Antonio Conte’s Chelsea hit back by beating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to FA Cup title

Chelsea's team captain Gary Cahill lifts the trophy after winning the English FA Cup final soccer match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley stadium in London. (AP)
Updated 20 May 2018
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Antonio Conte’s Chelsea hit back by beating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to FA Cup title

LONDON: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte insisted he is a “serial winner” after ending a difficult season on a high by beating Manchester United 1-0 to lift the FA Cup thanks to Eden Hazard’s penalty at Wembley on Saturday.
In what is still widely expected to be Conte’s final game in charge, the Blues withstood a second-half onslaught from United after Hazard’s 22nd-minute spot-kick to ensure Jose Mourinho’s men end the season trophyless.
A year on from winning the Premier League in his debut season in English football, Conte failed to even qualify Chelsea for the Champions League as they finished fifth in the Premier League.
“I am the first to understand because I am the coach of an important club in England, in the world, and it is right the club demands of me a lot,” said the Italian on the constant speculation over his future.
But Conte defended his record after winning a knockout competition for the first time in his managerial career.
“Also in a difficult season, I have showed I am a serial winner,” he added. “This is the truth. To win in this way, this season, has given me more satisfaction than my wins in the past.”
However, United manager Jose Mourinho was scathing of what he perceived as Chelsea’s negative tactics to drop deep and defend their lead after going in front.
“I congratulate them because they won but I don’t think they deserved to win,” Mourinho said.
Despite finishing second in the league, 19 points behind local rivals Manchester City, Mourinho has been routinely crticized this season for United’s own defensive approach.
“I am quite curious to know what you say or what people write because if my team plays like Chelsea did, I can imagine what people would say,” added Mourinho.
Should it prove to be Conte’s last game in charge, the Italian bowed out on a high as his decision to start first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for the first time in the FA Cup this season over Willy Caballero was justified by a series of saves from the Belgian to keep United at bay after the break.
United were without top-scorer Romelu Lukaku from the start as the Belgian was only fit enough for a place on the bench against his former club due to an ankle injury.
And Mourinho also seemed to question the commitment of his striker.
“I knew without a target man (it) would be difficult for us,” added Mourinho.
“When a player tells you he is not ready to play, not ready to start, then the question is how many minutes you think you can? How can you convince a player?“
Lukaku’s presence was missed as Chelsea settled quickest with Hazard particularly lively.
The diminutive Belgian took advantage of indecision by Phil Jones to race clear on goal before being chopped down by the England defender as he prepared to shoot.
Chelsea players and Conte argued for a red card rather than yellow, but Jones’s attempt to play the ball saved him from a dismissal.
Hazard dusted himself down to coolly send De Gea the wrong way from the spot for his 18th goal of the season.
The lack of invention that Mourinho’s side have been routinely criticized for throughout the campaign showed in their efforts to get back on terms.
Jones had United’s best chance of the first half but headed wide at the back post as he tried to make amends for his earlier error.
Marcus Rashford also failed to make the most of a rare start as a central striker in Lukaku’s absence.
Courtois wasn’t called into action until just before the hour mark when he denied Rashford.
He then made a brilliant stop low to his left to parry an acrobatic Paul Pogba effort and Alexis Sanchez was denied a ninth goal in as many appearances at Wembley when he was flagged offside after firing the rebound into the roof of the net.
Rashford’s biggest and last chance to make himself a hero came 20 minutes from time when Courtois rushed from his goal to make a brilliant save from the forward’s attempted chip.
Mourinho reacted by hooking Rashford and Jesse Lingard for Lukaku and Anthony Martial.
But it was Pogba who had the biggest chance to level when the £89 million midfielder headed wide from a corner eight minutes from time.


Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

Updated 25 March 2019
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Godolphin happy with Thunder Snow ahead of Dubai World Cup defense

  • Five-year old bidding to become first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups.
  • $12 million race takes place at Meydan on Saturday.

LONDON: Thunder Snow is preparing well as he bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back Dubai World Cups, according to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
The five-year-old memorably won the showcase $12 million race at Meydan by five and three-quarter lengths, winning in a track record time last year. He returned to the track on Super Saturday two weeks ago, finishing second in the Group 1 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round Three.
And Godolphin are expecting big things from him in the famous race. Bin Suroor, the most successful handler in the history of the 2000m dirt feature with eight winners to his name, is feeling confident.
“He did his final serious piece of work on Saturday and went very well indeed,” the Godolphin trainer said. “He needed his Super Saturday outing — his first run since November — badly and has come on a lot for it. We expect him to run a big race under conditions we know suit him, but obviously it is a good race.”
Thunder Snow has already made history as the only horse to win both the Group 2 UAE Derby and Group 1 Dubai World Cup, but if he is to win this Saturday then he will be revered for years to come.
One of his big rivals in the race will be Yoshida. Trained by Bill Mott he arrived in Dubai on March 19 in preparation for the cash-rich race. The Japanese-bred son of Heart’s Cry landed in the Emirate off a sixth-place finish in the inaugural Group 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
He won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, as well as the prestigious Woodward at Saratoga last year and Riley Mott, assistant to his father Bob, said Yoshida is looking good ahead of the big race.
“He’s settled in really well,” he said. “He traveled great and we’re very happy with him. The facilities here are top class. This is my seventh time over here and we’re treated very well.”
Yoshida went out just after 7:00 a.m. in Monday to stretch his legs over the famous dirt track.
“He just had a routine gallop this morning and we let him stand in the gate. Nothing too serious,” Mott said.
Jose Ortiz, who has piloted Yoshida though his last two starts and was aboard for the Grade 1 score at Churchill Downs, will make his first appearance in Dubai. Mott said he expects Ortiz, who guided Yoshida to a closing fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will have plenty of options in the 2000m race.
“It sounds like there’s a lot of pace from the local horses, but we have a horse that’s pretty versatile in the way he runs,” Mott said. “He’s able to adapt to the pace scenario. It’s just a matter of how the race develops in front of him.”