CUP JINX CON­TIN­UES

Conte is still cursed after Chelsea crash at Wem­b­ley

New Straits Times - - Sport -

AN­TO­NIO Conte is a ma­chine when it comes to win­ning league ti­tles. The Chelsea man­ager just can’t seem to lift a cup tro­phy.

Conte won three con­sec­u­tive leagues at Ju­ven­tus be­fore be­com­ing coach of Italy. On his re­turn to club foot­ball, he won the English Pre­mier League with Chelsea this month.

But he still has yet to win a ma­jor cup in an im­pres­sive coaching ca­reer, miss­ing out on do­ing the dou­ble with Chelsea after los­ing to Ar­se­nal 2-1 in the FA Cup fi­nal on Satur­day.

Conte said it wasn’t easy for his play­ers to lift them­selves for the match.

“We won the league. It was right to cel­e­brate, to en­joy this (league) win,” he said. “My play­ers put all of them­selves into the game. Our start wasn’t good enough. The im­pact of the ap­proach wasn’t good.”

The Ital­ian looked for­lorn at the fi­nal whis­tle at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, walk­ing out onto the pitch with his hands in his pock­ets and look­ing down at the grass. On the other side of the pitch, Ar­se­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger was cel­e­brat­ing with his play­ers, be­com­ing ex­actly the op­po­site of Conte in re­cent sea­sons — Able to win cups again and again, but in­ca­pable of lift­ing league tro­phies.

But any sense of dis­ap­point­ment at Chelsea will be short­lived after Conte’s bril­liant first sea­son at Stam­ford Bridge. Chelsea were in sham­bles last sea­son un­der Jose Mour­inho, with the Blues fin­ish­ing 10th in the Pre­mier League. Conte lifted the team with his en­er­getic style and quickly brought win­ning ways back to Chelsea.

But his cup curse has been hang­ing over him. With Ju­ven­tus such a dom­i­nant force in Ital­ian foot­ball, the me­dia in the coun­try called Conte’s cup fail­ures “The curse of the Coppa Italia.”

Chelsea were the clear favourites com­ing into the FA Cup fi­nal, but a poor start saw the league cham­pi­ons go­ing down 1-0 in the fourth minute. Ar­se­nal dom­i­nated most of the match, sti­fling star play­ers N’Golo Kante and Eden Haz­ard.

Conte’s cup curse then turned into a night­mare in the 68th when Chelsea went down to 10 men. While Chelsea equalised in the 76th, it was to be only a tease for Conte. Ar­se­nal mid­fielder Aaron Ram­sey headed the win­ner three min­utes later.

“We must be proud we made it this far,” Conte said.

So, the Chelsea man­ager will have to be sat­is­fied with only one ti­tle in his first sea­son in English foot­ball. AP

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