Jose Mourinho’s first game back in charge of the Blues on the opening day of last season climaxed in a 2-0 win over Hull City, and it was the same scoreline this afternoon as we bounced back from last week’s defeat at Newcastle courtesy of a goal in each half, scored by Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.
Hazard gave us the lead after just seven minutes, heading home an excellent Oscar cross. There were few clear-cut opportunities at either end during the remainder of the first half but the visitors’ task was made all the more difficult when Tom Huddlestone was dismissed after the break for a foul on Filipe Luis, and soon after Diego Costa wrapped the game up with a smart finish across Allan McGregor following excellent build-up play between Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic.
The Blues boss was satisfied with his team’s display and felt we deserved to win the game.
‘We didn’t play especially well but we played well enough for everybody connected with Chelsea – supporters, players and staff - to be calm, because the game was always under control. We never felt it was at risk,’ said Mourinho.
This season we’ve had many special performances and today we had just moments of good football, creativity and dynamic play, it wasn’t for 90 minutes. It was a good enough performance to win against a difficult team.
A rare Hazard header broke the deadlock, but the manager wasn’t surprised...
‘I wasn’t because we knew we were going to play against a defensive line of three plus two wing-backs. I told my three attacking midfielders we needed to move and change positions, go to other areas because if you stay in a stable position that’s what they want, they want targets to mark, so I told them to try to find space between defenders. When I saw Eden in the box I wasn’t surprised, but I was surprised to see him score with his head. He jumps a lot but normally he closes his eyes, it was a very good goal.
‘We made an agreement: he didn’t play against Sporting, I gave him four days’ holiday, he went somewhere with nice weather, where he could take his shirt off and get some sun. He told me he would come back fresh and you could see the happiness in his legs.’
He said the players may have tried to conserve energy after going 2-0 up...
‘Maybe the players did, and if they did they are smart and they did it well. They know what is waiting for them, if the game is under control and there is no doubt about the points, especially after the second goal, they can move the ball intelligently and save energy. As a manager you always want more but the reality is that what’s in front of them [festive fixtures] is hard.’
Mourinho is delighted we have won two games in a row since the defeat at Newcastle...
‘We are playing well since August, four months of getting results in every competition, the team is solid. As I was expecting, the bad moment didn’t continue. The bad moment was losing a game but after that we won again and played well again, we did against Sporting and we did today.
‘I was right when I had no fears about negatives, the team has game principles and know how they want to play. We have a clear identity in our game, we change sometimes because we need to, but we are a strong team.’
Mourinho provided his thoughts on a booking for Willian, given for simulation, and suggestions from others that Gary Cahill could have been similarly cautioned...
‘I didn’t see it on TV because I was far away but I don’t believe Cahill dived. If you tell me I’m wrong, and he dived, then something happened. They blocked his run, there was a touch or he lost his balance, but that big, honest guy, I don’t believe he dived in the opposition box.
‘With Willian, why would he dive on the midfield line? If he wants to dive he would dive in the box. Last year he had a red card from Mr Foy and after we realised it was not even a touch on [Fabian] Delph, so I don’t think it’s a big deal.’
On Monday the draw for the knockout stages of the Champions League takes place, and he explained who he would like us to be paired with...
‘We don’t have much choice, there are only five possibilities, but to make it easy for everybody, I would say Paris Saint-Germain. It’s easy for us to travel, easy for the fans to travel and they won’t have to spend a lot of money to go there. They are a very good team and I would prefer a really good team, which will motivate the boys. So, if I could choose, even though I can’t, I would say Paris.’