Risks bring rewards as Conte hits Wembley jackpot


Antonio Conte said he was proud to have led Chelsea to the FA Cup final after taking a big “risk” by leaving Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench.

Blues boss Conte raised eyebrows with his decision to start without the influential Hazard and Spain striker Costa for Saturday’s 4-2 semifinal win over Tottenham.

Conte rested the duo ahead of the Premier League leaders’ crucial clash against Southampton on Tuesday and the bold move proved an inspired decision.

Willian, Hazard’s replacement, scored twice, before the Belgian came on in the second half to put Chelsea ahead for good in the 75th minute.

Conte conceded he had rolled the dice with his selection, but he was ready to accept the blame if the gamble had backfired.

“During the season there is a moment as a coach you must take a strong decision. You have to take a risk,” Conte said.

“If you win the plan worked, if you don’t the responsibility is on you. I think today our plan worked very well.

“Eden and Diego knew very well my plan because in this situation it is important to be clear to all of the players. Now I hope on Tuesday to get a great performance from Eden and Diego.”

“I am proud for this achievement. It is great for the players and for me.

“This is my first season in England and it is great to fight for the title and reach the final of the FA Cup, a great competition.”

Reaching a first FA Cup final since they last won the competition in 2012 keeps Chelsea on course for the double in Conte’s first season in charge.

Chelsea have a four-point lead over second placed Tottenham in the title race and their Wembley win could be a huge momentum shift for Conte’s men.

“Now we have to continue, on Tuesday we have another tough game. I hope our fans push us a lot,” he said.

After watching Tottenham control possession for long periods, boss Mauricio Pochettino understandably felt his side were unlucky not to win.

He questioned the decision to award Chelsea a penalty for Son Heung-Min’s tackle on Victor Moses, but conceded the Blues had been more ruthless in the key moments.

“We dominated the game but they were more clinical than us. I feel proud, we were fantastic in the way we played and in our philosophy,” Pochettino said.

“We fought a lot, but Chelsea had five shots and scored four goals and we scored only two.

“Chelsea’s penalty for me was a soft penalty or was not a penalty.

“To go into the changing room 2-1 down was difficult. We played well in the second half and scored, but then they came back again.”


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