Chelsea hold off Tottenham Hotspur to lift fifth League Cup
John Terry opens scoring at Wembley to give Jose Mourinho first silverware of second tenure
Didier Drogba, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic celebrate Chelsea’s League Cup final win over Spurs. Photograph: PA
Chelsea 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Quiz question: which football club played one match but won two trophies on one afternoon? OK, let’s not rule out the possibility Chelsea may be caught and overhauled in the Premier League but, equally, if there is a soft centre to this team they have done pretty well at disguising it so far. The first trophy of José Mourinho’s second coming is on the board and it does not feel hugely presumptuous to suggest that the second is starting to look like a fait accompli on the back of Manchester City’s latest setback.
Mourinho’s team had to subject to some concerted pressure before taking control of this final. Yet there is no better side in English football when it comes to holding the lines, sizing up their opponents then gradually turning the screw. At times, it might not make for the most absorbing spectacle. Yet it is just another reminder why Mourinho, the serial champion, hoards trophies in the way that other people collect stamps and it should not bother them in the slightest that they did it with such a pair of scruffy goals.
The second one was a personal ordeal for Kyle Walker because it did not need a sitting of the Dubious Goals Panel to realise that Diego Costa’s shot was heading across the six-yard area until the Spurs right-back jutted out his foot and inadvertently turned it into the gap between Hugo Lloris and the goalkeeper’s near post.
Yet it was the collective failure for the opening goal – one for the Dubious Defending Panel – that probably summed up the difference between the sides. In the process, there were at least two moments when Spurs defenders could have cleared the danger. There was a mistimed header, a couple of deflections, and very little in the way of good luck, perhaps.
Yet there was a degree of carelessness in there too and that is the point. John Terry made the decisive contact, lashing in the loose ball, then quickly went back to making sure his own defence was never so generous.
Terry, once again, reminded us that he is still the outstanding centre-half in the country, epitomised by that moment in the 87th minute when the oldest player on the pitch could be seen throwing himself into a brilliant challenge to keep out Harry Kane. He and Gary Cahill, ably helped by Branislav Ivanovic and César Azpilicueta, formed an impenetrable barrier.
Tottenham’s disappointment should be compounded by the fact they had actually been the better side until Nacer Chadli gave away the free-kick on Ivanovic that led to the opening goal. Danny Rose was pushing forward from his left-back spot. Walker was doing the same on the right while Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason both started the game encouragingly. Harry Kane also set out impressively, as though determined to leave his mark on the occasion. Kane eluded three Chelsea players with one early run and when the fourth, Cesc Fàbregas, chopped him down Christian Eriksen smacked the free-kick against the crossbar.
Chelsea certainly took their time to get going. Kurt Zouma looked slightly lost in his experimental position, filling in for the suspended Nemanja Matic as an unorthodox central midfielder, and there was even the sight at 0-0 of Fàbregas putting a simple pass straight out for a throw-in. Eden Hazard was always bright and lively and keen to run at Walker but Chelsea
struggled early on to exert their usual control and their attacking moments were notable more than anything for the number of occasions when Costa, their troublemaker extraordinaire, became locked in the usual niggling duels.
To give him his due, Costa was not trying to make an argument out of nothing. Eric Dier seemed determined to get under his skin, starting off with their first tussle for the ball and an eyeballing confrontation that set the tone. Dier was maybe a touch unfortunate to be booked for a challenge on the half-hour mark but, having been shown that yellow card, the centre-half was lucky that his little kick on Costa as the final act of the first half was not his last contribution of the match. A second yellow card might also have followed later on when he kumped so high into the back of Azpilicueta his knee struck his opponent in the back of the head and caused a wound that meant the Spaniard had to be bandaged up for the rest of the match.
Everything started to unravel for Spurs a minute before half-time and it was a poor goal to concede for many reasons. For starters, Bentaleb would have been well positioned to head away Willian’s free-kick if Rose had not tried to get there first. The ball skimmed off Rose’s head, ricocheted off Dier and dropped invitingly for Terry. Dier did his best to make amends, desperately trying to charge down the shot, but the ball deflected off his instep and Terry had his sixth goal of the season.
Walker’s own goal arrived 10 minutes into the second half and, though Rose kept on surging forward, there was not enough from Kane and Eriksen to threaten Chelsea’s superbly organised defence. Chelsea have their fifth League Cup, moving level with Aston Villa and second only to Liverpool’s eight, and Matic appeared in full kit for the trophy presentation, emulating Terry’s change of costume after the 2012 Champions League final.
On this evidence there are going to be more happy moments to come.