London, April 23 (IANS) Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has revealed that benching winger Eden Hazard was part of the plan that ultimately worked during the 4-2 FA Cup semi-final win against Tottenham Hotspur at the Wembley Stadium here.
Hazard and Diego Costa were surprisingly omitted from Chelsea’s starting XI on Saturday to take on their bitter London rivals. But the attacking pair made second half appearances with Hazard scoring a stunning goal to give Chelsea a 3-2 lead.
Then Nimanja Matic’s 40-yard left-footed piledriver sealed the win. Earlier, Willian scored a first-half brace for Chelsea but each time he netted, Tottenham equalised through Harry Kane and Deli Alli.
“Our plan was this. I tried also to tell our players to stay in the game, because (if) we pass more time (on the clock), it was better for us. Then I decided last 30 minutes to put Eden and Diego in, and then Cesc (Fabregas), because don’t forget Cesc was very important also for us,” Conte was quoted as saying by espnfc.
“I must be pleased because in this game I involved all my players in our idea, in our football. I think it’s very important in this part of the season that everyone, every single player, feels a part of this project,” the coach added.
“In this part of the season when you know you have to play three tough games (in a week), you must make strong decisions and take responsibility to make these decisions. It’s not easy to decide to start the game without two important players, Hazard and Diego, but I think you must take this responsibility and you must involve your players in your plan and then take this risk,” the Italian tactician remarked.
Hazard said he was happy to contribute in any way he could.
“I think it’s the choice of the manager. He told me and Diego (on Friday) because Tuesday we play such an important game (against Southampton),” the Belgium playmaker said.
“We have a lot of players in the squad. Willian played in my position and scored two goals, so they deserved to play. When I go on the bench, when I am on the pitch, my thing is always the same. I’m trying to win games, to create some chance, to score some goals, and I did.”
Conte said that Michy Batshuayi and Nathan Ake got a lot of confidence starting against Tottenham.
“I’m pleased because Michy started the game, a really important game. It’s very important for him, for his confidence,” Conte said.
“Ake is a young player from our academy. He must be proud to see his commitment, to see the level he played at in this type of game. It’s not easy for Ake to go and play (so well here).
“I trust them, (as well as) every single player, and I think I showed this today.”