Chelsea captain Gary Cahill said the Blues’ FA Cup final triumph against Manchester United was a huge relief because it saved his side’s troubled season.
Antonio Conte’s team held on for a 1-0 win over United at Wembley as Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty was followed by a determined defensive display from the Blues after the interval.
Winning the FA Cup wasn’t top of Chelsea’s priority list at the start of the season, but Cahill conceded it was a welcome consolation a week after they failed to qualify for the Champions League following their fifth-place finish in the Premier League.
“Unbelievable. You can see what it means to us, to the fans and the staff. This was to save our season, we haven’t had a magnificent season by any stretch,” Cahill said before climbing the Wembley steps to lift the famous old trophy.
“We are used to winning, I’m not saying that in an arrogant way.
“We had a lot of defending to do, they pushed us until the very end. We are buzzing. We got the job done.
“This a dream come true because it is my first trophy win as captain of the club.”
Although Chelsea have finished the season on a high note, it could still be the last game in charge for Conte.
The Italian is reportedly set to leave after feuding with Chelsea’s hierarchy over their failure to back his transfer plans following last season’s Premier League title success.
Conte, in only his second season with the Blues, is said to have become unpopular with some players due to his intense nature and demanding training sessions.
Asked if the win against United would be dedicated to Conte, Cahill would only say: “We needed to win this for everybody, we are not in control of decisions.”
Hazard was the catalyst for Chelsea’s eighth FA Cup victory as the Belgium playmaker produced a virtuoso performance capped by his 22nd-minute winner.
The turning point came when Hazard surged away from Phil Jones, whose desperate lunge brought the Belgian down for a penalty that the ice-cool midfielder converted with ease.
However, Hazard wasn’t so impressed with Chelsea’s display after United pushed hard in the second half.
Warning they must improve next season, Hazard said: “We tried to defend well. We kept a clean sheet, we scored one goal.
“It is enough today but if we want to win a lot of games we need to play better because we had to play defensively.
“Now I am just happy. To see the fans celebrate is something we like.
“We didn’t have a great season but at least we finish with a trophy.”