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Chelsea survives late Sheffield United surge to reach FA Cup semis

Chelsea - Sheffield United

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: Ben Chilwell and Christian Pulisic of Chelsea celebrate their sides first goal, an own goal by Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United during the Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final match between Chelsea FC and Sheffield Untied at Stamford Bridge on March 21, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea rode its luck off a first-half Sheffield United own goal to emerge 2-0 victors on Sunday at Stamford Bridge to claim an FA Cup semifinal spot.

Ben Chilwell’s shot turned into an Oliver Norwood own goal to put the Blues ahead but Kepa Arrizabalaga was called upon to make a couple of solid saves before Chilwell turned provider for Hakim Ziyech’s sensational stoppage-time goal laid it all to rest for the relegation-expecting Blades.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch v Sheffield United ]

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic had a strong day for the Blues, though he’ll have wanted a goal for his efforts over 82 minutes.

Chelsea joins Southampton, Manchester City, and either Leicester City or Manchester United in today’s semifinal draw, set for halftime of the 1pm ET kickoff between the Foxes and Red Devils.

Three things we learned from Chelsea - Sheffield United in FA Cup

1. Blues leave it open: Chelsea was very much the better team but showed some openings at the back and failed to put the ball in the goal aside from an early own goal. David McGoldrick missed with a diving header in the 67th minute and Kepa Arrizabalaga denied the Blades with a flying save in the 69th. Chelsea had just two shots on target at that point in the match, both Aaron Ramsdale saves on Christian Pulisic, and the game looked more likely for an equalizer than a Chelsea second.

2. Pulisic puts up numbers, shows Tuchel a new dimension: The USMNT winger isn’t heading off to international duty with his finishing boots on, twice denied by Ramsdale, but he was everywhere on Sunday. Starting on the left side, he forced two saves out of Ramsdale and often came central to drive the play. There was an awful error when Pulisic could’ve sent Ben Chilwell down the left, but the American converted six-of-seven dribbles and got stuck into numerous challenges in strong-enough day. Check out the full minute-by-minute “Pulisic Watch” here.

3. Blades haven’t quit despite relegation looming, but Kepa stands tall: Credit to Sheffield United for fighting as Chelsea opened up more chances than they have under Tuchel, but Kepa Arrizabalaga was mostly good and made one terrific save in the win.

Man of the Match: Ben Chilwell

The ex-Leicester City man barely put a foot wrong on the left side of a 3-4-3, a nuisance all day and assisting Ziyech’s insurance goal.

Chelsea - Sheffield United recap

Sheffield United started brightly but Chelsea settled into the game and onto the front foot before a quarter-hour.

The Blues took the lead when Ben Chilwell’s drive from the left off a right-side corner kick was turned past Aaron Ramsdale by Blades midfielder Oliver Norwood.

Chelsea was constantly challenging the Blades back line, but the defense stood resolute and Aaron Ramsdale was there to bail them out when Christian Pulisic twice found his way to the keeper.

Thomas Tuchel’s men had out-attempted Sheffield United 7-3 in the first hour, but the Blades put all of their efforts on target for Kepa Arrizabalaga to save. Pulisic’s shots were Chelsea’s only two on target.

David McGoldrick could’ve made Chelsea pay for its failure to find a second goal when his diving header of a John Lundstram cross bounded wide of the far post.

The Blades’ Rhian Brewster lashed a late chance wide of the frame and Ziyech then put the match to bed deep in stoppage with a terrific side volley, the goal not dissimilar from Pulisic’s set-up of a sensational Marcos Alonso goal earlier this season.

Tuchel will be happy with the goal but largely unimpressed with the Blues having left it in the balance so late in the match.

Follow @NicholasMendola