didn't have the measure of his counterpart Cedric Soares.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- Led Southampton's defence a merry dance for much of the game, displaying the type of form that has helped bring Chelsea trophies in the past. With a little bit of luck he might have scored; that would have been the icing on the cake for what was a fine man-of-the-match Wembley performance.
FW Olivier Giroud, 8 -- Played with swaggering confidence and scored one of his side's best goals of the season when smuggling the ball through Southampton's backline and beating McCarthy.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 6 -- Replaced Willian and brought added energy to Chelsea's midfield.
FW Pedro, NR -- Replaced Fabregas and linked up effectively with Hazard to keep the pressure on Southampton.
FW Alvaro Morata, NR -- Replaced Giroud for the final 10 minutes and almost immediately sealed victory for Chelsea with a powerful header. Might have added to his tally but had a shot cleared of the line and a further effort saved by McCarthy.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco