Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea's gameplan works like a charm

Chelsea 2 - Tottenham 0

By Sam Wallace

It is not every day that Jose Mourinho launches himself onto the turf in front of his celebrating players for the benefit of the cameras, but then we might just have underestimated what the plain old League Cup meant to a man who already had 16 major trophies in world football at the start of the day.

In the rain at Wembley, Mourinho delighted in the triumph in a way that you might not expect of a man who has won two Champions League titles as well as league championships in four major European football countries.

What really seemed to delight him was what Mourinho called the "strategic" element of his victory, namely his decision to replace the suspended Nemanja Matic by moving centre-back Kurt Zouma into one of the two holding midfield roles.

It would be right to say that it worked, to the extent that Mourinho compared the young Frenchman to Marcel Desailly.

It was a performance built on the leadership of John Terry, the one unchanging figure in the centre of the Chelsea defence, who scored the first goal and lunged in to block a shot from Harry Kane on 87 minutes.

Terry had kept the young striker quiet for much of the game and that was integral to stopping Tottenham - and so it was that the Chelsea captain lifted the 12th major trophy of the Roman Abramovich era.

For all his pre-match rosary-bead kissing and po-faced touchline demeanour, Mourinho will have contested few cup finals when his plan was executed quite so smoothly and quite so clinically.

When Diego Costa scored the second on 56 minutes, Spurs started to buckle and that long trip to Italy in the Europa League for last Thursday's game against Fiorentina was taking its toll.

Mourinho began his press conference with a long unsolicited tribute to Mauricio Pochettino and when it was the Spurs manager's turn to come in he seemed to be coming to terms with the defeat.

He said that he had expected all along that either Gary Cahill or Zouma would play midfield, although it turned out there was little his team could do to stop Chelsea.

For periods in the first half it looked like Spurs were going to take this game by the lapels, and they hit the bar through Christian Eriksen.

But the truth of it for this young side was that the margin of defeat felt just about right. By the end they had thrown their best punches and landed none.

Pochettino pointed out that his team had an average age of just 23 and a half and today, his 43rd birthday, he will be back out on the training pitch.

Their problem in this cup final was that they never punished Chelsea. In the first half, Kyle Walker and Andros Townsend were a threat down the right side.

Kane tricked his way past three Chelsea players, eventually winning the free-kick from which Eriksen hit the bar. But for all Spurs' good work, that was all Petr Cech had to worry about.

Costa was his usual truculent self. He thrust a hand into the face of Nabil Bentaleb in the first half and he squared up to more white shirts than bears recounting.

Eric Dier was unfortunate to pick up a booking for a harmless challenge on Costa just after the half hour, although a more serious trip on the Chelsea man did follow and that went unpunished.

The goal arrived in the last minute of the first 45 when Nacer Chadli made a mess of clearing a cross-field pass and fouled Branislav Ivanovic.

The free-kick was Spurs' downfall. Danny Rose got something on the ball when he would have been better off leaving it to Bentaleb behind him to clear. The deflected ball struck Dier and fell to Terry, whose shot past Lloris clipped Dier on its way in.

In the second half, Chelsea took control. Kane was effectively corralled by Terry and Cahill and in front of them, Zouma settled nicely into his role. The second goal from Costa came from a move that worked the ball from right to left quickly: Willian to Fabregas and onto Costa. He made the space for a left-foot shot and the second major deflection of the day came off Walker and into the net.

By the end it felt a bit like a procession. Mourinho played up to the Chelsea support, while the Spurs crowd trickled away. This was Mourinho's sixth major trophy in English football and his third League Cup. On days like these he does, it has to be said, make it look easy.

"I had two seasons without a trophy, and it looked like 20 years," Mourinho said.

This was trophy No 17 for the Chelsea manager and the mood was very much that there will be no relenting in the pursuit of No 18.

Belfast Telegraph


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