Eden Hazard’s First-Half Penalty Helps Chelsea Beat Man Utd To Win Fa Cup
Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty decided the FA Cup final in Chelsea’s favour at Wembley to leave Jose Mourinho and Manchester United empty-handed this season.
Hazard – in a moment which did not bode well for the World Cup meeting between England and Belgium in Russia in June – twisted and tore past Phil Jones before drawing a clumsy foul from the United defender after 22 minutes.
He calmly dispatched the penalty which was to prove to be the decisive moment in a final that was hard fought rather than distinguished.
United, with striker Romelu Lukaku only fit enough for a place on the bench, raised their game after the break.
Alexis Sanchez had a goal ruled out for straying just offside, with referee Michael Oliver using VAR to confirm the call, and Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois excelled with a succession of fine saves, while Paul Pogba wasted their best chance late on when he headed wide of an open goal.
This may well be Antonio Conte’s last game as Chelsea manager and if he leaves, he does so after delivering the FA Cup to follow on from last season’s Premier League title triumph.
His side grabbed the initiative to take advantage of United’s tentative first 45 minutes, securing a precious lead that they defended with great resilience and organisation for the rest of an attritional final.
And it was a tribute to Conte that he inspired this performance following a flat end to their Premier League campaign, when a home draw with Huddersfield and a lame defeat at Newcastle left them fifth, and out of the Champions League qualification spots.
The sight of thousands of empty seats as Manchester United’s players went up to receive their losers’ medals summed up a bitterly disappointing day for Mourinho and his side.
United’s Premier League points tally of 81 was very respectable but it was still 19 behind champions Manchester City and this loss leaves a taste of anti-climax to their season.
They deserve credit for finishing second and reaching the FA Cup final but too often the style of play has been stodgy and even the resilience United have demonstrated this season could not spark a recover at Wembley.
For United, Jones had a clumsy nightmare while Alexis Sanchez was truly dismal and Pogba only raised a gallop after half-time. The Frenchman also missed arguably their best chance when he headed wide at a corner, unmarked and only eight yards out.
And, for all Mourinho’s complaints about injustice, a clear penalty decided the fate of this final.