London: Chelsea got a first-half goal from Eden Hazard and managed to hang on for a 1-0 victory here over Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
After being eliminated in the round-of-16 of the Champions League and stumbling to a fifth-place finish in the English Premier League (and settling for a disappointing Europa League berth), the London club was eager to end its 2017-2018 season on a high note, reports Efe.
Chelsea on Saturday was also looking to avoid a second straight loss in the world’s oldest football tournament, having fallen to Arsenal 1-2 in last year’s FA Cup final.
Both Manchester United and Chelsea came out with a hard-nosed defensive approach that bore the stamp of their respective managers, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
The first half at a packed Wembley Stadium featured little in the way of attacking football, although one of the rare offensive forays led to the game’s only goal in the 21st minute.
On the play, Hazard outmaneuvered Phil Jones before being clumsily brought down by the Man United defender in the penalty box.
Jones was booked but not sent off because he was clearly trying to get his foot on the ball when he tripped up Hazard.
The Chelsea attacking midfielder then slotted home the penalty try past goalkeeper David De Gea to give his side the early lead.
Manchester United dominated ball possession from that point forward but created few scoring opportunities against a well-organised Chelsea defence.
The Red Devils’ best chance came late in the first half when Jones rose high to head a cross from Ashley Young but sent his shot wide of the post from close range.
Chelsea continued to rely on its sturdy back line at the start of the second half, with Man United dominating possession but unable to translate their offensive pressure into a goal.
Mourinho tried to give his team a spark by inserting Romelu Lukaku for Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial for Jesse Lingard in the 72nd minute, but United showed no improvement on the offensive end.
Chelsea, meanwhile, nearly doubled its lead in the 71st minute when Marcos Alonso failed to score in a one-on-one chance against De Gea and then a pass by Victor Moses hit Young’s arm in the area.
The video assistant referee, however, did not award a penalty.
Afterward, Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta, a big part of Chelsea’s strong defensive effort, expressed his satisfaction with the victory.
“Obviously losing (last year’s) final was something that hurt me a lot, and I wanted to come back and win it,” he said in an on-field interview. “We couldn’t give any chance to them. I think we had great concentration, great focus.”
With the victory, Chelsea captured its eighth FA Cup title, third-most along with Tottenham.
Manchester United meanwhile, was trying to equal Arsenal’s record haul of 13 FA Cup titles but instead saw its 2017-2018 season end without a championship.