- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

LONDON (AP) - Antonio Conte is a machine when it comes to winning league titles.

The Chelsea manager just can’t seem to lift a cup trophy.

Conte won three consecutive leagues at Juventus before becoming coach of Italy. On his return to club soccer, he won the English Premier League with Chelsea this month.

But he still has yet to win a major cup in an impressive coaching career, missing out on doing the double with Chelsea after losing to Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Conte said it wasn’t easy for his players to lift themselves for the match.

“We won the league. It was right to celebrate, to enjoy this (league) win,” he said. “My players put all of themselves into the game. Our start wasn’t good enough. The impact of the approach wasn’t good.”

The Italian looked forlorn at the final whistle at Wembley Stadium, walking out onto the pitch with his hands in his pockets and looking down at the grass. On the other side of the pitch, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was celebrating with his players, becoming exactly the opposite of Conte in recent seasons: Able to win cups again and again, but incapable of lifting league trophies.

But any sense of disappointment at Chelsea will be short-lived after Conte’s brilliant first season at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea was in shambles last season under Jose Mourinho, with the Blues finishing 10th in the Premier League. Conte lifted the team with his energetic style and quickly brought winning ways back to Chelsea.

But his cup curse has been hanging over him. With Juventus such a dominant force in Italian football, the media in the country called Conte’s cup failures “The curse of the Coppa Italia.”

Chelsea was the clear favorite coming into the FA Cup final, but a poor start saw the league champion going down 1-0 in the fourth minute. Arsenal dominated most of the match, stifling star players N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard.

Conte’s cup curse then turned into a nightmare in the 68th when Chelsea went down to 10 men. While Chelsea equalized in the 76th, it was to be only a tease for Conte. Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey headed the winner three minutes later.

“We must be proud we made it this far,” Conte said.

So, the Chelsea manager will have to be satisfied with only one title in his first season in English soccer.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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