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2:00 AM UTC May 23, 2018
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Conte's last stand, trophy-hunter Mourinho on prowl

FA Cup

Was Chelsea's FA Cup semifinal win over Tottenham genius or good luck?

Was leaving Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench for 60 minutes a tactical masterstroke by Antonio Conte? Or maybe just the realization that, while the FA Cup is nice and all, playing it safe and giving yourself the best possible chance to win the Premier League at your first attempt is a whole heck of a lot nicer?

We may never know and, if you ask Conte himself, he'll say something along the lines of choosing the best team to win this game and other platitudes. He's getting a ton of praise for the impact that Hazard and Costa had off the bench in Chelsea's 4-2 semifinal win over Tottenham. In many ways, it's justified. Chelsea bounced back after the disheartening defeat to Manchester United with a victory against the team whom Conte himself had described as playing the best football in England.

Yet you can also break down the game to its component parts and reach a different conclusion. Chelsea scored one goal on a free kick, another on a penalty gifted to them by a stupid tackle, a third with a clinical strike that snaked through penalty box traffic and a fourth with a long-range howitzer from a guy who hadn't scored in nearly a year. For much of the game, it was Tottenham who had the upper hand, scoring two lovely goals with help from an inspired Christian Eriksen.

But that's football. These were two very good managers unafraid to take risks and make bold decisions, and the outcome ultimately favoured Conte. That doesn't mean however that Mauricio Pochettino is a dud (as was suggested on the FC TV show last night) or that Tottenham are going to throw away the rest of the campaign like they did last season.

Hindsight being 20/20, deploying Son Heung-Min as a wing-back, or even going with a back three, was not the right choice. But Tottenham did their part and could well have gotten more out of this.

To read more of Marcotti's thoughts on what happened over the previous week, click here.


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