London - Chelsea
beat Manchester United 1-0 to lift the FA Cup thanks to Eden Hazard's
penalty at Wembley on Saturday to salvage a disappointing season.
In what is still widely expected to be Chelsea manager Antonio
Conte's final game in charge, the Blues withstood a second-half
onslaught from United after Hazard's 22nd-minute spot-kick to ensure
Jose Mourinho's men end the season trophyless.
On a day when the world's eyes were on a royal wedding 18 miles west
in Windsor, Chelsea reigned on the field to salvage a campaign in which
they failed to even qualify for the Champions League after finishing
fifth in the Premier League.
"This was to save our season, we haven't had a magnificent season by any stretch," said Chelsea captain Gary Cahill.
"We are used to winning, I'm not saying that in an arrogant way.
"We had a lot of defending to do, they pushed us until the very end. We are buzzing. We got the job done."
And should it prove to be Conte's last game in charge, the Italian
bowed out on a high as his decision to start first-choice goalkeeper
Thibaut Courtois for the first time in the FA Cup this season over Willy
Caballero was justified by a series of saves from the Belgian to keep
United at bay after the break.
"Every defeat hurts, but for me personally the one that hurts less is
when you give everything and go without any regrets," said Mourinho. "I
prefer to lose like today."
United were without top-scorer Romelu Lukaku from the start as the
Belgian was only fit enough for a place on the bench against his former
club due to an ankle injury.
"I knew without a target man (it) would be difficult for us," added Mourinho.
"When a player tells you he is not ready to play, not ready to start,
then the question is how many minutes you think you can? How can you
convince a player?"
Lukaku's presence was missed as Chelsea settled quickest with Hazard
particularly lively in the space between the United defence and
The diminutive Belgian threatened first when he burst past Phil Jones
only to see a fiercely-struck low effort parried by the legs of David
Hazard's next break proved decisive as he took advantage of more
indecision by Jones to race clear on goal before being chopped down by
the England defender as he prepared to shoot.
Chelsea players and Conte argued for a red card rather than yellow,
but Jones's attempt to play the ball saved him from a dismissal.
Hazard dusted himself down to coolly send De Gea the wrong way from the spot for his 18th goal of the season.
The lack of
invention that Mourinho's side have been routinely criticised for
throughout the campaign showed in their efforts to get back on terms.
Jones had United's best chance of the first half but headed wide at
the back post as he tried to make amends for his earlier error.
Marcus Rashford also failed to make the most of a rare start as a central striker in Lukaku's absence.
Courtois wasn't called into action until just before the hour mark
when Rashford stung his palms as United dominated the second half.
The Chelsea 'keeper then made a brilliant stop low to his left to
parry an acrobatic Pogba effort and Alexis Sanchez was denied a ninth
goal in as many appearances at Wembley when he was flagged offside after
firing the rebound into the roof of the net.
At the other end, De Gea kept United alive by saving from Marcos
Alonso and Ashley Young was lucky to avoid conceding a second penalty
when Alonso's cross came off his arm.
Rashford's biggest and last chance to make himself a hero came 20
minutes from time when Courtois rushed from his goal to make a brilliant
save from the forward's attempted chip.
Mourinho reacted by hooking Rashford and Jesse Lingard for Lukaku and Anthony Martial.
But it was Pogba who had the biggest chance to level when the £89
million midfielder headed wide from a corner eight minutes from time.