David de howler
Goalkeeper hands FA Cup semi-final victory to Chelsea
There have been a number of signature performances for Chelsea in Frank Lampard’s first season in charge – Ajax away in the Champions League, Liverpool at home in the FA Cup and Manchester City in the Premier League all spring to mind – and here was one more.
Defeating Manchester United to reach a third FA Cup final in four years was achieved through some shocking gifts from goalkeeper David De Gea, some collective mind-freeze from those in red, but also with Lampard outsmarting his opponents tactically, with his team selection and motivation of players.
In other words, Chelsea beat United all ends up and it was humiliating for the defeated.
At the same time, this was Chelsea’s first win over United since the 2018 FA Cup final, which just happened to be the last time that De Gea played in this competition. Of all the questionable decisions taken by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for this fixture, his first-choice ahead of his cup goalkeeper Sergio Romero was surely one he did not think would cause controversy. But so poor was De Gea’s performance that the 29-year-old’s future, because of his inconsistency, has to be in doubt.
This is a long way from being the “world’s best”, as Solskjaer insisted the Spaniard was still not long ago, and the clamour to bring back Dean Henderson, and not keep him on loan at Sheffield United next season, will only increase. De Gea should be in his prime but he is increasingly a liability while that new four-year deal he signed last year to make him the world’s best paid-goalkeeper, looks a bad call.
United let this one slip away as Chelsea’s first two goals slipped through De Gea’s fingers. Even before those howlers, though, Lampard’s side should have been ahead as they dominated a first half that was extended by 12 minutes because of a worrying head injury to United defender Eric Bailly.
The Ivorian was one of three centre-halves fielded by Solskjaer, who appeared overly worried about his team having played three times in a week, having had less rest, so went on the defensive. He tried to counter-attack and found out that simply blunted his attack as he appeared to ask Bruno Fernandes to do it all.
Lampard sensed that. He, too, deployed a three-man defence but with far more intent and with the impressive Olivier Giroud proving too much of a handful for Harry Maguire, who was left bandaged by his clash of heads with Bailly but will also need his confidence patching up. The United captain’s torrid evening was capped by an own goal, Chelsea’s third, and although it meant De Gea was beaten at his near post, it was probably the only one he conceded where he was not categorically at fault.
There is no way that could be said about the other two goals. In the 56th minute of the first half Cesar Azpilicueta, who combined well with Reece James throughout, crossed low with Giroud stealing in front of Victor Lindelof. Once again Lindelof had shown himself slow to react but still Giroud had only guided the ball goalwards with the outside of his left boot and it surely lacked the power to beat De Gea. Instead it caught him out, with the ball squirming through his fingers to trickle over the goal-line.
After that, United seemed to feel sorry for themselves.
Bailly was replaced by Anthony Martial and their shape was better but they did not give themselves a chance to recover as early in the second half there was an even more horrendous error with the United defence also, again, at fault as Brandon Williams played a careless pass infield which was collected by Mason Mount, who strode forward.
Nevertheless there appeared minimal danger, especially when Mount’s low shot from 20 yards appeared to lack power – only for De Gea to dive to his left but fail to turn the shot away with the ball slipping through his hands into the net.
De Gea looked in a daze. At the second-half drinks break he stood apart, with assistant manager Mike Phelan speaking to him, before he threw his water bottle down and walked back to goal. He was beaten again as Antonio Rudiger met Marcos Alonso’s cross and the ball came off Maguire to go past him. Could he have saved it? Maybe if not at rock bottom.
United had some chances before Chelsea substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi caught Martial. Fernandes stepped up and, with a skip, he beat goalkeeper Willy Caballero from the penalty spot.
By now, though, their malaise was complete. There would be no cavalry charge as United slipped to their first defeat in 19 games in such a limp manner. That is not to detract from Chelsea, who were utterly dominant and deserved to set up an allLondon final, and a repeat of the finale three years ago, against Arsenal. Lampard deserves the plaudits; De Gea knows he will receive the brickbats.
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea cuts a dejected figure after he made decisive errors in his side’s 3-1 defeat by Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium yesterday. Chelsea will meet Arsenal in the final on Saturday, Aug 1
History repeating: De Gea lets Mason Mount’s tame 20-yard shot through his grasp for Chelsea’s second