Mateo Kovacic ended a 21-month wait for a Chelsea goal when he scored the second in Saturday tea-time’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa but there was plenty more to his performance than just that strike.
You only have to look at the Man of the Match vote on the 5th Stand app to see how Chelsea fans appreciated the Croatian international’s all-round performance, which helped place his side level on points with Man United at the top of the table.
Included was a fantastic assist to give Romelu Lukaku his first Stamford Bridge goal, a pass from inside his own half which was perfectly weighted to allow the centre-forward to cut inside and finish expertly.
‘With players like Romelu, you understand the movement,’ explained Kovacic afterwards. ‘He made a great move and the ball in the end was good and we scored a perfect goal, so it is amazing to have such a big player in our squad.
‘He is a great addition, a great character, and I don’t need to talk about what kind of player he is. He proved himself wherever he was. He is a big player for us and I hope he will continue like that.’
Kovacic too had not scored a home goal for Chelsea prior to this weekend. He was sharp to make the most of it when Tyrone Mings under-powered a back pass but says he was not expecting a mistake at that very moment.
‘Of course we try to press,’ he added. ‘We press high up the pitch. It is exhausting sometimes, it is not easy, but I managed to come to the ball. When I come in front of goal it is not my best thing but I managed to score, luckily a little bit.
‘The last goal was a long time ago but the most important was to get the three points.
‘It was a difficult game, especially in the first half. Aston Villa came out quite aggressive and it was difficult to come out playing, to do our game.
‘The manager changed it at half-time because he saw that we struggled to come out playing like we usually do. We changed our style of play a little and we played a little bit of long balls to Romelu, so we adapted quite well.
‘It was a difficult game but in the end we managed to win a difficult game 3-0 which says a lot about our squad.’
Kovacic reserved special praise for Edouard Mendy who had to work harder for his clean sheet than he often does.
‘Edou is amazing. He does great in goal and keeps clean sheets week in week out. We are pleased to have the two of them because Kepa too is an amazing goalkeeper.’