Football

Conte blames Chelsea's slow start and match ref

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte rued his side's slow start to Saturday's FA Cup final and a controversial decision by the referee that set Arsenal on their way to victory.

His team's 2-1 loss dashed his hopes of a league championship and FA Cup double in his first season in England.

Said Conte: "Our start for sure wasn't good. Honestly... That this goal (should have been) disallowed because there is a clear handball."

Arsenal took a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute when striker Alexis Sanchez seemed to catch the ball with his arm, deflecting it over the Chelsea defence and allowing him to nip in to score, even as a linesman had his flag raised for another Arsenal player standing in an offside position.

Referee Anthony Taylor consulted with the linesman before awarding the goal to Arsenal.

Conte said the second-half dismissal of wing-back Victor Moses, after he received a second yellow card from Taylor for diving, was another turning point in the match, although he did not know if there had been contact between Moses and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Conte, who led Juventus to three straight Serie A titles before coaching the Italian national side and then moving to London last year, heaped praise on his players for their dominance of the EPL this season after a miserable 2015/16 campaign when they finished 10th.

But the Italian made it clear he saw the need to bring in reinforcements over the summer to improve what he called a "not-a-peak squad, but a normal squad" for next season, when Chelsea will contest the Champions League.

"Next season, for sure, we have to improve on the numbers in the squad and also at the quality," he said.

"We must be very cold to analyse the situation."

Conte will also have to decide on the future of Diego Costa, who has been linked to several clubs, though the Spaniard has hinted that Atletico Madrid are the only club he would join if Chelsea decide to sell him this summer. - REUTERS

FA CuparsenalCHELSEA (EPL)