A good day for Antonio Conte and his use of two competing centre forwards. Both scored to win this game, Olivier Giroud courtesy of dancing feet just after half-time and Alvaro Morata with his head just 86 seconds after replacing the Frenchman late in the game.
This was not such a good day for referee Martin Atkinson and his use of the VAR system, however.
With the score at 1-0 with just under 15 minutes to go and Southampton finally exerting pressure on the Chelsea defence, goalkeeper Willy Caballero dropped the ball over the goal line under pressure from Charlie Austin.
Referee Atkinson immediately blew for a foul but replays suggested there had not been one. Had Atkinson referred the decision to the VAR official a rather different decision may have been reached. At the very least, a more considered view could have been given.
Chelsea eased into the FA Cup final after goals from Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata saw them beat Southampton 2-0
Giroud opened the scoring a minute into the second-half with a sublime piece of footwork in the box
Giroud latched onto a through ball from Eden Hazard before beating two Southampton defenders and poking the ball home
Chelsea fans go wild as Giroud stabs the ball into the back of the net while Southampton watch on in dismay
The French striker wheels away as team-mates Hazard and Willian run over to join him in celebration
Alvaro Morata came off the bench to guarantee the victory with a towering header at the back post
The Spaniard headed Cesar Azpilicueta’s delightful cross into the far corner of the net in front of the Chelsea supporters
Morata celebrated his goal with his Spanish colleague as they goal was another created and finished by the duo
Nathan Redmond and Southampton’s players look dejected as they walk back to the halfway line after Morata’s goal
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Chelsea: Caballero, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger, Moses, Fabregas (Pedro 76), Kante, Emerson, Willian (Bakayoko 64), Hazard, Giroud (Morata 80).
Subs not used: Barkley, Zappacosta, Christensen, Eduardo.
Goals: Giroud 46, Morata 82
Southampton: McCarthy, Bednarek (Gabbiadini 78), Yoshida, Hoedt, Cedric, Romeu, Hojbjerg (Tadic 63), Bertrand, Lemina, Long (Redmond 63), Austin.
Subs not used: Carrillo, Ward-Prowse, McQueen, Forster.
Bookings: Yoshida, Lemina, Romeu, Hoedt
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring immediately after half-time as he danced around the Southampton defence before forcing the ball home. Click here for more from our Match Zone.
But Atkinson did not feel the need and a huge moment in the afternoon had come and gone in an instant.
There were other moments for Southampton too. The underdogs were much more dangerous once manager Mark Hughes sent on Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic with half an hour to. Caballero was rather fortunate to emerge with a clean sheet.
But that was the big moment. That was the reason Hughes looked so disappointed at the end of what developed in to a very good game after a poor first half.
Chelsea deserved to win, that is for sure. Southampton were unadventurous for the first 45 minutes and were only jolted in to life once Giroud moved on to Eden Hazard’s pass to score so brilliantly in the first minute of the second period.
But VAR – as controversial as it is – is here to help referees on occasions like this. It seemed utterly baffling that Atkinson chose not to use it when it mattered most.
England manager Gareth Southgate watched on alongside FA chief executive Martin Glenn
There were a number of empty seats in the Southampton end with supporters opting to not travel up to London
Hazard tries to turn away from Southampton striker Charlie Austin and defender Jan Bednarek
Hazard fizzed a shot just over the near post early on in the first-half as he tried to give Chelsea the lead
The Belgian attacker vies for the ball with Southampton’s Japanese defender Maya Yoshida
It was hard to tell what effect Southampton’s narrow defeat at home to Chelsea two weeks would have. Hughes’ team scored twice against today’s opponents that day but also collapsed to lose 3-2.
So there were perhaps good memories and bad to exert an influence. What was apparent from the very start was that they were not going to take any risks.
With Hughes leaving his most talented player –Tadic – on the bench, it appeared the underdogs would not be particularly expansive and that was how it panned out. Southampton hardly threatened at all in the first half and were clearly trying to remain in the game with a view to grabbing something on the break late on.
For a period of the first half that seemed unlikely. Chelsea – who had won well at Burnley in midweek – began strongly and may have scored early in the piece.
Southampton’s early problems revolved around an inability to get to grips with the movement of Hazard and the Brazilian Willian. Both had been rested in midweek and it showed, Hazard quick to find pockets of space and drag defenders in to areas they didn’t wish to go to.
The Belgian grazed the top of the crossbar with a strong effort from 25 yards in the fifth minute before Willian went closer two minutes later.
