Ekun Samuel, 14 March 2017
It was a evening of pride at stake, steering of the wheel and the quest for glory. After all the mind games of Jose Mourinho attacking his former side, questioning their tactics, criticising their defensive approach to game and questioning as well their easy ride on fixtures all the way. Antonio Conte has kept his cool and was refused to trade words with the arrogant Portuguese who portrays and considers himself as the 'Special One'. Asked at a press meeting with Conte if he had had any contact with Jose after last November trashing of Man United at the Bridge that lead to Mourinho questioning the Italian's celebration, Conte said 'No', as he believed it wasn't necessary. Man United obviously came hard on Chelsea with series of hard tackles and swift closing down. It all seemed Eden Hazard was targeted for tonight's game, after a number of United players fouled Eden Hazard, referee Michael Oliver called over United's Phil Jones (who committed the latest foul) and United captain Chris Smalling to issue a warning. It was evident that the referee — and Eden Hazard — had had enough of the constant fouls. It was pertinent the cautioning by referee Michael Oliver could serve as deterrent to Man United players aggressive constant tackles, but United players on the night were naive to smell the coffin. From the free kick, United's Ander Herrera, already on a yellow card, tripped Hazard. It was a breathtakingly stupid and obvious act. Oliver brandished a red card, and a shoving match erupted among the players. Why United harboured a sense of injustice is anyone's guess. It was clearly a bookable offence that forced the referee's hand. The bad feeling would soon erupt again. The melee on the sidelines had barely settled down when managers Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho squared up and had to be separated in the technical area. They were kept apart by their assistant coaches, and the fourth official was reduced to gesturing like a boxing referee keeping fighters at a distance. Oliver came over and issued a warning. The bad feeling between the men was evident. At second half, after Ngolo Kante scored from a 20 yard in the 51 minutes to put Chelsea ahead 1-0 up and was in total control of the game, the exchanges continued in the technical area, especially after United's Ashley Young was booked for a foul on Victor Moses. Mourinho kicked the stray ball in Conte's direction and the Italian replied with a volley of abuse toward the Portuguese. The crowd howled at Mourinho. The crowd obviously has respected Jose Mourinho enough despite going ahead to coach an opposition team, his name was still sung in his first visit to Stamford-Bridge ever since his sacking in December 2015. It was ethical of Jose to reciprocate respect back to his former side, but he has lost his fame and name at the Bridge and Conte has suddenly become the song on the lips of Chelsea fans.
Man United only clear chance on goal came after striker Marcus Rashford had a chance to level the tie after 59 minutes but was denied by keeper Thibaut Courtois's legs after getting the better off from David Luiz. Rashford was an unexpected starter after appearing to be ruled out of the game through illness. Rashford worked hard but had few opportunities. Man United has been beaten once in 28 games going into this match, and has failed to beat Chelsea since their last 11 meetings in all competitions. Being knocked out of the FA Cup, Man United are left with the European League to contend for, as they keep pushing as well for a top four finish at the League standing.
Ekun Samuel, 14 March 2017