London - Holders Chelsea kept one hand on the
FA Cup by overcoming a lacklustre Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford
Bridge on Monday in their quarter-final replay.
Demba Ba settled the tie with a memorable goal early in the second half
to send Chelsea into the last four for the sixth time in eight seasons.
of four of the last six tournaments, Chelsea will play Manchester City
in the semi-finals at Wembley Stadium on April 14.
unpopularity with the Chelsea fans, interim manager Rafael Benitez could
yet end the season with two trophies, as Russians Rubin Kazan await in
the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday.
have now gone nine years without winning the FA Cup, having seen hopes
of a league, cup and Champions League treble evaporate in the space of a
Their 15-point lead in the Premier League means they are
virtually guaranteed to succeed City as champions, but manager Alex
Ferguson faces the odd prospect of an end to the campaign with nothing
to play for.
Benitez complained that Ferguson snubbed his offer of
a handshake prior to the 2-2 draw in the sides' first meeting, but the
United manager put the matter to bed by offering Benitez a perfunctory
handshake as the Spaniard emerged from the tunnel.
Instead, the day's first headlines were created by Ferguson's team selection.
Wayne Rooney absent due to a groin injury and Robin van Persie on the
bench, Danny Welbeck supported Javier Hernandez in attack, while Phil
Jones bolstered the midfield.
Benitez made six changes to the team
beaten at Southampton on Saturday, and if there was unfamiliarity in
the two line-ups, it told in a very cautious opening.
goalkeeper was tested until United number one David de Gea blocked from
Ba in the 31st minute, by which time the hosts had already lost Ashley
Cole to an apparent hamstring injury.
United's imprecision in
attack forced them to rely on shots from range, with Nani drilling
narrowly wide from 25 yards and Hernandez almost embarrassing Petr Cech
with a skidding shot that the Czech goalkeeper kicked away in unorthodox
The creative players were beginning to come into the
game though, and at the other end Eden Hazard bent a shot over the bar
from Oscar's lay-off.
Juan Mata had been quiet, but four minutes
into the second half he created the opening goal with a lofted pass that
Ba hooked past De Gea with a sublime volley.
A United equaliser
seemed certain in the 61st minute when Hernandez ghosted in to meet
Welbeck's cross with a close-range header, but Cech showed astonishing
reflexes to deflect the ball over the bar.
Ferguson sent on van
Persie, followed by Ryan Giggs, by which time Mata had threatened to
extend the hosts' lead by thrashing a shot into the side netting.
had another close shave moments later, with Hazard seizing on a loose
pass from Michael Carrick and bearing down on goal, only to roll his
shot wide from 12 yards.
Ramires, Mata and Oscar also shot wide, while van Persie sent both of United's best chances of an equaliser over the crossbar.
Mata could even have made it 2-0 in the 89th minute, but after a neat exchange with Hazard, his shot was fielded by De Gea.