As has often been the case this season, VAR found itself in the thick of the biggest opportunities, giving Leicester a much-deserved helping hand in the win when he knocked down what appeared to be a former Fox goal. Ben Chilwell in the 88th minute, a thrilling denunciation of a game that had started lukewarm.
A contested first half in pouring rain at Wembley Stadium hardly served as a treat for 20,000 fans, with neither team registering as much as a shot on target. Jamie Vardy was twice denied by Chelsea defenders blocking his shot while on the other end Cesar Azpilicueta couldn’t quite steer Thiago Silva’s delicate cross, deflected by Timo Werner, into the bottom corner .
The opening of the match was worth the long wait, however. Just past the hour, Ayoze Perez managed to get in the way of a clearance from Reece James. Luke Thomas advanced and Tielemans accelerated through space, unleashing a thunderous shot in the upper right corner that could be one of the big goals in recent FA Cup final history.
Chelsea did not release pressure late but were denied twice by spectacular saves from Kasper Schmeichel, the Dane first descending low to block a header from Chilwell before an explosive dive to his left denies Mason Mount what seemed like a certain goal.
Chilwell believed he had propelled the final into extra time in the dying minutes, but VAR’s intervention appeared to end Chelsea’s hopes as Leicester’s fifth FA Cup final ended with the competition winning for the first time in its history.
Tielemans lights up the Wembley stage
For Leicester fans, most of whom hadn’t seen their squad in action for over a year and waited over 50 years to see their squad in the FA Cup final, any game surely would have been worth the worth the wait. Even the one where the rain hit them and for the better part of an hour they struggled to make their way through the Chelsea defense.
Still, those two expectations might have been worth it seeing Tielemans strike home such a remarkable goal, a thunderous strike from 25 yards that Kepa Arrizabalaga couldn’t even get his hands on.
Against N’Golo Kante and Jorginho, the Belgian international more than held firm. In every aspect of the Leicester game, Tielemans was essential: moping up Chelsea’s attacks before moving on to defense, throwing counterattacks on the wing and hitting a thunderous goal to the delight of fans at the Foxes end. from Wembley Stadium.
Tielemans was the epitome of Leicester’s awe-inspiring building on the Premier League triumph of 2016; the kind of young hopeful who was widely admired in Europe but no one else was quite willing to take the gamble. The Foxes did it – as they did with Caglar Soyuncu, Ayoze Perez and James Maddison among others – and they were rewarded with a side that look well positioned to build their very first FA Cup.
Werner’s season of woes continues
There might not have been a more intriguing player in England this season than Werner, so it seemed fitting that the flagship game of the domestic season would revolve around the curious German striker. From the start it was clear why Thomas Tuchel was ready to trust a player who has grown accustomed to missing out on big opportunities this season.
Twice in the opening two minutes, Werner exploited the gaps behind Caglar Soyuncu, rushing to Chelsea’s right and passing no one in a Blues jersey in the penalty area. His pace seemed to have scared the Leicester defenders, but they weren’t afraid of his shot at all, constantly dropping him and daring the German to hit the target from a distance. He could not.
Werner existed in a curious area of the game where he clearly looked like Chelsea’s best threat to score and yet it was hard to believe he was ever going to score. Nothing was more typical of his first half than when he stood up to meet a cross from Silva aiming for Azpilicueta, clearing the ball away from his captain without directing it much closer to goal.
Leicester’s young rearguard thrive without Evans
He said everything about the esteem in which Jonny Evans is held at Leicester City that his mere presence in the starting XI seemed to have supported Brendan Rodgers and his players ahead of the game’s kick-off. Anchoring a young defense, he was tasked with being a stable presence alongside two talented but green center-backs in Soyuncu and Wesley Fofana, both of whom appeared to display early nervousness on the Wembley stage. While they certainly wouldn’t have wanted to lose him like they did after just 34 minutes like Leicester did, you could argue that Evans wasn’t needed.
After 84 minutes, there had been 17 steals in the game. Chelsea had made five. Soyuncu and Fofana made 10.
They were simply exceptional. This pair paired off with a tee, the former an aggressive aerial threat while the latter had no trouble staying close to the Chelsea forwards before getting into position to deflect a shot. Fofana’s pair of blocks early in the first half seemed to suppress Werner’s lack of ferocity in attack.
Even when it looked like Soyuncu had hesitated last time playing Chilwell on VAR offered him a recovery. He had deserved it.