Youri Tielemans’ stunning second-half strike steered four-time runners-up Leicester City to their first-ever Emirates FA Cup title, with the Foxes edging Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.
Chances were few and far between in a cagey first half, with Chelsea winning six corners but neither side being able to produce a single shot on target.
The match opened up dramatically after the break and Tielemans became the first Foxes player to score in an FA Cup final since Ken Keyworth in 1963 with a 63rd-minute piledriver that proved to be the winner.
Chelsea thought they had equalised late on but VAR ruled out Ben Chilwell’s deflected effort for offside, and they ultimately fell at the competition’s final hurdle for the second successive year.
2020/21 FA CUP WINNERS! 🔵🦊 pic.twitter.com/QEZKJUVwZT— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 15, 2021
Roared on by the 20,000 fans in attendance both teams started energetically, but it was the Londoners who began on the front foot with Timo Werner threatening down the right early on.
A couple of Chelsea corners followed with no reward, while at the other end Jamie Vardy embarked on his first battle with Blues defender Reece James, with the latter holding firm down the flank.
Chances started to slowly appear at both ends of the pitch with Antonio Rudiger hitting a speculative effort well wide, and Vardy firing into James from Timothy Castagne’s smart cross.
Thiago Silva was penalised for handball and Caglar Soyuncu headed over from the resulting free-kick, before Mason Mount announced himself to the match with a drop of the shoulder and a deflected shot midway through the first half.
Werner launched a shot well over moments later but Chelsea were gradually ramping up the pressure, and smart work from Silva opened up a chance for Cesar Azpilicueta who just couldn’t quite connect with the ball at the back post.
Jonny Evans’ return from injury was cut short as he was replaced by Marc Albrighton shortly after the half-hour mark, but fellow defender Wesley Fofana was soon on hand to make two key blocks from Werner efforts.
Soyuncu steered another header off target after Jorginho’s foul presented the Foxes with a free-kick chance, but Chelsea went straight down the other end with Werner again going for goal from range.
Tielemans’ sumptuous ball found Vardy bursting into the Chelsea box to no avail, before the latter cleared a corner at the other end that marked the last action of the first half.
Chelsea looked to gain an early advantage after the break and after some silky play in midfield, Marcos Alonso headed a tame effort straight into the hands of Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester responded with Tielemans delivering a couple of searching balls into the Blues box, with James and Alonso on hand to avert the danger for Thomas Tuchel’s men.
But Leicester grew in confidence as the game continued to open up, and with time and space close to the Chelsea box Tielemans fizzed a beautiful strike from range into Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal to make it 1-0.
A Soyuncu challenge on Mount prompted Chelsea to appeal for a penalty as they urgently looked for a chance to level matters, and with 12 minutes to go a combination of Schmeichel and the post kept out a goal-bound Chilwell header.
As Chelsea plunged deeper into Leicester’s half, Brendan Rodgers applied several reinforcements to his backline but it was goalkeeper Schmeichel again who came up with the goods with a brilliant stop to deny Mount with little over three minutes left.
There was further drama at the death when Tuchel’s charges thought they had scored after Chilwell’s cross deflected into the net, but VAR ruled the England defender offside, seeing the Foxes over the line.
Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said: “I’m so happy I can’t even begin to describe it. I’ve dreamt of this since I was a child, we’ve talked about wanting to win trophies and I’m so proud of everyone.
“Everyone’s contributed. To get to the final, everyone’s played, everyone’s been sensational - the team, the medical staff, everyone. That’s why when you work together and you do things properly you have an internal belief you can achieve things.
“Today is a great day and we’ll enjoy it thoroughly, but we’re training tomorrow because we play Chelsea again on Tuesday in another massive game.”
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers said: “I wasn’t aware when I came to Leicester that they’d never won the FA Cup, so to be able to give that to the supporters and the owner - it’s just such a special day.
“It’s a real collective effort at Leicester City - from the board, the players, staff and the supporters. It’s an amazing day for the city and I’m just so proud of everyone.
“Youri’s goal was like an old-fashioned FA Cup-winning goal. I have to mention Kasper Schmeichel’s save as well - those are the moments you need in big games.
“Overall I thought we were the better team. I thought we pressed the game really well, we were super aggressive tactically, and we were always a threat with the ball. Chelsea are a fantastic team but I thought we deserved to win.”
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): 1. Kepa Arrizabalaga, 24. Reece James, 6. Thiago Silva, 2. Antonio Rüdiger, 28. Cesar Azpilicueta (c), 7. N'Golo Kante, 5. Jorginho, 3. Marcos Alonso, 22. Hakim Ziyech, 19. Mason Mount, 11. Timo Werner
Substitutes: 21. Ben Chilwell for Alonso 68’, 10. Christian Pulisic for Ziyech 68’, 29. Kai Havertz for Jorginho 75’, 20. Callum Hudson-Odoi for Azpilicueta 76’, 18. Olivier Giroud for Werner 82’
Substitutes not used: 15. Kurt Zouma, 16. Edouard Mendy, 23. Billy Gilmour, 33. Emerson
Leicester City (3-4-1-2): 1. Kasper Schmeichel (c), 3. Wesley Fofana, 6. Jonny Evans, 4. Caglar Soyuncu, 27. Timothy Castagne, 8. Youri Tielemans, 25. Wilfred Ndidi, 33. Luke Thomas, 17. Ayoze Perez, 14. Kelechi Iheanacho, 9. Jamie Vardy
Substitutes: 11. Marc Albrighton for Evans 34’, 10. James Maddison for Iheanacho 67’, 5. Wes Morgan for Thomas 82’, 20. Hamza Choudhury for Perez 82’
Substitutes not used: 12. Danny Ward, 18. Daniel Amartey, 21. Ricardo Pereira, 24. Nampalys Mendy, 26. Dennis Praet
Goal: Tielemans 63’