Leicester City were crowned FA Cup winners for the first time in their history thanks to a stunning Youri Tielemans goal in the 63rd minute and a 90th-minute VAR decision, the biggest made since its introduction to English football, to rule out Ben Chilwell’s leveller.
Tielemans’ goal was a stunner, among the finest to have been scored all season, but what really made it special was the explosion of joy from the several thousand Leicester City supporters in the stand behind.
The Chelsea fans at the opposite end will have felt similar before the crushing deflation set in as Michael Oliver ruled out a scrappy equaliser because Chilwell was judged offside by the video assistant in the build-up. No one, apart from Chelsea supporters, seemed to be complaining about the use of technology on this particular occasion.
For the most part Chelsea were poor, despite a late rally, and the scrutiny around Thomas Tuchel’s unimpressive record in finals will only grow ahead of the Champions League final against Manchester City in a fortnight’s time.
A game that ended chaotically, with Kasper Schemichel producing two stunning saves, had actually started tamely, a long-range Antonio Rudiger shot the only notable moment of a cagey opening 15 in which the West London side dominated possession.
To begin with Leicester were satisfied to sit deep and play on the break and, not long after Rudiger’s foray into nosebleed territory, Reece James blocked a first-time effort from Jame Vardy following Timothy Castagne’s zoom past Marcos Alonso and cross.
James had surprisingly switched roles with captain Cesar Azpilicueta, presumably tucking in as the centre half in an attempt to combat Vardy’s pace. In a defensive sense it largely worked up until the moment his errant pass out from the back gifted Ayoze Perez possession for Tielemans’ goal.
There was nothing Kepa, at full stretch, could have done to keep the Belgian midfielder’s rocket from 25 yards out of the top left corner and despite Chelsea’s territorial dominance throughout the first half it was hard to say Leicester’s goal was undeserved.
As the opening period progressed Chelsea did begin to find some space in attacking areas but they lacked the precision Tuchel has regularly rued since January.
First Mason Mount had a go as Thiago Silva found the midfielder with his back to goal from 35 yards out. He turned with ease, escaping Caglar Soyuncu’s slack marking before firing a low strike that was deflected narrowly wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s left-hand post.
While Werner had shown a couple of menacing bursts of pace with no end product in the early exchanges, the German’s skied attempt from 25 yards nearing the half hour mark left Tuchel exasperated on the touchline.
The clearest opportunity then arrived from an unusual combination of defenders as a short corner on the right ended with Mason Mount clipping the ball to the rear post. Thiago Silva and Rudiger exchanged passes, attempting to draw out a couple of maroon shirts, before the Brazilian sent an inswinging cross back across goal. Azpilicueta was waiting unmarked but Werner, unaware, attempted to head goalwards himself – only getting enough on the ball to deflect it out of his skipper’s path and wide.
By the interval neither side had registered an opportunity on target and the first finally arrived from Alonso eight minutes into the second period, a header straight at Schmeichel. But that moment coincided with Leicester’s awakening.
James needed to be alert when cutting out a cross heading menacingly for Vardy as Rodgers’ team enjoyed their first sustained spell of pressure and suddenly it appeared that Chelsea were out of attacking ideas.
Then came the goal. James had been outstanding up until the moment he mishit his pass straight to Perez, who then found Tielemans to his right. About 30 yards out he advanced forward and then unleashed a piledrive into the net.
Chelsea took a while to build up a reasonable response. Chilwell, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi were all brought on in an attempt to retain parity and the former had a header, perhaps deflected by Havertz, turned away by a very good Schmeichel save.
The Denmark goalkeeper then produced an imperious stop four minutes from time to deny Mount, stretching to his left and getting his fingertips to a venomous half-volley.
The seconds were ticking away and when Chelsea finally had the ball in the net, via a bit of goalline ping-pong that started and ended with Chilwell, it looked like an additional 30 minutes were looming. But then VAR Chris Kavanagh brought out his electronic geometry set and found the left back was a whisker off in the build-up.
Leicester closed out additional time without too much bother, leading to another moment for their fans to celebrate. And much for Chelsea to ponder before they meet again in a vital Premier League clash on Tuesday evening.