Chelsea had a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the Saints box but Willian could only put it over the bar
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger managed to beat Southampton forward Shane Long to an aerial collision
Managerial opponents Mark Hughes and Antonio Conte bark instructions at their players from the touchline
Giroud tried an acrobatic overhead kick in the first-half but the Frenchman failed to direct it on target
Southampton’s Oriol Romeu overran the ball in the Chelsea half and when Hazard broke to feed Willian on the right, the Chelsea player eased inside and curled a lovely left foot shot on to the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
A goal then and Southampton would have been in trouble and there were other close calls. Hazard got to the byline to feed Giroud in the 12th minute only for the Frenchman’s shot to be blocked. Then, soon after, Willian curled a free-kick over from a dangerous position.
Southampton at this stage couldn’t get enough of the ball. Mario Lemina did bring a low save from Caballero after a rare stray N’Golo Kante pass in the 25th minute but it was a rare foray forward. Indeed a pitch map just before half-time showed that Southampton’s two centre forwards, Austin and Shane Long, had spent precious little time in the Chelsea half of the field.
Having said that, Chelsea’s own threat waned a little as the half progressed. Too often Conte’s creative players were a little impatient and passes subsequently went astray. The closest they came as the interval neared was when Giroud beat Jan Bednarek to a cross at the near post and then jumped to volley the dropping ball narrowly the wrong side of the post.
Giroud’s reaction to that miss suggested the ball was very close to going in and replays confirmed it. As it happened, he didn’t have to wait long for his moment.
The opening goal came immediately after half-time and was a moment of sheer brilliance from Giroud
Giroud left two Southampton defenders and the goalkeeper on the floor with his dazzling footwork
Giroud has now had a hand in 22 goals in his 26 FA Cup appearances in English fotball including 15 goals and seven assists
Giroud ran along the touchline in celebration and was greeted by defensive duo Rudiger and Emerson
The target man high-fived manager Antonio Conte after giving the Italian’s side the lead at Wembley
Just 30 seconds in to the second half, Hazard did brilliantly to control a long pass and nudge the ball on to Giroud as he fell. The Frenchman had much to do as he was faced by three Southampton players. But showing the kind of dexterity we don’t normally associate with him, he moved past Lemina, nudged the ball away from Bednarek and then rode an ankle tap from Cedric to stay on his feet and prod the ball in to the goal from inside the six-yard box.
It was a superb piece of work from the Chelsea centre forward, who has had to wait for his chance since leaving Arsenal in January.
On the Southampton bench, Hughes looked exasperated. It was a disastrous start to the second half for his team. They did rally, though, and within ten minutes passed up a glorious chance to level things up.
Austin dummied a pass beautifully to allow Long to run clear. With only Willy Caballero to beat, Long just had to take the ball round the Chelsea goalkeeper who had been caught out by the sheer audacity of Austin’s piece of deception. But Long’s touch was inexplicably heavy and he overran the ball dreadfully and couldn’t keep it in play.
That turned out to be Long’s last meaningful contribution. He was replaced by Tadic with just less than half an hour to play while Redmond was also sent on to try and save the game.
This prompted a good spell for Southampton and an Austin header at a near post corner looked as though it may have struck Giroud on the arm. Referee Martin Atkinson merely awarded another corner that was cleared more conventionally.
Hazard ran the Southampton defence ragged and Wesley Hoedt was just one of them to be booked for fouling the Belgian
Southampton poured forward in search of a goal and thought they had one before Willy Caballero was given a foul
Charlie Austin was challenging the Argentine goalkeeper at a corner before Caballero spilled it over the line
Austin in discussion with referee Martin Atkinson after he felt there wasn’t enough contact to rule out a goal
Nathan Redmond forced Caballero into another good save as the Saints looked to try and find a way into the final
By now Southampton finally had some wind their sails. Redmond almost beat Caballero with a low drive in the 72nd minute, the goalkeeper somehow getting enough on the ball to divert it round the post. Then, moments later, some real controversy as Caballero dropped the ball over the goal line under pressure from Austin.
Referee Atkinson awarded a foul on the goalkeeper but there didn’t seem to be one. With VAR at the official’s disposal, it was strange that he didn’t use it before making what appeared to be the wrong call.
Ultimately that proved a decisive moment as within a few minutes Chelsea doubled their lead. Morata, on for the tiring Giroud, headed Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross past Alex McCarthy after outmuscling Wesley Hoedt.
There was still time for Austin to strike a past and for Morata to pass up two more good chances. One was cleared off the line and the other saved by McCarthy. It was a rather hectic end to a game that will have left Southampton nursing a sense of injustice.
Morata sealed Chelsea’s place in the final against Manchester United with a deft header towards the far corner
Alex McCarthy could only watch in the Southampton goal as the ball dropped inside his goal for 2-0
Morata ran behind the goal to celebrate with the Chelsea supporters housed in that end
Morata’s goal compounded Southampton’s misery and their attention will now turn to rescuing their Premier League status