FA Cup: Chelsea boss Antonio Conte targets victory after final defeat in 2017
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said he hopes to make up for his side’s FA Cup final loss at Wembley last season by lifting the trophy in May.
Conte’s side lost 2-1 in the 2017 FA Cup final to Arsenal and will play Southampton in the 2018 semi-finals after beating Leicester 2-1 on Sunday.
“This trophy is very important for the country,” said the Italian.
“This season our target is to try to reach the final again, and last season it was a pity to lose the final.”
Conte, who guided Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2016-17, added: “We are able to reach the final and we want to change the result compared with last season.
“We want to do our best in every competition, to give the best satisfaction to our fans.”
Alvaro Morata gave Chelsea the lead at the King Power Stadium before Jamie Vardy’s equaliser took the tie into extra time, when Pedro headed in a winner.
Manchester United and Tottenham, second and fourth respectively in the Premier League, meet in the other Wembley semi-final with Chelsea taking on a Southampton side who are 18th in the league and have just appointed Mark Hughes to replace the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino.
However, Conte dismissed suggestions that his side had an easy draw.
“When you arrive at this point of the tournament, it’s very difficult to consider it an easy game,” added Conte. “Don’t forget Manchester City were eliminated against Wigan.
“There is a semi-final to play before reaching the final. Every game is very difficult, it will be very difficult against Southampton and we must be ready to fight, to reach the final at Wembley for a second time in a row.”
Pedro, whose winning goal was just the second he has scored in 15 appearances, said: “It was good to score for my confidence and to get to the next round.
“It was hard to find the pass in between the lines. Leicester defended very well and pressed high.
“We have a good opportunity to go to the final and fight for a place in the top four [of the Premier League]. But now is the moment to relax and enjoy this win.”
Leicester manager Claude Puel felt his side deserved more, telling BBC Sport: “I’m a bit upset because we deserved another result.
“They found a good clinical edge. I’m proud of my players because it was a game with a high level against a good team.”
‘Reserves of character and moments of quality’ – Analysis
BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty
Old habits die hard and when asked to dig deep, Chelsea were up to the task to record a win that was a credit to players and manager.
There was much riding on this FA Cup quarter-final at Leicester City – not only as Chelsea’s only route to success this season but also to keep the campaign right on track.
Lose at the King Power Stadium and Chelsea’s season ran the risk of fizzling out after the Champions League loss at Barcelona, even with a top-four place still to fight for.
The manner of this victory, demonstrating reserves of character and moments of quality, not only kept them on course for silverware, but will also keep confidence high that they can still make the top four, even though they are five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
It seems certain that manager Antonio Conte will leave at the end of the season and yet his players are still clearly playing for him. He remains in huge favour too with Chelsea’s supporters, who delivered vociferous backing to the Italian amid freezing temperatures at Leicester.
Previous Chelsea managers have had to deal with squad discord in the closing chapters of their reign. These players are still performing for Conte; the fans still trust him.
Conte was able to count on key contributions from his key players. Alvaro Morata took a physical buffeting but scored a crucial goal while Willian was the creator, N’Golo Kante the bedrock.
The wild card came in the decisive moment, when the unlikely figure of Pedro rose ahead of Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel to head in the extra-time winner.
Leicester, who played their part in a fine quarter-final, thought the force was with them after Jamie Vardy’s equaliser forced extra-time but this Chelsea side is not to be underestimated – or offered the sort of gift Schmeichel presented with his ill-judged dash to try to claim Kante’s cross.
Chelsea and Conte have been surrounded by plenty of noise this season – but if they keep playing like this, they could still end up with a trophy.
‘Chelsea came up with right answers’
Former England striker Alan Shearer on BBC One
Antonio Conte made his changes at the right time. When the manager puts on his substitutes, he asks them to affect the game in the right way and Pedro did that, albeit from a goalkeeping error.
Credit to Chelsea – they kept going. There have been some questions about the attitude of some players at that club over the years but they came up with the right answer after Barcelona and in difficult circumstances. They saw it through and deserve credit for that.
‘A good traditional FA Cup tie’ – Your view
Mercian: That was a good traditional FA Cup tie, credit to both teams.
Scott: No matter how bad a season a good team has, they always come good somewhere. Chelsea showed why they’re Premier League champions, if only for a few weeks longer. Wembley beckons. A day to forget for Schmeichel though.
Inge: Well, that means a fight between the ex-Champions League teams and Southampton. (Hopefully the Saints win the cup.)
Donald: Chelsea are the first team to go to extra time twice in the FA Cup this season. I reckon the cup is theirs to lose. The stars are on their side.
Shuvam: So Chelsea have beaten the Canaries, Magpies, Tigers and Foxes en route to the semi-finals. Good collection to open a new zoo.