Eden Hazard inspires Chelsea to FA Cup glory

FA Cup final, Wembley Stadium – Chelsea 1 (Hazard 22’ pen) Manchester United 0

Eden Hazard won and converted a first-half penalty as Chelsea clinched FA Cup glory for the eighth time with a 1-0 win over profligate Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

The Belgian was scythed down by a hopeless Phil Jones lunge on 22 minutes, dusting himself down and slotting home from 12 yards.

Chelsea were left furious that referee Michael Oliver only showed the England defender a yellow card, but new rules state that a booking is sufficient if a player brings down an opponent while acting as the last line of defence, if there is a genuine attempt to play the ball.

United were much improved after the break, but could not find a goal despite having countless chances to equalise.

Jones, determined to make amends for his earlier mistake, saw a header brilliantly saved by Thibaut Courtois – with Alexis Sanchez having the rebound correctly ruled out for offside – before the stopper thwarted Marcus Rashford one-on-one.

The best opportunity fell to Paul Pogba who was left unmarked to meet Anthony Martial’s corner but headed wide with the goal agape, as Chelsea held on for their first FA Cup triumph in six years.

TALKING POINT

Is the FA Cup Antonio Conte’s parting gift? It certainly appears that way, if various media reports are to be believed. A public falling-out with the Chelsea board, coupled with the fact the Blues were unable to claim a top-four spot, had threatened to overshadow the Italian’s legacy at the club, but to lift the oldest cup in the game – Chelsea’s first triumph in the competition for six years – should at least smooth relations between supporters and manager.

Delight for Conte, but the defeat piles pressure on his opposite number and nemesis Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese will argue his side have made progress in the Premier League, but United end the season trophyless while playing a style of drab style of football.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Eden Hazard (Chelsea): Much of the pre-match analysis focused on how important it was for United to stifle the Belgian. For a while, it seemed Ander Herrera and Co. had the 27-year-old under control but then a lapse of concentration in defence allowed Hazard through on goal. It proved the decisive moment in the contest.

PLAYER RATINGS

Chelsea: Courtois 8, Azpilicueta 7, Cahill 7, Rudiger 7, Moses 6, Kante 8, Fabregas 7, Bakayoko 7, Alonso 6, Hazard 9, Giroud 7. Subs: Willian N/A, Morata N/A.

Manchester United: De Gea 6, Valencia 6, Young 7, Smalling 5, Jones 4, Matic 5, Herrera 6, Pogba 6, Lingard 5, Sanchez 5, Rashford 6. Subs: Mata N/A, Lukaku 5, Martial 5.

KEY MOMENTS

21’ – PENALTY TO CHELSEA! Hazard is released by a delicious Fabregas pass and Jones, desperately caught out defensively, slides in from behind, taking the Belgian out. Michael Oliver shows him a yellow card, but should it have been red? Conte and the Chelsea players certainly believe so…

22’ – GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd: Hazard, cool as you like, sends De Gea the wrong way – Chelsea lead.

45’ – WIDE! Young clips a deep cross to the back post, finding Jones but the England defender doesn’t get enough on his header and it goes wide! Jones is desperate to make amends for his earlier mistake – and that’s as close as United have come.

64’ – GOAL DISALLOWED! Jones’ header is palmed away by Courtois but into the path of Sanchez who bundles the ball over the line… but it won’t count! The Chilean was marginally offside…

70’ – CHELSEA CHANCES! Kante feeds Alonso who has a wonderful opportunity to double the Blues’ advantage but can’t beat De Gea with a shot from close range! The loose ball falls to Moses on the by-line and is cross appears to come off Young’s arm – but no penalty is the decision.

72’ – UNITED CHANCE! Lingard’s through-pass has Rashford racing in behind the Chelsea defence, but he shoots straight at the feet of Courtois from a tight angle.

83’ – SITTER! Dear me, how has Pogba missed?! The Frenchman is left completely unmarked to meet Martial’s corner delivery, but somehow heads wide from seven or eight yards out!

KEY STATS

  • Chelsea have won their eighth FA Cup and their first since 2012, level with Tottenham – only Man Utd (12) and Arsenal (13) have won more.
  • Jose Mourinho has lost his first ever domestic cup final in England, winning each of his previous five (excluding the Community Shield).
  • Eden Hazard’s penalty was the first scored in an FA Cup final since Ruud van Nistelrooy for Man Utd v Millwall in 2004 (excl shootouts).
  • Only in 14/15 (19) has Hazard scored more goals in all competitions for Chelsea than in the current campaign (17).
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