Olivier Giroud punished Southampton for the second weekend in a row as his fine finish helped Chelsea book their place in next month’s Emirates FA Cup Final.
The 31-year-old hit a brace as the Blues came from 2-0 down to win at St. Mary’s last Saturday.
And he was one of the main protagonists at Wembley, spearheading another Chelsea victory over the Saints – and took his 46th-minute opener superbly.
- Emirates FA Cup
- Sunday 22 April 2018
- at Wembley Stadium
The seven-time Cup winners will now face Manchester United in the Final on Saturday 19 May in what will be a repeat of the 2007 showpiece.
Chelsea started much better in this semi-final than they did last week when they found themselves 1-0 down after 21 minutes.
The impressive Eden Hazard fired an early sighter over the top before feeding Willian who clipped a shot onto the crossbar as Antonio Conte’s side flew out of the traps.
Slowly, though, Southampton got a foothold in the game with Mario Lemina’s low shot forcing Willy Caballero into his first piece of work of the afternoon.
Giroud, who won this competition three times with Arsenal, almost engineered another of his acrobatic masterpieces towards the end of the first half but this time the bicycle kick was just off target.
His next involvement proved decisive. With fans still taking their seats after the break, Hazard majestically cushioned a ball from the sky and slipped in the former Gunners striker.
Giroud’s control and twinkle toes threw five Southampton players off balance allowing him to prod home from close range.
With Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic summoned from the bench, Mark Hughes’s men rallied, began to enjoy more of the ball and came close through a Charlie Austin header.
And if the first half was largely uneventful, the second half was anything but, as the 73,000 fans inside Wembley were treated to a grandstand finish.
A 20-yard effort by Redmond brought the best out of Caballero and Southampton fans thought they had levelled from the resulting corner, only for referee Martin Atkinson to bring play back for a foul on the Chelsea keeper.
Alex McCarthy then excelled himself when tipping a Hazard shot over the bar and Maya Yoshida escaped the ignominy of scoring an own goal when Cedric’s clearance ricocheted off the centre back from point-blank range. Luckily for him, the ball spun over for a corner.
But their fate was sealed just minutes later when Morata replaced Giroud and scored Chelsea’s second with his first touch. Azpilicueta sent a delicious cross into the box and Morata rose unchallenged to head home.
The closest Southampton came to mustering a riposte was when Austin’s angled attempt clipped the far post late on.
But Chelsea now have the chance to make up for last year’s Cup Final defeat by Arsenal when they line up against United in four weeks’ time.
Chelsea (3-5-2): 1 Willy Caballero; 28 Cesar Azpilicueta, 24 Gary Cahill (capt), 2 Antonio Rudiger; 15 Victor Moses, 4 Cesc Fabregas, 7 N’Golo Kante, 22 Willian, 33 Emerson Palmieri; 10 Eden Hazard, 18 Olivier Giroud.
Substitutes: 14 Tiemoue Bakayoko for Willian 64, 11 Pedro for Fabregas 76, 9 Alvaro Morata for Giroud 80.
Substitutes not used: 37 Eduardo, 8 Ross Barkley, 21 Davide Zappacosta, 27 Andreas Christensen.
Goals: Giroud 46, Morata 82.
Manager: Antonio Conte
Southampton (3-5-2): 13 Alex McCarthy; 35 Jan Bednarek, 3 Maya Yoshida, 6 Wesley Hoedt; 2 Cedric, 18 Mario Lemina, 14 Oriol Romeu, 23 Pierre-Emile Højberg, 21 Ryan Bertrand (capt); 7 Shane Long, 10 Charlie Austin.
Substitutes: 22 Nathan Redmond for Long 64, 11 Dusan Tadic for Højberg 64, 20 Manolo Gabbiadini for Bednarek 79.
Substitutes not used: 44 Fraser Forster, 9 Guido Carrillo, 16 James Ward-Prowse, 38 Sam McQueen.
Bookings: Yoshida, Romeu, Lemina, Hoedt.
Manager: Mark Hughes
Referee: Martin Atkinson