The Rafa Benitez era has been a Stale one for Chelsea, but they're still in with a chance to win the FA Cup for the second consecutive year. They're through to the semifinal after defeating Manchester United in their quarterfinal replay at Stamford Bridge. The Blues looked like the more dangerous side for most of the match and produced one terrific goal in a 1-0 victory.
Alex Ferguson was without Wayne Rooney and Rafael due to slight injuries and opted to rest Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie. Antonio Valencia started the game at right back, while Phil Jones played in the center of midfield and Tom Cleverley started on the left.
Early in the first half, Ashley Cole picked up an injury and was forced to exit the game. He walked off the pitch under his own power, but the severity of his injury -- which appeared to be to his hamstring -- is yet to be determined. He was replaced by Ryan Bertrand in the 22nd minute.
The first real chance of the game came in the 31st minute, when Demba Ba forced David De Gea into a big save in similar fashion to the one at the end of the first match of this tie that forced a replay. Ba was played in on goal and tried to place a shot past De Gea at the near post, but the United goalkeeper made a kick save.
He was matched later in the half by Petr Cech, who had to make a kick save of his own to send the sides into the half scoreless. Javier Hernandez sent him the wrong way, but didn't place his shot perfectly and Cech was able to make a stop.
Chelsea scored the only goal of the match shortly into the second half, through an absolutely brilliant combination between Juan Mata and Ba. Mata assisted with a chip into the box that looked like it was going to run out for a goal kick, but Ba stretched to meet it with a first-time volley and hit an unstoppable finish past De Gea to give Chelsea a lead that they would never relinquish.
Cech made the biggest save of the day in the 61st minute. Danny Welbeck picked out Javier Hernandez at the back post and it appeared that the Mexican striker was going to nod in an equalizer, but Cech reacted quickly to get his hand in the way and just barely tip the shot over the crossbar. Chelsea nearly doubled their lead through Eden Hazard six minutes later when he split the United center backs to get one-on-one with De Gea, but he missed his shot wide of the far post.
As a last resort, Ferguson brought on Robin van Persie in an attempt to seal an equalizer. He came close on two occasions, but couldn't fire United to extra time. Patrice Evra found him unmarked in the center of the box in the 88th minute, but van Persie hit his volley over the crossbar. In stoppage time, he had a great opportunity to score with a header, but like his earlier volley, put his shot over the bar.
Chelsea moves on to face Manchester City at Wembley in the semifinal in just under two weeks time.