LONDON, May 27 (Reuters) - Chelsea coach 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, dashing his hopes of a league championship and FA Cup double in his first season in England.
“I think our start for sure wasn’t good, wasn’t good enough,” Conte told reporters after Arsenal’s 2-1 win over the English Premier League champions.
“Honestly ... I think that this goal (should have been) disallowed because there is a clear handball.”
Arsenal took a 1-0 lead in the third 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 sending off 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 whether 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 English league 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 must pay great attention, great attention to understand that we have to improve and in the number in the squad and also in the quality,” he said. “We must be very cold to analyse the situation.” (Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Greg Mahlich)