A wedding, a potential divorce and a major trophy.

Richard Piggford
By Richard Piggford May 19, 2018 21:30

A wedding, a potential divorce and a major trophy.

By RICHARD PIGGFORD for Empower Sports Magazine 19/05/2018

2018 FA Cup Final

Chelsea v Manchester United 

Wembley Stadium. Kick off 17.15 BST

A wedding, a potential divorce and a major trophy.

On the day of the Royal Wedding, we may have just witnessed Antonio Conte’s last game and subsequent divorce from Chelsea. If that is to be the case, winning his second major honour in two seasons in charge, is the perfect way for the Italian to bow out. 

Before the match had begun, both sets of jubilant fans paid tribute to Ray Wilkins, a man who served both clubs with such distinction in his time as a player and coach. Flags were raised at Wembley at both ends of the stadium, showing Wilkins in the colours of both Chelsea and Manchester United. As the players entered the field to a stream of pyrotechnics on a beautiful summers day at Wembley, the stage was set for a classic FA Cup final, oh so we thought.

First half:

The game started at a fairly slowly pace as both sides settled into the game. Chelsea set up as usual in 3-5-2 formation with both wing-backs, Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso getting forward whenever Chelsea were in possession. Manchester United set up in more of 4-3-3 formation, with Lingard, Sanchez and Rashford all interchanging in the front 3 positions. United also tried to match Chelsea with both full backs, Valencia and Young pushing on, and Herrera or Matic dropping in as an auxiliary centre back.

The first moment of quality in the game came from Eden Hazard in the 9th minute, Hazard, who was excellent throughout, burst into the penalty area, beating Phil Jones for pace, before forcing David De Gea to make a good save at his near post with a fierce low drive.

In the 14th minute Chelsea were denied what looked to be a clear penalty. Tiemoue Bakayoko escaped his man, Nemanja Matic before appearing to  be pulled to the ground by the Serbian . Referee Michael Oliver waved away his appeals, and didn’t appear to be tempted to check on his decision with VAR, which was available to the officials today. 

Goal – No red card.

However, just four minutes later the big decision of the game came. The ball was played across field by Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard majestically controlled and was into a foot race with Phil Jones. As he strode into the United area, Jones was forced into a last ditch tackle. Just as Hazard was about to pull the trigger he was chopped down by Jones. Penalty. Conte and his backroom team screamed for a red card, but referee Oliver, showed Jones yellow. Oliver  was correct to the letter of the law. Jones made a genuine attempt to play the ball, and therefore avoided a red card. 

After a long delay, the coolest man inside Wembley stadium, Eden Hazard, stepped up and stroked the ball to De Gea’s right to give Chelsea the lead.

Eden Hazard strokes home his penalty.

 The rest of first half was played out much the same as the opening 20 minutes, both sides having lots of the ball without really troubling either keeper. That was until the 44th minute, when Jones, went close to making up for his earlier error. A poor Rashford corner was only cleared as far as Ashley Young, who delivered a sweet inswinging cross to the back post, Jones connected, but headed just wide. 

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United. Half time. 

The second half, again started slowly, before Manchester United finally started to turn the screw. Marcus Rashford, who disappointed in his role as the main striker, was first to go close in the 53rd minute. He was denied from the edge of the box by Courtois. 


 Manchester United did finally put the ball into the net, only for it to be ruled out by an offside flag.  Pogba’s diving header was  only parried away by Courtois allowing Alexis Sanchez to slam home. However, the Chilean was just offside it remained 1-0 Chelsea. 

In the 72nd minute Chelsea should have sealed it. Excellent work from Hazard and Giroud ensured the ball found Alonso 8 yards out, he shifted the ball onto his weaker right foot, and De Gea was able to parry. A suspicion of handball by Ashley Young was raised in the follow up, but again Oliver said no.

Romelu Lukaku – Who United really missed throughout and Anthony Martial were introduced in the 73rd minute as Mourinho finally gambled and went in search of a leveller. Martial looked sharp when he came on, and had a deflected effort easily scooped up by Courtois minutes after this introduction.  


