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Mourinho’s tactics gift Chelsea FA Cup

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Jose Mourinho was bullish despite Manchester United’s 1-0 loss in the FA Cup Final to Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday as he side started slowly and never recovered.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The negative tactics Mourinho deployed from the start didn’t work as he was hellbent on stopping Eden Hazard from running the game but that’s exactly what the Chelsea playmaker did.

Mourinho believed his team should’ve won the game, even after handing the initiative to Chelsea as the Red Devils couldn’t quite find an equalizer in an improved second half display to end their season trophyless.

Mourinho had the following to say to the BBC after the defeat, which was his first in a cup final in England and just the third in his 15 major finals as a manager.

“I think we deserved to win. We were the best team. But that’s football…” Mourinho said. “I can imagine if my team played like Chelsea did, I can imagine what everyone would be saying… I am quite curious. I am now on holiday but I gave everything I could and the players, I know they gave everything they could. We played without Lukaku against a team which defends with nine players, you need that presence in the box that we didn’t have for a long time. We did everything. We tried absolutely everything. It is the kind of defeat that obviously hurt, like every defeat hurts, but I go home with a feeling that we gave everything. No regrets.”

Asked about Chelsea’s players (Cesc Fabregas, Gary Cahill and Thibaut Courtois) saying after the game that they played much more defensive than usual, Mourinho agreed 100 percent.

“They did and we knew that. This is the way they normally play with a little more ambition on their counter attack. I think today after the 1-0 they were really, really defensive. I repeat. I know our team without Lukaku we don’t have a presence,” Mourinho said. “Chelsea are not stupid. They know our team without Lukaku or 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. We tried everything by other ways but they had a huge block of compacted players. The image of the game is that David De Gea did not touch the ball. He touched the ball to grab it in the net.”

What Mourinho is conveniently leaving out of his post-game analysis is that United started the match focusing on man-to-man battles and trying to stop Chelsea from playing rather than their own game.

Yes, having Lukaku only on the bench was a big blow, but United were so concerned about stopping Hazard they forget to play themselves until the final minutes of the first half.

You have to wonder if Mourinho playing against his former club Chelsea, and the manager he has several spats with in recent months in Antonio Conte, made him focus too much on his opponents rather than unleashing Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and Co. in attack as he did to great effect in the second half as Rashford was denied twice by Courtois, Sanchez had a goal chalked off for offside and Pogba headed wide with a glorious chance.

Mourinho managed liked the Scared One to start off with on Saturday rather than the Special One and his players didn’t start playing until the second half when Chelsea were already ahead and settled in to defend their way to FA Cup glory.

Had United started the game on the front-foot, they showed they possessed the attacking prowess to cause Chelsea plenty of problems with or without Lukaku.

Mourinho wasn’t ready to let his team loose in the season finale and it cost them the FA Cup trophy.

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Man United

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Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday, with Antonio Conte picking up his second domestic trophy in England in just his second season in charge of the Blues.

[ MORE: Mourinho defends United ]

Eden Hazard‘s first half penalty kick put Chelsea ahead and the Blues weathered a severe second half storm from Jose Mourinho’s United to secure the silverware.

Here’s what we learned from a tense final at sunny Wembley.


MOURINHO’S MAN-MARKING GOES WRONG

It was clear from the first whistle that Jose Mourinho’s plan was to thwart Chelsea’s flair players. It didn’t work and he lost for just the third time in 15 major finals as a manager. Usually being solid and tough to break down has worked well for Mourinho in the past who had never lost a cup final in England before Saturday.

Hazard got on the ball time and time again early on as Ander Herrera couldn’t lock him down with the Belgian wizard twisting and turning past Phil Jones on multiple occasions as he isolated United’s cumbersome center backs all too easily. Olivier Giroud bullied Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba failed to dominate in midfield with Cesc Fabregas and N'Golo Kante winning the battle against Nemanja Matic.

Mourinho is known as a pragmatist and there’s no doubt that Romelu Lukaku being unfit to start in the final played its part in his team selection, but showing Chelsea the kind of respect they did straight from the kick off handed the initiative to Conte’s side. And they took it early and sat back, soaked up pressure and rather easily handled a rigid, predictable attacking display from United.

In the second half Mourinho ditched his man-to-man approach across the pitch (Herrera stopped being a second right back after failing to snuff out Hazard) and United looked like a different team with Marcus Rashford twice denied by Thibaut Courtois and Alexis Sanchez having a goal ruled out, correctly, for being offside. Such was the dominance of United in the second half, it begged a serious question as to why Mourinho handed Conte and Chelsea, his former club, the initiative from the start.

The Special One managed liked the Scared One.


HAZARD ON ANOTHER PLANET AS CONTE ENDS ON A HIGH

Hazard was the match-winner in the FA Cup final and the Belgian magician shrugged off the man-marking exploits of Herrera with ease to lead Chelsea, and Conte, to FA Cup glory.

