Hakim Ziyech fired Chelsea to a fourth FA Cup final in five years as Manchester City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple went up in smoke.
All eyes were on Wembley as Pep Guardiola’s runaway Premier League leaders faced Thomas Tuchel’s improving side in a heavyweight semi-final clash that could yet be repeated in the Champions League showpiece.
City will be back at Wembley next weekend for the Carabao Cup final but they will be not be returning to the capital on May 15, when Chelsea will go for FA Cup glory against either Leicester or Southampton.
Ziyech’s second-half strike secured a 1-0 win under the arch, where Tuchel’s first-ever victory against former Bundesliga foe Guardiola means it is shaping up to be a memorable end to the season for the Blues.
City could also achieve something special but their dreams of winning the quadruple are over after a match when their much-changed side were fortunate to go into half-time level.
Ziyech saw an early goal ruled out after Timo Werner strayed offside in the build-up, but the pair would link up to find the net as the Morocco international directed home his fellow summer signing’s cross.
Star turn Kevin De Bruyne limped off injured minutes earlier and City failed to launch an effective response as Chelsea secured a deserved semi-final victory.
Guardiola may well rue making eight alterations at an empty Wembley, where Tuchel plumped for just three.
Chelsea unsurprisingly looked a far more fluid unit and Ziyech, one of the few changes, found the back of the net inside six minutes.
Ben Chilwell clipped a ball down the left to Werner, whose low cross found the former Ajax man to score before for the assistant referee belatedly called offside.
Chelsea continued to get joy down the flanks through Reece James and Chilwell, who would have connected in style had the latter met the former’s cross with a clean volley rather than a mis-hit attempt wide.
N’Golo Kante was buzzing around as the Blues’ driving runs continued to cut open City, whose captain Fernandinho somehow avoided punishment for flying into a challenge on Mason Mount – a player he had already nearly stamped on.
If that was not frustrating enough, James was booked for a foul on the veteran Brazilian moments after he hooked wide of Zack Steffen’s goal from the edge of the box.
Chelsea’s backline dealt manfully with the flickers of City life as half-time approached, with Fernandinho heading well off target before referee Mike Dean called time on the opening period.
Neither manager made changes at the break, but De Bruyne lasted only three minutes of the second half.
The Belgium playmaker went into an innocuous duel with Kante on the touchline and pulled up with what appeared to be an ankle injury, leading to Phil Foden’s introduction.
The Premier League leaders’ start to the second half got worse in the 55th minute.
Mount played a lovely ball behind the City defence to put Werner free down the left. Back-up goalkeeper Steffen was sucked towards the ball and the forward smartly passed across for Ziyech to turn into an empty net.
The United States international should have done better for that goal but prevented City’s hopes being all but extinguished four minutes later.
Chilwell fired over a fine ball that Ruben Dias could not cut out and Ziyech ran through, only for Steffen to stay strong and save the shot. Dias then denied Werner from getting away a follow-up effort.
Fernandinho finally entered referee Dean’s notebook as City meekly looked for a leveller and Dias should have done better with a close-range header.
Werner scuffed a low shot at Steffen on the break and Kepa Arrizabalaga comfortably deal with a Rodri attempt from the edge of the box, with ineffective Raheem Sterling scooping the ball over as the clock wound down.
Christian Pulisic followed a lovely run with a fine finish in stoppage time, only for the offside flag to deny the Chelsea substitute making it 2-0.
Kepa denied an even later Rodri header as Tuchel’s men sealed their spot in the FA Cup final.