Romelu Lukaku scored his 12th goal of the season as Chelsea advanced to the FA Cup semi-finals by defeating Championship side Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough had knocked out Manchester United and Tottenham on their path to the quarter-finals, but Romelu Lukaku tapped in from Mason Mount’s cross after a swift Chelsea counter.
Midway through the first half, Hakim Ziyech made it 2-0 with a brilliant dipping effort from the edge of the box, before Anfernee Dijksteel cleared off the line to deny Romelu Lukaku a second.
Middlesbrough put in a lot of effort in the second half as they tried to build an unexpected comeback, with Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun shooting wide after a promising counter, and Duncan Watmore sending a strong effort over the bar.
Chelsea had a late chance to score when substitute Timo Werner met a free-kick, but Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Lumley did well to paw the ball away.
Lukaku’s Goal below:
When the draw is done before Sunday’s quarter-final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, Chelsea will learn who they will face in the semi-finals, which will be held at Wembley on April 16 and 17. (18:00 GMT).
Chelsea’s run continues despite crisis
Chelsea had to make an unpleasant U-turn over their desire for the game to be played behind closed doors for “sporting integrity,” thus there was some tension before the game.
Due to government sanctions imposed on Russian owner Roman Abramovich as a result of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the club was unable to sell their entire 4,500 ticket allocation for the match.
It meant they had roughly 700 supporters who had purchased tickets before the restrictions were imposed, but Middlesbrough had a sell-out crowd at the 34,000-seat Riverside Stadium.
Chelsea’s players have performed admirably despite the club’s off-field instability. Due to financial restrictions, they were concerned if they would be able to make the 10-hour round trip by coach to Middlesbrough just hours after returning from a Champions League fixture in Lille.
Chelsea has won all three games since Abramovich’s assets were frozen on March 10 as part of sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and this was an ultimately straightforward victory against a club that has fared well against Premier League opponents in this year’s FA Cup.
Lukaku has had a rough season at Chelsea, where he has not appeared entirely happy, but he has been given a start in this game.
And he played a major role, scoring his third FA Cup goal in four games, making a crucial clearing from a Marcus Tavernier free-kick with the score at 1-0, and only being denied a second by a goalline clearance.
The Belgian’s goal celebration was understated, adding to concerns over his long-term future, but he did what he was expected to do as Chelsea kept their FA Cup ambitions alive.
Boro have shifted their focus to a return to the Premier League.
Middlesbrough have had a fantastic run in the FA Cup since Chris Wilder took over on November 7th.
They got off to a good start in this game, and they weren’t hesitant to push high against a team that had won seven of their previous eight games.
After being caught on the counter for the opener, their daring start proved costly, but their run in the competition and performances against Premier League opposition will give them confidence as they prepare to join their recent FA Cup opponents in the top level next season.
Middlesbrough are currently in eighth place in the Championship, two points behind sixth place but with two games in hand on the majority of the teams ahead of them.
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