As poor as Manchester United were, they should have forced extra time. In the 82nd minute , and only 6 yards out, Paul Pogba found himself totally unmarked and really should have pulled United level.  A huge let off for  Chelsea. 

As the final few minutes played out,, all that remained was Wembley to announce their man of the match as Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. Eden Hazard may well feel hard done to on that one, although Rudiger did impress throughout.

 Jose Mourinho’s record of having never lost a competitive Wembley final was gone. Chelsea players lifted the trophy and celebrated in front of their own fans as Antonio Conte led the celebrations, In what may well be his last game as Chelsea manager.  He made some big calls today. He started Olivier Giroud in attack, who has now won the FA Cup four times. He also recalled veteran defender Gary Cahill, who excelled throughout, marshalling all Manchester United front men he faced, very well.  His comments after the game were hardly ones of conviction about starting next season in the Stamford Bridge hot seat. However, thats two major  trophies in two years for the Italian manager, who if he is to move on from Chelsea, will not be short of offers. If it is to be goodbye for Conte, his team delivered the famous old trophy in a manner that has become his trademark.

Full time: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

Jose Mourinho Said after the game:

On his Initial thoughts:

“I congratulate them but I don’t think they deserved to win,” he said.

“I congratulated them. I am Manchester United manager and I have to be respectful, not just because they are my previous club but because they are the opponents today and I think we deserved to win. I think we were the best team, but that is football.

On Lukaku:

“It was a bit hard for us to play without Lukaku against a team that defends with nine players,” added Mourinho. “You need that presence.

On Chelsea’s style:

 “Chelsea are not stupid. They know our team without Lukaku or Marouane Fellaini does not have a presence so putting eight or nine players in front of the box they knew they would be dominant in that direct football.

“Every defeat hurts but I go home with the feeling we gave everything. No regrets.”



Conte celebrates in front of Mourinho at full time.


Antonio Conte said: 

“I’m very satisfied because today was very difficult. Very difficult. To win in this moment, to win the FA Cup against a really strong team, a really great team like Manchester United, we must be pleased. It wasn’t easy. But I’m very happy for our fans, for my players. The fans and especially the players deserve this win, to win an important trophy in this season that for sure was very difficult for many reasons. I have predicted at the start of the season the difficulty of this season.

On the season

“Despite this we finished fifth and have won the FA Cup. We lost the semi-final against Arsenal in the other cup. For sure to miss a place in Champions League is not good. It’s not good for a club like Chelsea. We must be honest to say this. Me, the players. But at the same time I think you have to know the real situation, to understand if this group of players did their best this season.

“But to finish in this way, to win an important trophy like this it showed great commitment of my players, it showed great desire to finish the season in the right way despite the great difficulty we have had.”

On his future: 

“I think from the start of this season, because don’t forget the speculation started after our first defeat against Burnley, my position was always the same: I’m committed for this club, despite a lot of speculation.

“One day I had the possibility to go to the national team, one day this team, one day another important team.

“In every press conference I always say I’m committed to this club, to respect my contract. As you know very well our job is not simple. I understand that the club can make a decision, a positive decision, a negative decision.

“I’m the first to understand. I’m the coach of a great, important club, in England and the world. It’s right that the club demands of me a lot.

“I think you have to understand if in this season we had the maximum or not. There is also this possibility with this group of players we did the maximum. I have great respect for my club.

“For sure we’ll make the best decision. I’m the first to accept every decision for the future.


2018 FA Cup winners: Chelsea


 Chelsea: 3-5-2 

Courtois, Moses, Azpilicueta, Cahill (C),  Rudiger, Alonso, Kante, Bakayoko Fabregas, Hazard (Willian, 90), Giroud (Morata, 89), 

Subs: Caballero, Barkley, Pedro, Zappacosta, Chalobah

Manchester United: 4-3-3

De Gea, Valencia (C), Jones (Mata, 86), Smalling, Young, Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard (Martial, 73) , Sanchez, Rashford (Lukuaku, 73) 

Unused Subs: 

Romero, Bailly, Darmian, McTominay 


Richard Piggford
By Richard Piggford May 19, 2018 21:30