Eden Hazard came off the bench to make the decisive contribution as Chelsea won an FA Cup semi-final classic against Tottenham at Wembley.

Hazard had been rested, along with Diego Costa, as Chelsea manager Antonio Conte shuffled his pack against a Spurs side high on confidence after closing to within four points of their London rivals in the Premier League title race – but emerged as substitute to help settle an enthralling encounter.

Willian, in for Hazard, gave Chelsea the lead with a fine free-kick after five minutes but Harry Kane levelled for Spurs with an instinctive stooping header before the Brazilian put Conte’s side back in front from the penalty spot just before the break after Son Heung-Min fouled Victor Moses.

Spurs seemed to have the momentum after Dele Alli converted Christian Eriksen’s brilliant pass seven minutes after half-time – before Hazard was introduced as Chelsea’s trump card, along with Costa, on the hour.

The Belgian drove powerfully past Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris after 75 minutes and Nemanja Matic set up an appearance alongside Arsenal or Manchester City in the FA Cup final with a spectacular drive five minutes later.

Conte’s big call pays off

Conte raised eyebrows with a team selection that saw Belgian outcast Michy Batshuayi given a rare outing on this huge occasion.

It led to suggestions Conte was prioritising the Premier League title race with Spurs after last weekend’s jaded performance in the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.

The winner takes the spoils, though, and Conte has every right to accept the plaudits as Chelsea won a magnificent game of football to reach the FA Cup final.

Conte used Hazard and Costa at a crucial juncture, on the hour with Spurs building up a head of attacking steam and looking the more assertive side after Alli had equalised for the second time.

Hazard, a scourge of Spurs having scored the goal that effectively ended their title chances last season, was involved in what turned out to be the defining moment 15 minutes after coming on with a low drive that gave Chelsea a lead they would not surrender.

It was also an illustration the strength of Chelsea’s squad runs deeper than Tottenham’s as they were able to not only bring on Hazard and Costa but also Cesc Fabregas to change the face of the game.

Spurs counterpart Mauricio Pochettino did not enjoy such success with his tactical tweaks, especially the decision to play Son Heung-Min as a left wing-back.

The South Korean never settled to his task or looked like reproducing the attacking threat that has been such a feature of Spurs’ recent outstanding run of form and his decision to go to ground provided an open invitation for referee Martin Atkinson to award a penalty for his challenge on Victor Moses.

Conte and Chelsea were the winners of this battle.

Spurs’ Wembley curse strikes again

If Spurs do make Wembley their home next season while a new stadium is built at White Hart Lane, they must somehow find a way of lifting the curse that has afflicted them on recent visits here.

Since beating Chelsea 2-1 to left the Carling Cup in 2008, they have played at Wembley nine times, winning once, losing six and drawing one.

This was their third FA Cup semi-final loss in that time, which included a 2-0 loss to Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup semi-final and a 5-1 loss to Chelsea two years later. They also lost League Cup finals to Manchester United in 2009 and Chelsea in 2015.

The Champions League also proved an unhappy home this season as they went out at the group phase after staging their games at Wembley.

As the Spurs players trooped off, they must wonder what they have to do to win here because – for large parts – this was an excellent performance in a match of the highest quality.

And yet they lost again at a stadium that is becoming a curse for their dreams.

Will Chelsea win settle title race?

Spurs must have felt the door to a Premier League title triumph was ajar after their seventh successive home win against Bournemouth last weekend reduced Chelsea’s lead to four points before they lost at Old Trafford.

Chelsea were hit hard by that loss and suddenly questions were being asked about a team that looked to be making serene progress towards the finishing line, as Spurs suddenly appeared on their shoulders.

This, however, was an emphatic response of resilience and brilliance from Conte’s side as they re-asserted themselves over their closest rivals with a win they will hope has enough psychological impact to give them that extra push towards the title that has looked theirs for so long this season.

Man of the match – Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

Nemanja Matic’s goal, his first for Chelsea since 7 May last year, was the pick of the bunch and came from his only shot on target, but the midfielder also boasted the best passing accuracy of his team-mates (87%).

‘You can see this is something special’

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino: “I feel proud, we were fantastic in the way we played and in our philosophy. They had five shots and scored four goals and we score only two. The penalty for me was a soft penalty or was not a penalty.

“Only now we can look forward. We are four points behind them and we will try to win our next game. I am not worried. The team is strong, we are focused. We were competing today with one of the best teams in Europe. Did we deserve more? Sure, but that is football.

“Now we will try to be calm, watch the game again and try to improve. We are in a process of trying to improve, if we cannot win the FA Cup this season we will try again next season.”

Chelsea goalscorer Nemanja Matic: “It was a nice goal! But first of all I want to say I am very happy for the team, that we’re going to play in the final.

“It’s great when you have a chance to play in this stadium. For our supporters, you can see this is something special. To have a chance to win this trophy is significant for us as players.

“This result gives us more confidence of course – it’s always good to win. Now we have to recover quickly for the next game on Tuesday.”

Lucky number seven for Chelsea – the stats

  • Chelsea have reached their seventh FA Cup final of the 21st century, more than any other side in that time (Arsenal could equal it on Sunday).
  • Tottenham have now lost their last seven FA Cup semi-finals in a row, the longest ever such run in the competition.
  • Eden Hazard has scored five goals against Tottenham in his Chelsea career, more than he has against any other side.
  • Christian Eriksen’s two assists mean he has provided more than any other player in all competitions among Europe’s big five leagues this season (20).
  • Including penalty shootouts, Chelsea have won 10 fixtures at the new Wembley Stadium, second only to Manchester United (11).
  • Meanwhile, Tottenham have suffered seven defeats at the ground (including shootouts), more than any other side.
  • Harry Kane has scored 21 goals in his last 24 London derby matches in all competitions for Spurs.
  • Dele Alli has 20 goals in all competitions this season, double his tally from last season.

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