KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Dreams came true for the second time in five years for Leicester City as the Foxes deservedly defeated favourites Chelsea 1-0 in the FA Cup Cup Final at Wembley.
Leicester had been beaten on all their previous four appearances in the final but, five years after a Premier League title triumph which shocked all of football, they raised the game’s oldest trophy.
Chelsea, beaten by a superb second-half strike from Youri Tielemans, will regret a VAR decision which denied them a late equaliser but in the end they were second-best against the team they must meet again on Tuesday with Champions League qualifying points at stake.
Further fuelling the emotion was the memory of the horrific night three years ago when the club’s Thai owner was killed in a helicopter crash outside their own stadium.
Victory in front of 20,000 fans was also the first major English success for manager Brendan Rodgers who had returned to the domestic game 16 months ago after so much success in Scotland with Celtic.
One of Leicester’s decisive heroes was goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel with a string of fine saves including one just before the end from Mason Mount.
Schmeichel said: “So happy I can’t begin to describe it. What a day. Indescribable, it’s what dreams are made of, I’ve dreamed about this since I was child, we have talked about wanting to win trophies.
“The performance today, the grit and determination, I’m so proud of everybody, everybody contributed to get to the final everyone has played and been sensational.
“Everyone behind the scenes, all the team behind the team, medical staff and everyone. That’s why when you work together and do things properly and you have an internal belief that’s what we can achieve.”
In the Premier League Nathan Tella scored his first goal for Southampton in the 3-1 win over already-relegated Fulham.
The 21-year-old came off the bench to net Saints’ second while Fulham’s consolation came from 18-year-old Fabio Carvalho, his maiden goal for the Cottagers.
Southampton took the lead in the first half when Che Adams scored from a James Ward-Prowse free-kick.
Tella then slotted home a second moments after coming onto the field on the hour mark.
Just as Southampton looked to be cruising towards all three points Carvalho pulled one back for Fulham with a well-struck shot off the underside of the bar.
With Fulham’s fate already sealed for the season, boss Scott Parker decided to give some of the players who had not featured significantly this season a chance, including a maiden senior start for teenager Carvalho.
However, despite the pressure being off the Cottagers, many of the same problems remained, especially the issues in the final third – they only managed three shots on target during the match.
Leeds hit four
Leeds turned on the style in the second half as they swept to a 4-0 win over Burnley to strengthen their grip on a top-half place.
After Mateusz Klich gave Marcelo Bielsa’s side the lead on the stroke of half-time, Leeds punished Burnley after the break as Jack Harrison added a second before claiming the two assists when Rodrigo came off the bench to score a brace.
It was the sort of stuff which illustrated why Leeds’ return to the top flight this season has been so welcomed, and gave them a four-point cushion over 11th-placed Aston Villa before Dean Smith’s side head to Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Burnley included three former Leeds players – Chris Wood, Charlie Taylor, and Bailey Peacock-Farrell – in their starting 11, but had little to compare with the flair running through this current side as they struggled to keep up after the break.
Burnley started the second half brightly too, with Ashley Westwood flashing a volley wide after the ball say up invitingly, but they were 2-0 down before the hour mark as Harrison got a touch to flick Ezgjan Alioski’s low shot into the net.
Moments before the goal, Patrick Bamford – he of an ill-fated loan spell to Turf Moor in 2016 – was replaced by Rodrigo, and the Spain forward would go close to a hat-trick.
James Tarkowski had already made one goal-saving challenge to prevent Luke Ayling’s cross from reaching the 30-year-old in front of goal before he got his first in the 76th minute.
His first touch from Harrison’s pass carried him beyond Tarkowski and Ben Mee before a delightful flick lifted the ball over the advancing Peacock-Farrell.
Burnley were still reeling from that when Leeds carved them open again, Phillips’ superb pass finding Harrison who in turn fed Rodrigo, with the forward rounding the goalkeeper before slotting home.