Chelsea waste FA Cup chance as Nicolas Jackson lets Man City off the hook

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: While Bernardo Silva rescued Pep Guardiola’s side, Mauricio Pochettino’s striker continues to give him sleepless nights

Pete Hall
at Wembley
Saturday 20 April 2024 19:59 BST
Nicolas Jackson wasted three clear chances to put Chelsea in front as Man City advanced
Nicolas Jackson wasted three clear chances to put Chelsea in front as Man City advanced (The FA/Getty)

Death, taxes and Wembley woe for Chelsea. Sorry, Mr Jackson, but you need to apologise a trillion times for this one. This is on you.

A bruised and battered Manchester City were there for the taking, just as Liverpool were on the ropes two months ago. Once again, Chelsea weren’t just creating good chances but gilt-edged, match-deciding ones, with regularity.

Yet somehow, just as Liverpool escaped with a last-gasp winner in February’s Carabao Cup final heartache, against the run of play, Bernardo Silva stole in at the back post six minutes from time to send the FA Cup holders through to next month’s showpiece and keep City’s domestic double hopes alive.

For Chelsea and Nicolas Jackson particularly, their comedic season of woe that Amazon will be rueing the day they hadn’t sent their cameras along to capture is showing no sign of abating.

Getting to this stage of the competition has been a cakewalk for City in the Guardiola years, but the last four has been the madcap Catalan’s nemesis, compared to his all-conquering league and League Cup record.

From his previous six semi-finals in charge of City, Guardiola has only been able to guide his side to the final on two occasions, with three of their four last-four losses coming against London clubs.

So, you’d think, having seen his side mentally and physically ground down by an attritional Real Madrid in midweek, in a competition that gave him one of the “greatest days of his career” in last season’s final victory over Manchester United, the overthinking City boss would have shuffled his pack, deploying midfielders in defensive roles and vice versa, just to freshen up his weary troops.

Pep Guardiola celebrates after City reached the FA Cup final
Pep Guardiola celebrates after City reached the FA Cup final (The FA/Getty)

Remarkably, with Erling Haaland’s absence through injury unavoidable, Guardiola made just three, like-for-like switches. And it showed, with City looking sluggish in the extreme. Had Haaland been presented with the openings Jackson wasted, the dark blues would have been out of sight by the 50th minute.

With Kyle Walker plodding around with lead in his boots from the off, man of the moment Cole Palmer was able to pick up the pockets of space Guardiola’s system thrives upon. The City academy graduate slid the ball across for Jackson, who fired straight at Stefan Ortega: a sign of things to come.

It only got worse for Jackson from there on in. His first slapstick comedy sketch came as he burst clean through, on the end of an Enzo Fernandez through pass: somehow, with only Ortega to beat, he didn’t even muster a shot at goal, rounding Ortega and turning back before his pullback was intercepted. A player ostensibly shorn of confidence.

Jackson rounded Stefan Ortega but failed to shoot, let alone score
Jackson rounded Stefan Ortega but failed to shoot, let alone score (Getty)

Phil Foden also managed to skip around Chelsea goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic down the other end early on but he was forced too wide, enabling Marc Cucurella to head Foden’s hook towards goal clear.

That was as good as it got for City in a poor first-half display. Normally the beating heart of the unrelenting City beast, De Bruyne lacked fire, his main first-half contribution being a deflection on a goal-bound Julian Alvarez strike that looped over the top.

Back to the Roast of Nicolas Jackson. Once again, the Senegalese striker was played in and clear of the City strugglers just after the break, but his shot was more befitting the FA Trophy, with his header from a pinpoint Palmer pickout seconds later even worse.

While City players remained laboured, they still possessed enough quality to retain a goal threat standing still, Foden sweeping an effort for goal that was well saved before substitute Jeremy Doku was denied by Petrovic’s legs.

The holders just didn’t look like they had a winner, or an attack of note, in them, even as Guardiola rang the changes. But this is Chelsea, nothing is as it seems.

Silva struck the only goal on 84 minutes
Silva struck the only goal on 84 minutes (The FA/Getty)

Silva’s strike six minutes from time was scrappy in the extreme, with Petrovic’s foot diverting a De Bruyne cross into the Portuguese’s path, but Guardiola won’t care one bit, days after a defeat that could have done serious damage to City’s hopes of another trophy-laden campaign.

How they remain in with a chance of a domestic double will give Mauricio Pochettino and his frontline striker many more sleepless nights in the weeks to come.

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