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Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Blues can’t shake the almost male label

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Chelsea and manager Mauricio Pochettino remain unable to shake off the unwanted label most men feel following their latest painful Wembley FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City.

It may seem harsh, but the brutal reality is that Chelsea and Pochettino once again fell short on the big occasion, with the pain made even more acute because once again so many of their wounds were self-inflicted.

Chelsea were left to rue a host of missed chances that were canceled out by a youthful and injury-plagued Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final in February. And they had that ‘what could have been’ feeling repeated here after Bernardo Silva’s late goal sent City to another FA Cup final.

They will also tell a tale of bad luck after referee Michael Oliver refused to award a penalty after the video assistant referee studied what appeared to be a Jack Grealish handball from Cole Palmer’s free-kick in the second half before deciding it was no violation had been committed.

Chelsea will also know that they had plenty of chances to make those penalty claims irrelevant, but just like against Liverpool, the chances came and went – mainly because of failed striker Nicolas Jackson.

When that happens, you leave the door open to the ruthlessness of a great team, even if that great team is jaded and seemingly playing from muscle memory.

Such was the case as City followed their own grueling efforts in the Champions League quarter-final on penalties against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

But they took advantage of Chelsea’s misses six minutes from time when Kevin de Bruyne Silva’s cross at the far post scored the winner. It was a redeeming moment for Silva after his casually chipped penalty, easily saved by goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, played a key role in the Champions League exit.

Pochettino is still chasing a first trophy in England, another chance at silverware eluding him to maintain a record that puts him in the category of very good managers, but not a member of the elite group.

He had organized and motivated Chelsea well, but the bottom line was that his team once again failed to win when it mattered, especially disappointing as they would have been quietly confident of victory in the final against Coventry City or Manchester United on May 18. .

Pochettino clearly felt Chelsea had been massively wronged in that penalty incident, but Jackson’s wayward finish kept City afloat as they appeared to be sinking under the weight of fatigue.

Jackson is a smooth runner with pace, but lacks a ruthless edge in front of goal when it matters, especially in the first half when he tried to round City keeper Stefan Ortega instead of shooting, and when he created two more big openings allowed. loss in the second half.

This was the deciding factor. Yes, City showed the mentality of champions to hang in there and win, but the conditions were there for Chelsea to emerge victorious and they blew it again.

It remains one of the biggest flaws in the great, dysfunctional transfer spree that Chelsea embarked on in the Todd Boehly era is that none of this wild free spending is aimed at a reliable striker.

This is more than a mistake. It borders on negligence and, as against Liverpool, it haunted them against City.

Wembley was once a happy hunting ground for Chelsea, but it has turned into a nightmare in recent seasons: losing the 2019 League Cup final to Manchester City, the 2020 FA Cup final to Arsenal, the FA Cup final to 2021 against Leicester City, the 2022 League final and FA Cup final against Liverpool on penalties after a goalless draw, this season’s League Cup final against Liverpool and now this.

Chelsea have not scored in five of their past six games at Wembley.

There are signs in Pochettino’s defense that Chelsea are moving in the right direction, but the pressure points record this season shows that this is a work in progress for all the opulent edifice.

Pochettino, if he wants to create the final product, will need time and patience. The big question is whether he will be granted that.

It was a tribute to City’s pedigree and the built-in resistance that every elite team needs that they dug in long enough to deliver the decisive moment in the semi-final, but the lingering memory, a bad one, for Chelsea is that they let Pep Guardiola’s team go. the hook.

City lacked their usual energy and quality, understandable given their efforts on Wednesday. Guardiola was furious at the fact that they had to play their semi-final on Saturday, while Manchester United and Coventry City, without European commitments, play here on Sunday.

City pulled this off because they have a proven track record of winners who know how to get the job done even when the going gets tough. Not Chelsea and Pochettino.

And the difference was once again there for all to see as City advanced to another domestic Premier League and FA Cup double.

BBC

FA

April 21, 2024

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