Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho's mask is beginning to slip yet again

By Ian Herbert

It was a night which had no need of a subplot; a feisty, sometimes nasty, wonderful football match which revealed that League Cup fight is not the preserve of plucky small sides, denting big egos as they travel on their way.

But there was a subplot, obscured from general view. It played out in front of the dug-outs where Jose Mourinho was delivering a masterclass in how to get into an official's ear. It was Kevin Dowd's misfortune to be that fourth official.

Mourinho has the capability to count himself the victim of episodes when his own players are the most flagrant perpetrators. He has been publicly constructing the notion for several weeks that there is a campaign against his team.

And so there he was after 15 minutes, spinning around with his arms out and nodding his head and widening his eyes when Diego Costa had just stamped on Emre Can - the first of the Brazilian-born Spaniard's two sneaky little burials of a foot into Liverpool players' ankles.

Mourinho was off and running on a tide of indignation, amplified by no penalty following Martin Skrtel's foul on Costa in the Liverpool box - and rising to a full-blown victim when Lazar Markovic barged into the back of Filipe Luis.

The point of the story is that Mourinho does what he has to do when the pips begin to squeak in the season and that the Machiavellian Chelsea, nasty and sneaky when they need to be, are back.

It has been the nicer, prettier version that we have seen these last five months and Mourinho has wanted his own image to be softened too. He no longer wants to be seen as the enemy of football.

He certainly took no prisoners last night. There was even a shove on old colleague Brendan Rodgers. And in Costa he also found an agent of the nastiness he wants to restore.

As if the Can incident had not been a salutary lesson, he was at it again on the hour mark - placing his foot on Skrtel's ankle. Costa should be looking at a three-game ban at least when the footage is reviewed.

Mourinho appeared to miss the big moment. When Branislav Ivanovic scored, he was back in deep conversation with Dowd. Expect to hear much more of him as the weeks advance and expect referees to be the subject of discussion. Such are the strategies of a serial winner.

There's a view that Costa's passion is wonderful but the argument is questionable given the evils we see.

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