Another cup final, another trophy for Chelsea, as the Blues defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Wembley on Sunday in the Capital One Cup final . Goals from John Terry on the stroke of halftime and a second-half goal from Diego Costa provided Chelsea with the margin of victory and gives Chelsea their first trophy in the second stint under Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho’s joy at full time showed the world how much this trophy meant to him. It had been his first trophy since winning the Spanish Super Cup with Real Madrid at the start of the 2012-2013 season. Not only did it break the Portuguese manager’s personal trophy drought, but it was the first trophy won by this Chelsea side since Mourinho returned at the beginning of last season.
In his first stint at Chelsea, and nearly 10 years to the day, Chelsea won this trophy, and it started a dynasty of players that would win nearly every major trophy that you can win at club level. By winning the Capital One Cup this time around and carrying a 5-point lead in the Premier League race, you do wonder if Mourinho might start a new dynasty of players in a similar mould.
Opposite the Blues were a Tottenham side that were not short on confidence either, despite their defeat midweek to Fiorentina. Harry Kane has been scoring goals for fun, and with Christian Eriksen providing the chances, Spurs were confident of securing their first trophy since they beat Chelsea in a League Cup final back in 2008.
Going into the match, one of the main talking points was the absence of Nemanja Matic from the Chelsea lineup due to suspension. The Serbian has become a pivotal part of the Chelsea setup and it’s notable that Chelsea’s only defeats have come when he was either missing or played a terrible game.
Matic’s absence, however, allowed for Mourinho to be a bit more unpredictable with his team selection, and unpredictable he was. In Matic’s absence, the Chelsea manager made the big call to play young Kurt Zouma, a centre back by trade, as a holding midfielder in an attempt to provide a bit of defensive protection for Gary Cahill and John Terry.
Mourinho once again proved his tactical genius, as Zouma made his best impression of countryman Claude Makelele by effectively limiting the effectiveness of the dangerous Eriksen and breaking up play in the midfield.
Despite Zouma’s effectiveness in limiting Eriksen, Tottenham did dominate the first half and could have been 1-0 up in just 10 minutes. Harry Kane’s weaving run opened up the Chelsea defence, and he was fouled by Cesc Fabregas. Eriksen’s resulting free kick thudded against Petr Cech’s crossbar, but that would the closest that Spurs would get to breaching the Chelsea defence in the first half.
In a very typical Mourinho tactic, Chelsea ceded much of the possession to their opposition but remained tough to break down and looked to threaten on set pieces and counterattacks. The Blues first two set piece attempts resulted in headers over the bar from John Terry and Kurt Zouma, but the third time proved to be luc
It’s quite fitting then that the deadlock was broken from a set piece just before halftime. Spurs failed to properly clear Willian’s free kick from the right side, and the resulting deflections saw the ball fall at the feet of John Terry, whose shot fond the back of Hugo Lloris’ net via a deflection from, of all people, Harry Kane.
Gary Cahill nearly doubled the lead just minutes later from a corner when Branislav Ivanovic’s header back across goal found Cahill unmarked, but the defender could only find the arms of Lloris.
Chelsea kicked off the second half, and Spurs still seemed a bit rattled by the result of the first half. Cesc Fabregas would have had the goal of the season just shortly after the restart with an overhead kick from just on the edge of the 18-yard box that was brilliantly saved.
But the second goal belonged to the man who’s beginning to become the talismanic striker that Chelsea have been missing since Didier Drogba in his pomp. Diego Costa had made himself quite the nuisance in the first half, haranguing and winding up each of the Spurs defenders, but got his goal to put the Blues up 2-0.
An excellent pass from Fabregas found Costa free in the inside right channel and one-on-one with Kyle Walker. The Brazilian took his man toward the byline before powering a ferocious shot that beat Lloris via a deflection off of Kyle Walker.
Coming from behind against a Jose Mourinho side is difficult enough, but to overturn a 2-goal deficit is particularly difficult. Mauricio Pochettino summoned Mousa Dembele, Erik Lamela, and Roberto Soldado from the bench in order to try and equalise the match and send it into extra time. But it also unbalanced Spurs’ shape, and with Eriksen being marked out of the game, Chelsea looked more likely to score a third that Tottenham breaching the Chelsea defence.
In the end, Jose Mourinho once more pulled the right tactical strings, and John Terry climbed the Wembley steps and hoisted the Capital One Cup with Drogba, and with it, a possible new era of dominance in Mourinho’s second stint with the Blues.