A superhuman volley by Demba Ba provided the necessary spice to an otherwise underwhelming FA Cup quarter-final replay between Chelsea and Manchester United.
Ba’s goal completed a fantastic comeback for the Blues, which began after Rafa Benitez’ side went down 2-0 in the initial tie on March 10th at Old Trafford. Chelsea clawed their way back into that match with second-half goals from Eden Hazard and Ramires. Monday’s 1-0 victory in the replay means the Blues will face Manchester City in Wembley on April 14th.
After this weekend’s league action where United defeated Sunderland 1-0 and Chelsea were beaten 2-1 by Southampton, both sides made seven changes to their starting lineups. For United, Wayne Rooney was absent with a groin injury while the holders started Ba and John Obi Mikel in place of Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard.
The first-half was an even-handed affair and United appeared to grab the upper hand when Chelsea were forced to bring on Ryan Bertrand for Ashley Cole, who succumbed to a hamstring problem. Eden Hazard provided much of the danger for Chelsea, even with Phil Jones dropping back from his midfield role to help Antonio Valencia contain the electric Belgian. For United, it was Javier Hernandez who looked most likely to score as he challenged Petr Cech with a swerving shot from outside the box and repeatedly put himself into dangerous positions, only to fail to convert.
Four minutes into the second-half and Chelsea got their goal. Juan Mata collected the ball from forty yards out and turned lofting an angelic curler into the box. Ba, anticipating the Spaniard’s service, slipped behind Rio Ferdinand’s right shoulder and took his diagonal run just right of the penalty spot. As the service dipped over Ba’s shoulder the Senegalese hitman threw his body forward and with his right leg raised four feet in the air, redirected the ball across David de Gea and into the top left corner. A ridiculous goal from a ridiculously talented player.
As the second half wore on both sides exchanged chances with Hernandez coming closest but Cech proved to be his reliable self and Chelsea marched on.
Leading up to the match Ba had only scored once in 11 competitions leading many to wonder whether the striker had what it takes to play at Chelsea. With rumors of Radamel Falcao or Edinson Cavani arriving in the summer and with Torres playing decently of late, it appeared Ba was quickly becoming surplus goods at the Bridge.
Those concerns abated (at least briefly) on Monday with the phenomenal redirection that reminded fans that when it comes to Demba Ba, anything is possible.
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On many occasions there are instances where teams and individuals exemplify the fact that real-life occurrences are more meaningful than sports.
Ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League meeting, Italian giants AS Roma visited Anfield –where they will face Liverpool in the competition’s semifinals.
After walking around the venue where the two sides will compete in less than 24 hours, Roma captain Daniele de Rossi and the rest of the Roma squad visited the Hillsborough memorial at Anfield to pay tribute to the 96 victims lost in the 1989 event that rocked the entire country.
De Rossi was seen laying a floral arrangement on the site, along with a note from the club that read, “In memoria delle vittime di Hillsborough AS Rome.”
After touching down on Merseyside, @OfficialASRoma headed to Anfield to pay their respects at the Hillsborough memorial with captain Daniele De Rossi laying a floral tribute…
Four clubs remain in this season’s UEFA Champions League competition, and while two of the teams have been considered heavy dogs in the fight all year long the other two sides look to continue on their storybook run.
Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have found themselves in the semifinals of this season’s UCL, creating a strong mix of storylines as the tournament heads towards its most critical point.
Anfield will be the site for Tuesday’s first leg between Liverpool and Roma, with both sides still riding major highs from their victories in the last round.
The Reds enter the final four after having disposed of fellow Premier League side Manchester City in relatively dominating fashion. Meanwhile, Roma completed a seemingly impossible comeback against Barcelona to progress in the competition.
Liverpool is led by three of the year’s top goalscorers, including Mohamed Salah — who has scored eight goals in the UCL and 41 across all competitions.
For Roma, much of the side’s success has been predicated on finding defensive strength at the right moments throughout the tournament.
Despite falling behind 4-1 in their first leg defeat to Barca in the previous round, Edin Dzeko and Co. rallied for a 3-0 win at the Stade Olimpico to stun the Catalan club by holding Lionel Messi and his side in check.
Manager Eusebio Di Francesco will have to find creative ways to halt the Liverpool attack though over the course of two legs, with the Reds boasting the top attack in this year’s UCL.
Liverpool has scored 33 goals in 10 UCL matches, while only conceding seven in the process.
The prospects for a goalkeeper scoring during a match are usually uncommon, but that hasn’t halted Manchester City’s number one choice from aiming to break the trend this season.
Ederson — who has moved into the starting role at the Etihad Stadium with relative ease in 2017/18 — has dreamt of scoring a goal of his own for the Premier League champions in waiting.
“I heard the fans chanting my name, asking me to take the penalty but Gabriel went there,” Ederson said. “Unfortunately he missed it and Bernardo happily scored. But if the manager have asked me to go there, definitely I’d score.
“I’m not sure if I would be able to do set-pieces, but I’m good at penalties, either using power or technique on shooting it. But City have [their] regular penalty-takers and we are well-served.
Citizen supporters chanted for the goalkeeper to take a penalty kick over the weekend in the team’s 5-0 win over Swansea City.