FA Cup holders Chelsea strolled into the semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over Stoke on Sunday, while Aston Villa staged a stunning second-half fightback to join them in the last four with a 4-2 win over Reading.
At Stamford Bridge, deposed England captain John Terry was back in the spotlight as the Chelsea skipper set up Frank Lampard’s opener against Stoke City, before scoring the second himself and then celebrating by pointing to the armband on his sleeve.
The Potters almost took the lead from one of Rory Delap’s troublesome long-throws when Dean Whitehead’s shot was cleared off the line by John Obi Mikel, but Lampard put Chelsea ahead in the 35th minute when his shot from Terry’s pass deflected past Thomas Sorensen.
Terry gave Chelsea more breathing space in the 68th minute when his header from Lampard’s corner deflected in off Andy Wilkinson.
Terry said he was pleased to be able to show his gratitude to Chelsea fans for their support during a traumatic month and also help get the team back on track following defeats to Italy’s Inter and Manchester City.
“Chelsea have been very supportive, but the main thing was coming back from a disappointing performance. We wanted to show the fans how much it meant to us,” Terry said. “We had a couple of days to work on their set plays, but they can play as well. On a dodgy pitch, I thought we played well and bounced back from last week.”
Aston Villa, beaten in the League Cup final by Manchester United last weekend, looked set for an embarrassing exit at the hands of Championship Reading after Shane Long scored twice in the first half at the Madejski Stadium.
Three goals in 10 minutes, however, from Ashley Young and John Carew, who ended up with a hat-trick, ensured Villa will return to Wembley in the last four.
Long — who had scored the winner in the third-round victory over Liverpool — put Reading ahead in the 27th minute when he headed in Matthew Mills’ flick-on. The Royals looked on course for a famous victory when Long struck again with a fine finish from Jimmy Kebe’s pass three minutes before halftime, but Young restored Villa’s belief with a close-range strike two minutes into the second half.
Villa’s equalizer arrived just four minutes later when Norway striker Carew headed in Stewart Downing’s cross. Carew put Villa ahead by cleverly flicking in Stephen Warnock’s cross with the outside of his boot in the 57th minute, then scored his third from the penalty spot in stoppage-time.
Carew revealed a halftime blast from boss Martin O’Neill inspired Villa’s comeback.
“We were struggling in the first half and the gaffer had some serious words at the break,” Carew said. “I won’t go into it, but you could see it on the pitch what happened. Ashley’s goal was really important and it gave us a great boost, and the team had a great feeling and I was sure we were going to get a second goal.”
“We really want to get to the final again now we know what Wembley is about. It was not a great experience for us, but we have a great chance to get back there,” he said.
Chelsea will face Villa in the semi-finals, while cash-strapped Portsmouth, who booked their place with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City on Saturday, will face either Tottenham Hotspur or Fulham, who will reply their quarter-final after a 0-0 draw on Saturday.
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