Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has lauded midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, despite the Englishman ‘hiding his talent’ earlier in his career.
The 26-year-old was joined by Mason Mount on the scoresheet as Chelsea beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. They will come up against Liverpool in the final, in a carbon copy of February’s Carabao Cup final.
Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring in the 65th minute with a confident strike into the top corner. It saw him pick up the man of the match award in our Player Ratings, which are available here.
Mount made it 2-0 later on and Palace were unable to come back from that. The Eagles did have a great chance through Joachim Andersen, although the defender was unable to finish.
During a post-match interview with ITV (via BBC Sport), Tuchel said: “It was not easy because we played three games in three different competitions. It is not always easy, very challenging physically, we are the team with the most minutes in Europe I think, it is also challenging mentally.
“I thought the performance was very controlled and very serious, we took care of their counter-attacks. It was hard, the opponent changed system twice, you cannot lose focus for a minute.”
On Loftus-Cheek, the manager added: “He was very, very strong in matches against Southampton and Real Madrid. He would have deserved to start but we expected a back four. We knew Ruben would have a big impact off the bench. I am very happy.
“He hid his talent and potential for a long time in his career. He is capable of producing performances that everyone sees on the pitch. For him it is step by step that he continues to grow in his confidence.”
Chelsea will look to get revenge on Liverpool after the Reds’ penalty shoot-out win in the Carabao Cup. On the upcoming clash, Tuchel said: “I am happy to be part of it again, I cannot be more excited and more proud because it is a huge competition. We will be ready.”
Goalscorer sends warning to Liverpool
During a post-match interview with ITV, Loftus-Cheek was asked about his goal – his first since November 2020. “Way overdue!” the star said. “It has been a tough road with injuries and going on loan to find my form again but I always believed in myself and I always wanted to play for Chelsea. I’ve played quite a lot this season, I am happy.
“I was just thinking hit it, I think it took a little deflection but I’ll take it! I had to be ready to step in. It looked a bit slow in the first half so I just wanted to bring some energy.
“The reason I am still here is my mentality through all the injuries. I still believed in myself and I said for many years my time will come.”
Loftus-Cheek also fired a warning to Liverpool after the Carabao Cup final earlier this season. “We want to get them back, simple as that,” he remarked. “It was a fantastic game in the League Cup final and could have gone either way.”