Rosary, Moleskine and Mourinho – Chelsea’s triumph of relief

Capital-One-Cup-257x300It was supposed to be all about Diego Costa versus Harry Kane. The pundits were trying to big-up the contest and inflate Tottenham’s chances against the Premier League champions-elect. They pointed to Spurs’ 5-3 win against Chelsea a few weeks back and saw it as a portent of what was to follow. But what did we get? A good first half from Spurs but Chelsea went in at the interval 1-0 ahead. Spurs were never as potent again and it ended up as classic Mourinho: 2-0.

The “Special One” needed this victory. Two seasons without a trophy represented Mourinho’s leanest period for a decade. Chelsea last won a prize in 2012-13 (Europa League) and last picked-up a domestic trophy in 2012 (FA Cup). Both the club and manager needed to win the Capital One Cup to endorse the new era at Stamford Bridge.

You could sense there was something different about Mourinho. In 2004-05, the first trophy that opened the Abramovich era was the Football League Cup. It was the owner’s second campaign and if Claudio Rainieri had won something in 2003-14, Mourinho may never have ended up at Chelsea. There was a sense of relief when Chelsea beat Liverpool 3-2 in that final, but it was merely a prelude to the Premier title and a Champions League run that ended in the semi-final. There’s a remarkable symmetry developing this season for Chelsea, but it is Mourinho’s second campaign – history tells us that unless the man from Saratov has changed, he has to deliver. The difference between Chelsea 2004-05 and 2014-15 is that Mourinho may have got away with just winning the Football League Cup 10 years ago. He almost certainly won’t this time.

No wonder he kissed a pocket rosary as the game kicked off. So, the master strategist is not quite as scientific as we have always assumed. He, too, calls on a higher power to assist just like all those ultra-religious players that take the field. Mourinho looked a little furtive as he quickly made contact with his beads.

Chelsea had to juggle their resources with Matic missing and in the first half Tottenham made the running. Christian Eriksen struck the crossbar with a free kick, but that was the nearest they came to scoring. When Eriksen moved to Tottenham, football watchers from Denmark, didn’t think he had enough power to make it in England, but he’s had a good season.

Kane, meanwhile, was anonymous for most of the game. His first really big game, Roy Hodgson sitting in the stand and TV expecting a stellar performance. The man making sure he wouldn’t make an impact, John Terry, was man of the match.

It was Terry that gave Chelsea the lead just before the interval – in fact, just after the pundits were concluding that Mourinho’s side was below-par. Willian crossed the ball, it took a deflection, rebounded to Terry and his shot went in off Dier.

One moment in the first half made me smile. The camera homed in on Mourinho’s notebook behind the technical area and it was very clear that it was a Moleskine reporter-style hardback. A bit of product placement there, perhaps?

Chelsea completed the job early in the second half, a 56th minute finish from Costa after a nice pass from Cesc Fabregas. It was another deflection that helped it into the net, this time from Kyle Walker.

It was ribbon-tying time at this point and for a while, a third goal looked likely. Tottenham were never as composed as they had been in the first half and I cannot recall Petr Cech being troubled at all.

Mourinho enjoyed the moment, clowning around in a manner not really seen before. He was also generous in victory.

With Manchester City losing at Liverpool, Chelsea’s five point lead over their rivals was kept intact. Now they have a game in hand as well as a trophy in their hands. It’s starting to look like 2005 all over again…



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