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 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.

If it is to be goodbye for Conte, his team delivered the famous old trophy in a manner that has become his trademark.

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.

This has been a season in sharp contrast to Conte’s title-winning campaign. The Italian has appeared at odds with the club’s hierarchy, often detached and not quite the driven figure that arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016.

And yet he has delivered silverware, which has escaped Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham this season – although the failure to finish in the top four is painful and likely to be the point at which Conte and Chelsea part company.

One fact is beyond dispute. Conte remains a hugely popular figure with Chelsea’s supporters as they chanted his name – and if he is leaving, he has given them with another happy memory.




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