Chelsea survive FA Cup scare as Thomas Tuchel finds new methods to win ugly

They say it’s a good sign when you play badly and win – and that’s exactly what Chelsea did here.

Leading early through an Oliver Norwood own goal, the Blues made hard work of this one.

And but for a woeful miss of the season contender from David McGoldrick it could have been a very different story.

Rhian Brewster should have equalised too but hit the side netting when it looked easier to score.

Few gave struggling Sheffield United a prayer, but after a poor first half in which they were thoroughly dominated, the Blades caused some problems.

And Chelsea only survived the scare when Hakim Ziyech came off the bench to score a second in stoppage time.

But Tuchel’s side are through to the semi-finals and they are now unbeaten in 14 matches under the German, who played a weakened team.

It’s not always pretty, and at times this game suggested their first defeat might not be long in coming.

But Chelsea keep on finding ways to win. They look confident, resilient, and hard to beat.

And for visiting teams trying to score against them, goals are becoming as rare as snowflakes in the desert.

The Blades were quickly blunted and spent most of the opening 25 minutes pinned back in their own half watching Chelsea pass it around.

In fairness they were very comfortable though – until a half-cleared corner fell kindly to Ben Chilwell.

His shot was going wide until Norwood slid in trying to block, and only succeeded in deflecting it past Aaron Ramsdale for the opener.

That was United’s gameplan out of the window straight away, undoing all their good defensive work and leaving them a mountain to climb.

By half time, Chelsea had still only had one shot on target, as Chilwell’s was heading well wide before it went in.

They are rarely the most exciting of teams under Tuchel – but they usually find a way to win.

The German chose to use this fixture to give plenty of big guns a rest, including N’Golo Kante, Timo Werner, Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azilicueta.

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  • But for all the changes Chelsea looked in complete control with star man Mason Mount coming back from a ban to captain the side.

    That was until Emerson deflected a John Lundstram cross and it somehow found David McGoldrick completely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.

    He had to stoop to get a connection but it was still a free header and somehow he managed to put it well wide.

    Kepa Arrizabalaga then saved well from Oliver McBurnie as the Blades suddenly started to look sharp.

    Tuchel, alarmed, sent on a flurry of subs to try and liven his side up. But the visitors continued to look dangerous.

    Interim boss Paul Heckingbottom kept urging his side forward as time began to run out and his players became more and more desperate.

    Substitute Rhian Brewster then had his head in his hands when he hit the side netting from eight yards in stoppage time.

    And he was made to pay when Ziyech, another sub, took one touch to control a Ben Chilwell cross on a fast break and volleyed home just before the final whistle.

    It was a tidy finish and few could argue Chelsea deserved the victory on the balance of play. But United will wonder what might have been.

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