Derby no match for Mourinho’s men
Chelsea expose the gulf in class between themselves and the Championship contenders
Jose Mourinho gestures during the Budweiser FA Cup Third Round match between Derby County and Chelsea at iPro Stadium in Derby, England. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Derby Countly 0 Chelsea 2
By the end Chelsea were toying with their opponents and the Derby County fans who would probably rather forget the indignities of their last season in the Premier League, with a record low of 11 points, were reminded how brutal it can be against this kind of refined opposition.
They lost 6-1 against Chelsea that season and, though the latest defeat was nothing like as harrowing, Jose Mourinho’s team made it a harsh history lesson during those moments in the second half when their domination of the ball turned into the hard currency of goals.
The gulf was considerable and the Championship team had to give everything to prevent any more damage beyond John Obi Mikel’s 66th-minute header and the shot from Oscar that carried so much swerve and power to deceive Lee Grant in the Derby goal.
Fernando Torres menaced them after replacing Samuel Eto’o and it was just a pity for Chelsea that Ramires had to tarnish the occasion by becoming the latest Chelsea player to be caught diving.
He was booked, following on from Oscar’s yellow card at Southampton on New Year’s Day.
The bottom line was that Chelsea did not need to resort to anything underhand to guarantee their fourth-round tie against Stoke City. They had to withstand a spirited start from Derby and Steve McClaren was not being unduly generous when he said his players could be encouraged by their efforts.
“Someone said to me we actually had more players in our squad than they do. I said: ‘Yeah but look at the value.’ One of theirs was worth as much as ours together.”
Eto’o’s rotten first touch to spoiled Chelsea’s first real chance of note in the opening 20 minutes. That was the point, however, when Oscar emerged as the most influential player on the pitch. Two of his long-range efforts went close and the opening half finished with Ramires’s shot taking a deflection to skim against a post.
At half-time Mourinho was not entirely happy. “We didn’t play badly,” he said. “We played quite well but still 0-0 at half-time is a big risk because in the second half, if the opponent scores one, you are in trouble.”
Yet this was not an occasion when Will Hughes, Derby’s talented but raw midfielder, demonstrated why he is attracting so much interest. He looked lightweight and Mourinho took advantage by withdrawing one of his own central midfielders, Michael Essien, to leave Mikel as a lone anchor man and spring Eden Hazard from the bench. Once again a Chelsea victory can be largely attributed to Mourinho’s talent for changing his team mid-match.
Hazard’s introduction coincided with their best period of the match and Derby were already looking vulnerable by the time Jamie Ward brought him down for the free-kick that led to the opening goal. Mikel had been handed the captain’s armband when Essien went off – Mourinho later said it should have gone to Ashley Cole – and the ball flashed off his forehead for only his fourth goal in eight seasons at the club.
There was a period after Grant had let in Oscar’s shot when it suddenly looked as though Derby’s afternoon might turn into an ordeal.
Torres danced round Jake Buxton and went past Grant but was crowded out before being able to finish. Then the Spaniard ran clear and drove his shot against Grant’s legs.
Derby were largely holding on but Chris Martin’s left-foot shot late on was probably their best effort of the match.