Pundit: I was wrong to doubt this wonderful Chelsea player

Garth Crooks praises Willian's impact on the FA Cup semi-final..

Chelsea duo Eden Hazard and Willian Photo: Eden Hazard/Instagram

Garth Crooks admitted that he had his doubts about Willian’s inclusion in Chelsea’s starting line-up for Saturday’s 4-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur.

The Brazil international commanded a place in the Chelsea starting XI ahead of number 10 Eden Hazard for the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

However, Willian scored twice in the first half with a free-kick and a penalty to help edge Chelsea into the final against their bitter rivals Arsenal.

Goals from Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic sealed their progress to the FA Cup showpiece at Wembley next month.

Writing in his BBC Sport column about Willian’s performance against Spurs, Crooks accepted that he was wrong to doubt Willian’s inclusion at the expense of Hazard.

“Many pundits were alarmed by the news that Conte had rested Eden Hazard for the FA Cup semi-final. In fact, I had just switched on Final Score and witnessed former Liverpool striker Dean Saunders say so. He went on to say that the omission of the Belgium international would give Spurs an unnecessary boost in confidence. I agreed with him. After all, who leaves out his best player in an FA Cup semi-final?

“However, what we both missed in the hysteria was that Conte had Willian at his disposal. The Brazilian is a wonderful player and produced one of the performances of the season. His free-kick was absolutely superb and unlike my Match of the Day colleagues, I didn’t think that Hugo Lloris was at fault for the goal. A dead-ball specialist like Willian is capable of putting it in either top corner so keepers are often at his mercy – and Willian showed Lloris none.

“Likewise, his penalty was taken with such control and expertise it left me mesmerised. I have played in these games and I can assure you taking penalties on occasions like this is not for the faint-hearted. You get moments like this wrong and they can haunt you for a lifetime. Get them right and they can win you trophies. This was a wonderful performance by a wonderful player and we were wrong to doubt him. Conte didn’t.”

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Willian has scored six goals and has made one assist in 28 appearances in the Premier League this season.

Chelsea are four points clear of their closest title rivals Tottenham in the title race with six games to go.

The Blues will host Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

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