FA Cup Final, May 19 2018 Chelsea 1 - Hazard (22 pen) Manchester United 0
Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty was the difference at Wembley Stadium, as Chelsea sealed a narrow victory over Manchester United to lift the FA Cup for an eighth time. It’s been a disappointing campaign domestically and in Europe for the Blues – so much so that this could turn out to be Antonio Conte’s last game in charge of the club – but this victory at least added some silverware to their amply stocked trophy cabinet. For United, meanwhile, it’s a bitter defeat for Jose Mourinho against his former employers, and one that sums up an underwhelming season. Here, our professional coaches analyse the tactics and key moments from Chelsea’s triumph – and assess what went wrong for Mourinho and United.
Chelsea set up in a 3-5-2 formation, but spent the majority of the match without the ball in a deep 5-3-2 block. Eden Hazard operated as a second central forward alongside Olivier Giroud.
From the first whistle, Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera imposed himself on Hazard, shadowing the Belgium forward across the pitch. Hazard, though, was unfazed and intelligently lured Herrera away from the central spaces, often towards the touchline on both sides. This temporarily opened the central lane, granting Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko access to play the ball into the feet of Giroud. Despite this initial passage into the France striker, central defenders Phil Jones and Chris Smalling defended well, limiting his attacking presence.
Chelsea remained in a mid/low defensive block throughout the first half. They were patient in defence and rarely committed into aggressive tackles, as they blocked off United’s central access. They also encouraged their opponents to play in the wide areas; with Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez leading the attacking line, their central defence could comfortably cope with crosses into the penalty area.
Possession was limited for the Blues during the first half. They looked to build using direct attacking transitions, targeting Giroud with early aerial passes forward. The former Arsenal forward often moved to the left side, aiming to attack the space in between Smalling at centre-back and Antonio Valencia at right-back. He was supported by Hazard, who looked to drive at the United defence after latching on to loose balls and knockdowns from his strike partner.
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