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Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win v. Tottenham

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Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday as Willian struck twice in the first half and Eden Hazard jumped off the bench to drill home and then set up Nemanja Matic to score a stunner.

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Both teams went after it but it is Chelsea who will face the winner of Arsenal and Manchester City (they play on Sunday) in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 27.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping clash at Wembley.


HAZARD, COSTA DECISION PAYS OFF

Before the game Antonio Conte‘s decision to put Diego Costa and Eden Hazard on the bench bemused everyone.

At the end of the game it looked like yet another masterclass from the Italian coach.

With the scored locked at 2-2, Conte sent on his two attacking stars and they made a big difference. Hazard put Chelsea 3-2 up with a fine low strike and then set up Matic to make it 4-2.

Costa’s presence was a tougher problem for Spurs’ defense to handle and he would’ve been the last person the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen would have wanted to see come on.

Conte got the biggest of calls spot on and now Hazard and Costa will be fresh for the big league game against Southampton on Tuesday as Chelsea aim to extend their lead atop the Premier League table to seven points.


PSYCHOLOGICAL BOOST GOES TO CHELSEA

With Spurs cutting Chelsea’s gap to four points ahead of this FA Cup semifinal, this match was about so much more than reaching the FA Cup final.

Chelsea weren’t on top for vast swathes of this match and indeed there only seemed to be one winner when Dele Alli equalized to make it 2-2. Tottenham were dominating midfield but Cesc Fabregas’ arrival calmed things down for Chelsea and the fact they could bring on Costa, Hazard and Fabrgeas said it all. The strength of their bench made a huge difference.

With Chelsea coming off the back of a damaging defeat at Manchester United, many people were looking for a response from the Blues.

It wasn’t pretty but Conte’s boys delivered a huge show of character as they dug deep and got by a red-hot Tottenham outfit and have given themselves a boost in the run-in as securing the double seems a real possibility.

This could be a massive moment in Chelsea winning the Premier League as Spurs will be left to lick their wounds and wonder what could have been once again at Wembley.


ERIKSEN, KANE, ALLI CAN’T HELP LIFT WEMBLEY CURSE

Harry Kane‘s deft header at the near post from Christian Eriksen‘s cross made it 1-1 and gave Spurs hope they could finally get over their Wembley curse. Then Dele Alli’s fine finish from another sublime Eriksen cross made it 2-2 to again give Tottenham hope as they battered Chelsea.

Think again.

Spurs have now played at Wembley five times this season, losing on there occasions, drawing once (but going out of the Europa League to Genk on aggregate) and winning just once. The stadium they’re widely expected to call home next season seems cursed and a decision on whether or not they’ll play all of their home games at Wembley next season is expected to be made in the coming days.

Their Wembly struggles aside, Tottenham have now lost seven consecutive FA Cup semifinals, something no other team in history has ever done.

Pochettino’s men will now focus solely on the Premier League as they look to hunt down Chelsea.

But make no mistake about it, losing at Wembley yet again could have huge ramifications on the decision over their home for next season.

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.