Hazard hails Conte’s tactical masterclass


FA Cup: Blues snare finals spot with win over Spurs.

Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates with Diego Costa.

EDEN Hazard hailed Antonio Conte’s tactical masterstroke as the Chelsea star came off the bench to clinch a thrilling 4-2 victory against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Hazard and Diego Costa were surprisingly left on the bench at the start of Saturday’s clash at Wembley as Blues boss Conte prioritised the Premier League leaders’ vital fixture against Southampton on Tuesday.

But the bold gamble paid off in spectacular fashion as Hazard’s replacement Willian scored twice before the Belgian playmaker was sent on in the second half.

Hazard repaid his manager’s faith with a superb strike to put Chelsea ahead before Nemanja Matic’s stunning long-range effort put Chelsea in the FA Cup final for the first time since they last won the competition in 2012.

FA Cup: Few people on the pitch were less likely to cause Wembley to shake to its foundations than Nemanja Matic, but when the ball rolled his way he made sure his one touch counted for all.

“When you play football you want to play every game, but the manager did a great choice. He put in Willian and he scored two goals,” Hazard said.

“It’s always good to win this kind of game, a semi against a London team, so for the fans it’s good.

“It’s my first final in five years at Chelsea so it’s good.”

Chelsea's manager Antonio Conte brought on Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in the second half.

Chelsea’s manager Antonio Conte brought on Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in the second half.Source:AP

Matic’s blistering strike was the highlight goal of a memorable occasion, but the Serbian midfielder said it wasn’t the finest of his career.

“I am happy for my goal, it was a great goal, but it’s not the best I’ve ever scored,” he said.

“I scored a harder one in a Benfica v Porto derby. This is perhaps my second best ever.

“To have a chance to win this trophy is significant for us as players. “This result gives us more confidence of course, it’s always good to win. Now we have to recover quickly for the next game on Tuesday.”

FA Cup: Willian puts the Blues up with a gem of a free kick in their FA Cup semi-final.

Originally published as Hazard hails Conte’s tactical masterclass