Chelsea progress in FA Cup as Pedro pinches it at the King Power Stadium

A Spanish double from Alvaro Morata and Pedro saw Chelsea progress to the semi-finals of the FA Cup after it took extra time to beat Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. Morata’s first-half strike was cancelled out by Jamie Vardy’s scrappy equaliser before Pedro heading in the winner in the first half of extra time.

The opening stages of the game went by without much incident with each side taking turns to threaten each other’s goal with Marc Albrighton going closest for either side with a first-time shot from the edge of the box. Corners were traded, fouls were aplenty and Leicester had their fair share of attempts from long range but neither team produced something purposeful before Chelsea went in front just before half time.

Riyad Mahrez ventured into the Chelsea half but was eventually halted by Marcos Alonso and the ball found its way to Willian well inside his own half. The Brazilian got his head down and sprinted into the open space in front of him before slotting a pass through to Alvaro Morata, a striker supposedly short on confidence. Chelsea’s record signing showed no signs that he’d endured a recent goal draught dating back to December and, with the inside of his right foot, guided the ball past the onrushing Kasper Schmeichel and into the far side of the net.

Despite the positive score line, the Blues did not look in control of the match and Tiemoue Bakayoko was being outrun in midfield by the imposing Wilfried Ndidi. The Frenchman, making his first appearance since his sending off at Watford at the start of February, was withdrawn at half time and was replaced by Cesc Fabregas. That change didn’t have the desired effect as Leicester grew as the second half went on and went on to dominate large parts of the second period.

The hosts had their best chance of the game so far when Wilfried Ndidi’s cross found Jamie Vardy but the England striker got his header all wrong and the ball sailed well over Willy Caballero’s crossbar. Marc Albrighton was causing problems with his whipped crosses but Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger stood strong and managed to head away Albrighton’s inswinging crosses from the left. The Foxes continued to press but were mainly being restricted to shots from range with both Ndidi and Vicente Iborra having no lucks with speculative efforts.

A mazey run from Mahrez allowed Leicester to equalise with just 15 minutes of the game to go. He picked the ball up on the right and breezed past Marcos Alonso before pinging a cross back into the danger zone from the byline. Iborra had a swing but was met with a solid block from Cesar Azpilicueta but the rebound fell back to Leicester’s midfielder who poked his effort past Azpilicueta this time but couldn’t beat Willy Caballero. The goalkeeper leaped across his goal to keep out Iborra’s effort but the ball fell to Vardy and Caballero couldn’t keep that one out and Leicester were level.

The game ended level and the tie went to extra time with both manager’s yet to use their full allocation of substitutes. Antonio Conte’s second sub turned out to be the match winner as Pedro came on for Willian and found the net 15 minutes later. N’Golo Kante sent in a cross from the left and Kasper Schmeichel rushed off his line in an attempt to punch the ball away but he got nowhere near it. Pedro, not put off by the looming figure of the big goalkeeper, headed the ball past Schmeichel and into the empty goal. It was a feeling of déjà vu for Pedro, who’d out-jumped Schmeichel last season during a Premier League fixture to score a header.

A frantic final period followed with the Blues fighting tooth and nail to block every shot and stifle every attack that Leicester threw at them. Olivier Giroud was deployed to try and hold up the ball and relieve the pressure on the Chelsea defence while Gary Cahill replaced the injured Andreas Christensen at the heart of the defence. Conte’s men managed to hold on and secure their spot in the semi-final at Wembley where they will face Southampton as they continue their pursuit for a trophy this season.