Football: Hazard salutes Conte after Chelsea star seals Wembley thriller

Chelsea Nemanja Matic (centre) celebrates scoring.
Chelsea Nemanja Matic (centre) celebrates scoring.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - 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 (April 22) 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.

"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."

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."