Chelsea’s Gary Cahill lifts the trophy as they celebrate winning the final - Reuters
London (Reuters): Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty proved decisive as Chelsea salvaged their season by beating Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final in what is widely expected to be manager Antonio Conte’s swansong on Saturday.
The Belgian’s searing pace earned the spot-kick in the 21st minute after forcing Phil Jones into a desperate lunging tackle and he coolly tucked it away for what proved to be the winner.
Jose Mourinho’s United were dismal in a scrappy first half and although they improved significantly after the break they were denied a record-equalling 13th FA Cup triumph.
Chelsea, whose Premier League title defence fizzled out into a fifth-placed finish, survived several scares but defended superbly as Conte celebrated his first domestic cup honour as a manager having seen his side beaten by Arsenal a year ago.
It was only Mourinho’s third defeat in 15 Cup finals as a manager and his first in an English showpiece final.
In a poignant end to the afternoon, Chelsea captain Gary Cahill was presented with the cup by Jackie Wilkins — wife of former Chelsea and United great Ray Wilkins who died last month.
“This was to save our season, we haven’t had a magnificent season by any stretch. We are used to winning, I’m not saying that in an arrogant way,” said Cahill, whose assured display would have impressed England manager Gareth Southgate.
“We had a lot of defending to do, they pushed us until the very end. We are buzzing. This a dream come true because it is my first trophy win as captain of the club.”
The sunshine that illuminated the day’s other big occasion down the road at Windsor helped provide a carnival-like atmosphere as red and blue clad fans streamed into Wembley.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho looks on as Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reacts - Action Images via Reuters