This season’s FA Cup final at Wembley was always likely to be a close affair between Chelsea and Manchester United. As expected it was a cagey affair, as the game was decided by a first-half Eden Hazard penalty.
In truth, neither side headed into this game in the best of form. Therefore, the caginess of the game was understandable.
Hazard had the first shot of the first half, breaking away from man-marker Ander Herrera before seeing a shot from a tight angle parried out by United keeper David De Gea. The Blues saw a penalty appeal turned down, as Tiemoue Bakayoko went down under a challenge from Nemanja Matic. Replays appeared to show the midfielder tripping himself up.
However, Antonio Conte’s side was awarded a penalty kick on 22 minutes. Cesc Fabregas set Hazard away. The Belgian had too much pace for Phil Jones, who clumsily made a last-ditch attempt to stop the Chelsea forward, only to bring him down when through on-goal. Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and booked Jones for his tackle. No doubt, the relatively new double jeopardy rule saved the England defender from a dismissal.
Hazard brushed himself down and fired home confidently past De Gea from the spot. It the Belgian’s fourth penalty kick and the fourth he had scored.
Jose Mourinho’s United side struggled to create much, as Paul Pogba fired wide of goal and Alexis Sanchez fired well over Thibaut Courtois bar with an effort. Jones attempted to make up for his early mistake at the other end but connected with a far post cross with his shoulder more than his head. Marcus Rashford also fired off target with a tame effort.
Rashford was in the action once again, this time testing Courtois, who thwarted the youngster’s effort with a double-handed save. United had the ball in the back of the net, as Alexis Sanchez poked home at the far post from a Rashford free-kick. However, the referee’s assistant rightly raised his flag.
Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso should have finished the game, as the wing-back was put through on goal by N’Golo Kante after a superb run from the France international. However, Alonso took too many touches of the ball before firing straight at compatriot De Gea. The play carried on and Ashley Young appeared to handle the ball in the United box from a Victor Moses cross. However, the VAR system was used to decide that Oliver was right not to point to the spot.
United introduced Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial from the bench too little effect. Mourinho’s team pushed for an equaliser, as Nemanja Matic fired well off target from long-range before Pogba was left completely unmarked to head wide of goal from the centre of the penalty area.
The Pogba turned out to be the best and last chance for United to force extra-time, as the Blues went one better than last season by winning the FA Cup.
One bosses future in doubt, while other is criticised
Incredibly, winning boss Antonio Conte’s future with the Blues is in doubt after poor showings in the Premier League and Champions League. Therefore, winning the FA Cup may have little bearing on his future with the London club. However, as the man himself stated after the game he is a serial winner.
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has been on the end of some fierce criticism of his team’s style of play and lack of attacking threat. However, the Portuguese boss is unlikely to change his ways or methods simply due to some criticism from pundits and fans.
Did Chelsea deserve to win the FA Cup?