With rumors swirling, once again, about his future at Chelsea this summer as Conte is almost certain to leave, Hazard, 27, reminded everyone just how good he can be. When he’s on, he’s unplayable. His scampering around the pitch left Mourinho incensed as his team were chasing shadows all game long.

In both the FA Cup semifinal and final Hazard has turned it on to lead Chelsea to another trophy, and the way in which he glides around the pitch, commits defenders into making tackles and leads counter attacks, he is at the perfect club for his style of play.

Whether or not Hazard thinks his future is at Chelsea remains to be seen but in this form a big summer for him with the Belgium national team may well prompt the likes of Real Madrid and PSG to grab him in his prime with just two years left on his current deal at Chelsea.

A man of the match display from Hazard was the main difference between the two teams at Wembley.


PIVOTAL MOMENT SPOT ON FROM REFEREE

When Jones slid in and took out Hazard to give away the pivotal penalty kick midway through the first half, there were calls from many that Jones should’ve been sent off by referee Michael Oliver.

Those calls were wrong and Oliver was spot on to rubber stamp his status as the top referee in the Premier League.

Jones made a genuine attempt to play the ball and due to the rule changes from two years ago, his challenge inside the box should only have yielded a yellow card rather than a red despite denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

The International Football Associations Board (IFAB) announced plenty of subtle changes in the summer of 2016, with the most impactful the removal of the so-called ‘triple-punishment law’ which would see a defender sent off for giving away a penalty kick.

“When a denial of a goalscoring opportunity offense is committed by a defender in the penalty area, the penalty kick effectively restores the goalscoring opportunity so the punishment for the player should be less strong (e.g. a yellow card) than when the offense is committed outside the penalty area. However, when the offense is handball or clearly not a genuine attempt to play or challenge for the ball, the player will be sent off.”

Despite Conte’s uproar on the sidelines, Oliver got the call spot on and the relatively new rules of the game were refereed correctly.

It has to be said that a handball decision against Ashley Young wasn’t given via VAR as the ball looked to have struck his arm and handed Chelsea another penalty kick in the second, but with the United defender so close to the ball when it struck him it wasn’t a terrible call from Oliver and his crew.

They got the pivotal calls correct.

Chelsea 1-0 Man United: Conte’s boys earn FA Cup triumph

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Last season’s Premier League champions looked very far from that level of play in 2017/18, but Antonio Conte‘s men rallied on Saturday to pick up a piece of major silverware.

[ MORE: Vincent Kompany talks third PL title, more with PST ]

Chelsea topped Manchester United, 1-0, in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, behind Eden Hazard‘s first-half penalty kick.

The victory for the Blues marks the club’s eighth FA Cup triumph, which is tied for third all-time in England with Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea only trails Arsenal (13) and United (12).

Hazard proved to be Chelsea’s biggest threat from the opening kick off, and it was the Belgium international that got the Blues on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute from the penalty spot.

The 27-year-old did well to glide through the United defense prior to the goal, forcing Phil Jones to drag down Hazard in the penalty area, while earning himself a yellow card in the process.

United’s pressure mounted through the latter stages, but even Paul Pogba‘s free header with seven minutes remaining couldn’t find its way on frame.

Alexis Sanchez thought he had an equalizer in the 63rd minute, but the Chilean was ruled offside after Jones’ saved header found the United attacker just a yard from goal.

The Red Devils came out with a fury in the second half, with Marcus Rashford coming close early after the halftime break with a powerful, dipping effort that tested goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

United struggled mightily to get anything going in the opening stanza, however, Pogba’s tremendous run down the center of the park nearly gave the Red Devils a late equalizer on the stroke of halftime.

Referee Michael Oliver had his first big decision to make at a quarter of an hour, after Nemanja Matic collided with Tiemoue Bakayoko inside the United area.

However, the head official opted to allow play to go, which appeared to be the proper decision, as Bakayoko’s feet got tangled despite the encounter with Matic.

The Blues started well, and nearly found an early break in the ninth minute when Hazard’s close-range blast tested David De Gea at the near post.

England announce 23-man World Cup squad

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The English national team have announced their squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Unlike plenty of teams who have released preliminary rosters for the tournament, Gareth Southgate has gone straight for his final 23-man squad.

There is a place for Liverpool youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold, while the likes of Adam Lallana, Joe Hart, Jack Wilshere and Ryan Bertrand have been out.

With Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out through injury, Southgate has had to get a little creative with his selections but, for the most part, he’s chosen to go with youth as he’d previously discussed.

“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about. It is a young group, but with some really important senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance,” Southgate said. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop. The selection process has been over months really, it’s not just been the last few weeks. We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum.”

Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling will likely be the stars for the Three Lions this summer, while the likes of Loftus-Cheek and TAA being included show a clear pathway to the senior team for youngsters.

Below is a look at the squad in full, plus a pretty cool video to announce the squad from England’s media team as they traveled around the country.


England’s 23-man World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Gary Cahill, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, John Stones, Danny Rose, Ashley Young, Fabian Delph
Midfielders: Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Raheem Sterling
Strikers: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy, Danny Welbeck

Reserves: Tom Heaton, James Tarkowski, Lewis Cook, Jake Livermore, Adam Lallana


Premier League season reviews: Clubs 4-1

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With the 2017-18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaigns of all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: Grades for all 20 PL clubs ]

Below we finish our season reviews by analyzing the key moments, the star men and how the managers performed for the teams who finished 4th to 1st in the PL table.

[ MORE REVIEWS: Clubs 20-15 | Clubs 14-10 | Clubs 9-5 ]

Let’s get to it…


Liverpool

(Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

Final place: 4th with 75 points
Defining moment: At the end of the day, two teams can say they beat Manchester City, who will arguably go down as the greatest PL team of all time, the season: Manchester United and Liverpool. The Reds were the first to do it, ending the runaway champions’ unbeaten start at 22 games with a thrilling 4-3 victory at Anfield in January.
Biggest victory: Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal — the game that made it abundantly clear to the entire world that Liverpool knew one way, and one way only, to play the game: emphatically and without mercy.
Low point: After losing 4-1 to Tottenham Hotspur on Oct. 22, Jurgen Klopp‘s side sat 9th in the PL table, 12 points behind Man City, and had won just one of their previous six games. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can rise from the ashes: Liverpool would go 14 games unbeaten following that awful outing at Wembley Stadium.
Star man/menMohamed Salah swept all the major PL awards after scoring 32 goals and tallying 10 assists in his first season at Anfield. Roberto Firmino notched 15 and 7 to go with 10 and 7 from Sadio Made.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Jurgen Klopp (9/10)
Grade for the season: A-


Tottenham Hotspur

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Final place: 3rd with 77 points
Defining moment: In between playing Man City away in December and at home in April, Tottenham played 14 league games, and they lost none of them and drew just three. In back-to-back-to-back games, they beat Man United, drew Liverpool and beat Arsenal.
Biggest victory: Breaking the 28-year drought at Stamford Bridge will, in a season full of highs while playing in a temporary home venue, go down as the fanciest feather in Mauricio Pochettino‘s cap.
Low pointLosing to Arsenal in mid-February sent Spurs into their worst run of results all season — winless in four (two draws, two losses) — before rebounding quickly and kicking off the aforementioned 14-game unbeaten run.
Star man/men: Kane scored 30 PL goals for the first time in his career (somehow once again besting successive seasons of 29, 25 and 21); Christian Eriksen hit 10 goals and 10 assists for the first time in the PL; Dele Alli fell just short of the double-double with 9 and 10; Son Heung-Min scored a dozen of his own and set up a half-dozen for others.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Mauricio Pochettino (8/10)
Grade for the season: A-


Manchester United

(AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Final place: 2nd with 81 points
Defining moment: From Dec. 23 to Dec. 30, Man United played three games — away to Leicester City and home against Burnley and Southampton — and drew all three. It would be incredibly harsh to call an 81-point season a disappointment, but that week-long run of results was simply too commonplace for the Red Devils this season.
Biggest victory: As mentioned above, United are one of only two sides to beat City all season, and they did so in thrilling fashion in early April to delay City’s inevitable title celebrations.
Low point: Heading into the season’s first Manchester derby, the gap between City and United stood at just eight points — a manageable deficit to overturn for Jose Mourinho’s men. A win would have cut it to five, but the real-life result — a 2-1 win for City — pushed it to 11, and the title race was over.
Star manRomelu Lukaku led the way with 16 goals (plus 7 assists), yet many fans and pundits alike have taken a harsh view of his first season at Old Trafford. Paul Pogba chipped in with 6 and 10, while Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford scored 9, 8 and 7 goals, respectively.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Jose Mourinho (8/10)
Grade for the season: A-


Manchester City

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Final place: 1st with 100 points
Defining moment: Setting the following single-season records, among others: points (100), wins (32), goals scored (106), goal differential (+79).
Biggest victory: Numerically, 6-0 over Watford. In terms of meaning and intent, 5-0 over Liverpool, or 4-1 over Spurs.
Low point: Each of the aforementioned defeats — the only PL defeats on the season — will have stung badly: Liverpool, for the end of the unbeaten dream; United, for the missed opportunity to celebrate the title against their most bitter rivals.
Star man: The quartet of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane averaged 14.25 goals and 12 assists this season. Take your pick, pick your poison, etc.
Manager(s) marks out of 10Pep Guardiola (10/10)
Grade for the season: A+