Ten years after he marked the start of his trophy winning first term as Chelsea manager, José Mourinho marked his second tenure at Stamford Bridge with inaugural silverware again with a 2-0 victory over Spurs on Sunday afternoon. Disappointed Tottenham fans will rightly point out that had Christian Eriksen’s super free-kick, in the ninth minute, been several inches lower then they not Chelsea might have gone on to win. It was a superb Harry Kane run that won the free-kick when he showed controlled belligerence to dribble past several Chelsea defensive statues before weight of numbers brought him down. That, however was as good as it got for Kane.
The day, which started well for Chelsea thanks to Liverpool’s win over Manchester City, got better, but the line up chosen by the Special One was not without its controversy. Peter Čech was preferred in goal to Courtois and José selected three centre halves to compensate for the absence of Nemanja Matić; Terry, Zouma, designated for midfield duty, and the man he has replaced in recent weeks, Gary Cahill.
The comparison between Kane and Diego Costa was meant to be one of the major talking points on the day and in that respect the combative Chelsea front man was the winner, hands down.
Kane, for most of the game, looked lost in isolation playing his lone role up front but for Costa, playing in an identical solo position, it was a case of splendid isolation. The Spain international gave his young English opponent a master class, whereby Kane struggled in the extra space up front, against superior numbers, Costa made the most of the extra grass and positively revelled in being outnumbered. The Chelsea striker utilises the areas in between defenders whereas most lone strikers fear such freedom. Some have given Chelsea’s second goal as a Kyle Walker o.g. It is only right and proper the goal goes down to the striker, who is going to argue with Diego on that one!
In reviewing the Capital One Final I thought the choice of keepers might be crucial and, like a few others, I got it wrong with Čech being selected ahead of Courtois. It might also be mooted that Pochettino also got it wrong in selecting Hugo Lloris instead of Michel Vorm. Not only was it the Frenchman’s first Capital One Cup appearance of the season, it was only the third of his White Hart Lane career, and he lost the other two. Not a good omen.
I also felt that it was the performances of the opposing midfield players that would be key. Such a premise was severely tested with Zouma’s selection in front of the Chelsea back four but the youngster grew into that role and was outstanding. Midfield did prove key but for quite the opposite criteria by which midfield players are normally judged.
Having just about richest array of midfield players in the Premier League, José Mourinho must have been delighted that each and every one of them did their best work, running back towards their own goal thwarting Spurs’ attacks almost at will. Apart from, that is, Eden Hazard, who continues to flourish wherever he is on the field. And early in the second half it was he who took the ‘scenic route‘ to get around the back and set up what was almost a tap in for 2-0, had anyone in blue read the Belgian’s intention.
Chelsea’s mastery of midfield was aided in no small way by the answer to another pre-match question. Which Spurs team would turn up? Despite there being just one change from the line up that hammered Chelsea 5-3 exactly two months earlier the team that did turn up, overall, proved it wasn’t up to muster.
So Chelsea move above Spurs in terms of League Cup trophies, five. In 2005, when José started his first reign as manager by winning the League Cup he added the Premier League title that same season. Few would bet against another case of déjà vu come May, with per chance another record, a third Champions’ League trophy with a third different club.