Pragmatic Mourinho’s tactics not pretty, but very effective

Sunday’s clash between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield was supposed to be the hosts’ day; the fixture that would see the Merseysiders all-but ensure a memorable title triumph under Brendan Rodgers.

The Reds were going into the game on the back of a fantastic run of form, playing captivating attacking football along the way. The visitors had their all-important Champions League semi-final second leg against Atlético Madrid to focus on, and as such would field a weakened side.

Everything was set up for a Liverpool victory. No one told José Mourinho.

The self-professed Special One may well be childish, arrogant, frustrating and outspoken in equal measures, but the proficiency of his tactical acumen cannot be questioned.

Chelsea arrived at Anfield with a similar gameplan to the one that had seen them get the desired 0-0 result at the Estadio Vicente Calderón in their previous outing.

It was by no means attractive; many have professed it negative. The Blues were guilty of intentionally slowing down play and timewasting, while they showed very little attacking intent in the early stages.

Fast forward 90 minutes and Liverpool’s title hopes now hang by a thread and Chelsea are right back in the mix after a 2-0 win at the home of their rivals.

José MourinhoThe goals that gave the west Londoners victory at Anfield were not manufactured by the brilliance of their array of attacking stars but instead the result of opportunism.

Steven Gerrard’s untimely slip allowed Demba Ba to give the Blues the all-important goal that would justify their defensive outlook, while Willian and Fernando Torres sprung the trap in the dying moments with the hosts desperate for an equaliser that seldom looked like it would come.

Examining the teams on paper before the game, Liverpool were rightly overwhelming favourites. However, it is this fact that makes Mourinho’s tactics and his team selection all the more impressive.

Chelsea’s heroes were not their multi-million pound attacking players; instead fringe and untested squad players showed their ability and reveled in their opportunity to play.

Ba was a constant thorn in the Reds’ backline and took his chance with aplomb when presented it – as he has done on a number of important occasions this season.

Tomáš Kalas’ first Premier League start was afforded at the home of the most scintillating attacking side in the country, with the most devastating opponent in the form of Luis Suarez to boot.

Being thrown into the lion’s den, baptism of fire and other clichés were coined, but the in the end the Czech youngster looked composed and dominated in an assured performance.

Brendan Rodgers’ assessment of Chelsea’s showing will have been the same as that of the frustrated Kop, claiming Mourinho had parked two buses in front of their goal and stating that the Blues did not come to Anfield to win the match.

However, the Blues did win the match and at the end of the day the three points are the most important thing. Arsenal came to Anfield to play their brand of attacking football earlier in the season and got ripped apart in 20 minutes.

The Liverpool fans will chastise the Stamford Bridge side for their negativity, but had the tables been turned and the hosts had scored and hung on to get a victory, there would not have been one single complaint.

Chelsea’s record against the top teams in the division now is very impressive, with Mourinho seemingly outwitting his closest managerial foes. Attractive football may not always be a guarantee, but victory at Anfield is another significant feat for the world’s most pragmatic manager.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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