Chelsea’s best performance and best result for nearly a month came at a rather unfortunate cost of probably losing Mateo Kovačić for the rest of the season. The midfielder, who had just returned from an ankle injury the other week, was on the receiving end of a rather reckless flying lunge from Dan James just before the half-hour mark, and while he tried to hobble on for a couple minutes, he would follow the red-carded James off the pitch soon after.
As head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed after the game, the affected ankle is the same as the one that had just healed, and it doesn’t sound like we’ll be seeing Kova again this season — and certainly not in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
“It looks swollen and painful. It’s the same ankle he had injured already. It doesn’t look good.”
Beyond that, it was a nearly perfect evening, with Chelsea scoring early in both halves, and adding a third late on to secure all three points that take us to within just two points of a guaranteed top-four finish — and strike another nail into Leeds’ Premier League relegation coffin.
Goals from Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, and Romelu Lukaku ensured that all three starting forwards go on the scoresheet, with the wingbacks getting involved in perfect measure, and the defense able to mop up any small mistakes that may have occurred. Certainly a great 90 minutes from which to draw confidence for this weekend.
“If we did not have the major injury to Mateo Kovačić, it would have been close to a perfect evening. It was a very strong performance from the start.
“We accepted all the obstacles we’d have to face — a physical team and an emotional stadium. We were strong from the beginning and deserved to win. We never dropped in concentration. We stayed very disciplined to avoid any chance of offensive transition. We did what we had to do at a very high level. [We] were very focused. Even against 11 players we were clearly the better team. I felt the team were very committed, focused and calm. I had a good feeling.
“I was happy with how we played and how the players reacted after Saturday’s late equalizer. We trusted ourselves but it was necessary to clear the air and refocus. The level of discipline and coverage in the defensive approach, we were more careful than the last game. We took care that we have a clean sheet.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: BBC
It’s barely 72 hours until Wembley. Time to sleep, rest, recover, and win the Cup!