Dominic Fifield at the King Power Stadium on 18 March 2018
Antonio Conte remains on course to avenge defeat in the FA Cup final last season, after Pedro’s extra-time header squeezed Chelsea beyond Leicester City and secured passage into the competition’s last four. The reigning Premier League champions will face Southampton at Wembley next month, with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur meeting in the other semi-final after the draw on Sunday night. Chelsea were denied a league and Cup double last term after losing against Arsenal in the final, but are aiming to make amends in the knockout this time round. “This trophy is very important, very important in this country,” Conte said. “There is great consideration given to this trophy. Last season, it was a pity to lose the final. To celebrate the Double with the players [would have been special]. This season our target is to try and do our best and reach the final again this season. When we are able to reach the final, I want to try to change the final result compared to last season.
“But this is not an easy draw. As you know very well, I think when you arrive at this point of the tournament it’s very difficult to consider a game ‘easy’. Don’t forget Manchester City were eliminated against Wigan. We must be ready to fight to try to reach the final at Wembley for the second time in a row. It will be very important for us, but we have to know that Southampton have the same idea as us.”
Chelsea’s progress was secured by Pedro after Álvaro Morata – who scored for the first time since Boxing Day – and Jamie Vardy had traded goals in normal time. Conte praised Morata’s contribution, and the commitment and efforts of his players following their midweek elimination from the Champions League by Barcelona, though he admitted he had felt compelled to withdraw Tiemoué Bakayoko at the break as a precaution.
The £40m signing from Monaco had been making his first appearance since his dismissal for two yellow cards in a thrashing at Watford in February – he had subsequently torn his calf muscle – but was booked in the first half here. “He took a yellow card and, as you know very well, we are talking about a player with great physicality,” Conte said. “In a game like this, you have to prevent and try to avoid a second yellow card. Only for this reason I decided to change him after the first half.”