By Martyn Herman
LONDON – Antonio Conte got the better of Jose Mourinho for the second time this season as Chelsea beat 10-man Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to reach the FA Cup semi-finals on Monday.
N’Golo Kante’s fine 51st minute strike was enough for Conte’s double-chasing side to break United’s resistance after the visitors had Ander Herrera sent off after 35 minutes for a second yellow card — both for crude fouls on Eden Hazard.
Runaway Premier League leaders’ Chelsea’s reward was a Wembley clash with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, while the other semi-final will be between Arsenal and Manchester City.
United, who face a Europa League last 16 tie on Thursday against Russian club Rostov, were missing the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic and injured Wayne Rooney and offered little threat once Kante had beaten David de Gea with a precise low shot.
While Mourinho was spared the humiliation of the 4-0 thrashing his old club dished out in October’s Premier League meeting — his first return to Stamford Bridge since being sacked last season — he was again found wanting as Chelsea’s fans delighted in chanting the name of his successor Conte.
Mourinho’s frustration boiled over at times and the Portuguese and Italian Conte had to be separated after an angry exchange shortly after Herrera’s sending off.
Chelsea dominated possession and could have scored more goals, though FA Cup holders United, who have already lifted the League Cup this season, had their moments and battled gamely despite being a man down for most of the contest.
Their best chance fell to Marcus Rashford on the hour but, after leaving David Luiz and Gary Cahill trailing, he was denied by a smart save from an otherwise untroubled Thibaut Courtois.
Much was made of United’s lack of striking options ahead of the game but Mourinho’s somewhat depleted side started in confident fashion and Henrikh Mkhitaryan fired just wide in the 13th minute following a strong run by Rashford.
That escape sparked Chelsea into life though, especially the livewire Hazard who was soon skipping his way past defenders to force De Gea into a great save from his deflected shot.
United’s keeper then did equally well to claw out Nemanja Matic’s low shot from the resulting corner.
Hazard was causing real alarm in the United defence and Herrera took matters into his own hands.
After being harshly booked for a foul on Hazard, the Spaniard then followed that with a rash tackle that gave referee Michael Oliver little option but to reach for his pocket again.
When Belgium forward Hazard went to ground again it proved too much for a furious Mourinho who raced across his technical area where he was met by an equally impassioned Conte.
“You’re not special anymore,” Chelsea’s fans sang to Mourinho, who responded by holding up three fingers to his tormentors — his tally of Premier League titles delivered in two spells at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho reacted quickly to Herrera’s red card, hauling off Mkhitaryan and sending on the combative Marouane Fellaini.
United camped deep in Chelsea’s half looking to frustrate their opponents but were undone six minutes after the break when Kante was given too much space and he nipped across the turf before dispatching a shot beyond the reach of De Gea.