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Apr 1, 2013

Blues to semis on Demba Ba goal

LONDON -- Demba Ba sent Chelsea into the FA Cup semifinals with a 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Monday, keeping his team on course for a cup double to make amends for a lackluster Premier League campaign.

The quarterfinal replay came to life four minutes into the second half when Ba exquisitely hooked the ball over goalkeeper David de Gea to set up a Wembley Stadium meeting with Manchester City.

While Chelsea also has a Europa League quarterfinal on Thursday, United is left only with the Premier League, where it holds a seemingly insurmountable 15-point lead.

United was denied an equalizer when Petr Cech pulled off a stunning one-handed save to block Javier Hernandez's close-range header.

"It was a great ball from the wing and Javier did well to direct the ball into the goal," Cech told ITV Sport. "I went fast as I could and let my left arm to do the job. I tried to cover as much space as I could and luckily I was able to reach it."

Ba stretched to volley the only goal from Juan Mata's chipped pass in the 49th minute.

"It was a brilliant pass from Juan as well," Ba said. "For Newcastle I scored quite a similar goal against Man United -- it reminded me of that."

The win continues Chelsea's record in the competition, having lifted the trophy in four of the past six seasons.

"It was a great win. We know there is only one way to win the cup and we won the game in a very good fashion," Cech said.

Chelsea held on to produce the perfect response to Saturday's loss at Southampton, which saw the team drop to fourth in the league. The priority for the club is still securing a top-four finish -- and Champions League qualification. However, the win puts interim manager Rafa Benitez, who is under contract only until the end of the season, closer to getting a trophy to show for his short spell at Stamford Bridge.

Despite a long-running feud with United manager Alex Ferguson, the pair did shake hands before and after the game.

But the atmosphere in the stands was toxic from the start.

Boos greeted United defender Rio Ferdinand's name when it was read out before kickoff, as it was most touches during the game.

The response by United fans was to chant about Chelsea captain John Terry, making clear references to his ban for racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton, during a match at Queens Park Rangers last season.

Terry was on the bench -- one of seven changes from the side that lost at Southampton, while Ashley Cole, who was rested Saturday, pulled up after just 20 minutes with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for two weeks.

It was the only noteworthy incident until that point, with little action in either goalmouth.

There wasn't even a shot on goal for 31 minutes, with Eden Hazard eventually breaking forward and releasing Ba, whose shot was turned away by De Gea's left outstretched foot.

At the other end, a mistake by United midfielder Michael Carrick -- inadvertently turning the ball toward his own goal -- nearly gifted Chelsea a second. But after breaking clear of Phil Jones, Hazard stabbed the ball wide.

United was without striker Wayne Rooney because of a groin injury while Robin van Persie didn't come off the bench until the second half.

Van Persie squandered his best chance to equalize when he made a poor connection with Patrice Evra's late cross, shooting high when unmarked in a central position.

Chelsea will face Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinal April 14. Millwall will take on Wigan in the other semifinal April 13.

Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.

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