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Keith Hackett column: I watched FA Cup final to cheer on Jamie Vardy but enjoyed ref’s performance too and I’m glad VAR didn’t rule out winner

Forty years ago, in the 100th FA Cup final I had the best seat in the house running behind Ricky Villa who, after a darting run, scored the winning goal which resulted in Tottenham Hotspur captain Steve Perryman lifting the cup.

One of the results of the Covid pandemic was the decision last year to appoint Anthony Taylor to officiate a second FA Cup final.

That decision broke a long-standing tradition whereby a referee would only get the final once in his career.

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This year, our top referee on current form, Michael Oliver, was appointed to referee his second FA Cup final, having done his first in 2018.

The game was a close encounter with many people thinking that Chelsea were the favourites to lift the cup. However, the winners were Leicester City.

Keith Hackett

Former Premier League and FIFA referee Keith Hackett is a columnist for CaughtOffside.com

I watched the game closely given that local lad and fellow Sheffield Wednesday fan, Jamie Vardy, was one of the first names on Brendan Rodgers’ team sheet.

His pathway to the top was through local grassroots football and then onto one of my local teams, Stocksbridge Park Steels, who I officiated on many occasions. Yes, I even officiated Halifax Town, the team he signed for before his move to Leicester City.

This game was entertaining and open with a bit of bite, down to some risky officiating by Oliver who wanted to keep his cards in his pockets and allow the game to flow, allowing some early foul challenges to go unpunished.

It was an unselfish approach and this season I have witnessed him mature into a top-class referee beginning to smile and talk more with players.

He’s less robotic and this for me has resulted in his body language being positive and confident, avoiding the opinion of a few who think that he is a little arrogant.

His decision making was sound and whilst some discussion took place about the goal, I was happy that Leicester’s goal was legitimate, the ball striking a Leicester City players arm after hitting the knee. The ball was then played forward before a goal was scored.

The goal by Leicester’s Youri Tielemans was one of the great Wembley goals, leaving Chelsea’s goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga with no chance of making a save.

There was a final piece of action and we had the intervention of VAR, who, on yet another one of those tight decisions, ruled it out for offside.

It was an enjoyable final, well officiated.

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