LONDON: Jose Mourinho has a soft spot for the League Cup. It was the initial trophy he won as Chelsea manager in 2005 during his first stint. Now it has become the first piece of silverware obtained in his second coming after London rivals Tottenham were defeated 2-0 in the 2015 final at Wembley.
Though Spurs commanded possession in the first half Chelsea hit them twice with perfect counter punches – like a champion boxer – either side of the interval to decide the contest. Skipper John Terry stabbed home the first while the second will go down as a Kyle Walker own goal.
One way or another the London derby was bound to end one trophy drought or another: Tottenham had not won anything since the League Cup against Chelsea in 2008 when Harry Kane was a kid in the crowd; Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had suffered the longest ‘gap’ of his managerial career, since winning the Spanish league and Supercup with Real Madrid in 2012.
Chelsea manager Mourinho had defined the game as the most important in his career though he had later qualified its status “because it’s the next trophy for us to win.” His priority was to re-establish a cup-winning momentum at Chelsea which would serve as a springboard for the remainder of the Premier League and Champions League campaigns.
Chelsea were weakened by the absence, through suspension, of Nemanja Matic in the heart of midfield but a squad of their depth can cope better than any other in English football; Kurt Zouma deputised.
With Branislav Ivanovic, Terry and Zouma Chelsea were also equipped to cause enormous problems at set pieces. So it proved when, despite Spurs’ high-tempo command of first-half possession, Chelsea snatched the lead just before the interval.
Veteran skipper Terry was the scorer after Willian’s right-wing free-kick skimmed into his path off the head of Danny Rose. Terry’s shot flew into the net via a deflection of Harry Kane.
Eleven minutes into the second half and Chelsea were 2-0 ahead and sailing towards the fifth League Cup in the club’s history.
Cesc Fabregas found Diego Costa in the inside left channel inside Spurs’ penalty area and his cross-shot was deflected past keeper Hugo Lloris off defender Kyle Walker.
Terry said: “It’s the first trophy this season and it’s massive. It could be the start of something very good but we have got the league to focus on. I thought we handled the game well and the pressure well.
“The first half was even but we controlled the second half. The manager always made it clear from the outset we were out to win this competition.”
Wins for Liverpool, Arsenal
** Manchester City’s week – and that of increasingly pressured manager Manuel Pellegrini – went from bad to worse when they lost 2:1 to a Liverpool side who had been back in the country little more than two days after their midweek disappointment in Turkey.
Jordan Henderson and the superb Philippe Coutinho scored the goals which sandwiched one from Edin Dzeko. City again looked frail in defence and Yaya Toure was a shadow of his old self in midfield.
** Olivier Giroud rewarded manager Arsene Wenger’s support with a goal as Arsenal beat Everton 2-0 to climb back to third place.
Wenger kept the striker in his starting line-up even though he missed several chances during Wednesday’s 3-1 Champions League defeat by Monaco. Giroud volleyed in Mesut Ozil’s corner six minutes before half-time and the points were secured by a late strike from Tomas Rosicky.
Roberto Martinez’s side again failed to transfer impressive European results to the Premier League, in which they have taken 11 points from their last 15 matches.