On a day where a royal wedding dominated proceedings in London, Chelsea came away from Wembley with the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Manchester United. Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty was enough to separate the sides in what could turn out to be Antonio Conte’s final game in charge of the Blues against their former boss, Jose Mourinho.
From minute one, it seemed as though last year’s losing finalists looked most likely to break the deadlock. Hazard tested David de Gea early on with a low strike that was saved by the long legs of the Golden Glove winner. A very weak penalty appeal for Chelsea was then waved away as Tiemoue Bakayoko went down under slight contact before Alexis Sanchez had a slightly stronger shout turned down at the other end by Michael Oliver, the correct decision on both occasions.
The chance of an opening goal was then handed on a plate to Conte’s men with Phil Jones clattering into Hazard in the box. The reported Real Madrid target controlled a wonderful Cesc Fabregas brilliantly before skating away from Jones, who had no other choice than to bring down the mercurial forward inside the 18-yard box. The man who won it stepped up and sent de Gea the wrong way in extremely relaxed fashion with the coolest head in North London.
That sparked Man United into life as they finally began to attack their opponents’ box. However, with no real cutting edge, their efforts were continuously thwarted by a resolute Blues backline with a few corners and free-kicks the most they could manage. An Ashley Young cross presented a half-chance at best for Jones who needed a miracle to steer his header into the net from a tight angle.
Closing the Game Out
The start of the second-half played out like the end of the first with United first to every ball while failing to breach the defence. Marcus Rashford saw his whipped free-kick kept out by an emphatic punch about 10 minutes before his side had the ball in the back of the net.
Thibaut Courtois did well to scoop Jones’ header off the goal line from a set-piece and as Sanchez followed in and bundled the ball home, the linesman correctly raised his flag to cut the Red Devils’ celebrations short. Despite all the pressure from Mourinho’s side, it was the Blues who had the best chance to double their lead.
N’Golo Kante drove at the opposition’s penalty area like Yaya Toure in his prime, releasing Marcos Alonso inside the box. The former Bolton full-back saw his right-footed shot comfortably saved before a real shout for another penalty was referred to VAR. The ball certainly struck Young’s arm but with Victor Moses clipping it at him from a yard or so away, the spot-kick wasn’t given.
Rashford then had a great chance to equalise as he was slipped in by Jesse Lingard, only to see his chipped effort stopped by the imposing frame of Courtois. Nemanja Matic stung the palms of the Belgian shot-stopper moments later while Paul Pogba should’ve tested him from the resulting corner with a free header.
They were the last chances of the game as the Blues got their hands on the eighth FA Cup trophy in their history. In Gary Cahill’s words, the triumph “saved Chelsea’s season” but unfortunately has probably come too late to save Conte’s job. The ex-Juventus boss can add it to the Premier League trophy he won last year, giving him two trophies in two years at Stamford Bridge, which will be seen as a successful spell.