On a day when their league rivals Manchester City dropped potentially further back in the title race, Chelsea emerged victorious at Wembley, trouncing Tottenham 2-0 to lift the Capital One Cup, the first piece of silverware up for grabs this season.
The two London rivals faced off in a match billed as Diego Costa vs Harry Kane, the two powerful strikers expected to dominate the game for their respective teams. As a result, both managers shored up their defences- Mauricio Pochettino opting for Hugo Lloris in goal instead of Michael Vorm for this first time in this competition, while Jose Mourinho employed the strange tactic of deploying Kurt Zouma in midfield. Thibaut Courtois lost out on an opportunity to add to his two MoTM awards gained in this competition at Petr Cech started in the Chelsea goal.
Chelsea set the tone of the game in the second minute itself as Eden Hazard began pushing down the left straight away, only to be brought down easily. This was the first of many tackles he would be a victim of in this match.
Three successive free kicks brought the keepers into action minutes into the first half- Hugo Lloris keeping out a Ivanovic header off a Willian attempt, Petr Cech’s crossbar rattled by a peach from Cristian Eriksen, and a another Willian set piece which deflected off the Tottenham wall into Lloris’s arms at the edge of the box.
The two strikers expected to dominate had shown contrasting figures 20 minutes into the game. Harry Kane had been faster, stronger with the ball, causing trouble to the Chelsea backline while in contrast Diego Costa was almost invisible. The burly Spaniard was merely biding his time, as he would show in the second.
Nearing the end of the first half, Chelsea had been poor. The lack of support for Costa upfront was clearly visible, the midfield supplying him long balls but not bothering to make the runs into the box. Spurs were quicker, despite playing only three days ago in Florence. Despite this, it was Chelsea who took the lead. In the 45th minute, John Terry stood unmarked in the centre of the Spurs box and quietly tapped in a Willian free kick. Not for the first time in his career, he had been in the right place at the right time. Chelsea led at the interval, 1-0.
The second half was all Chelsea. After a good start when they showed intent, Tottenham seemed to lose their will to score. Already leading, the Blues put up a commanding defensive performance to sniff out any Spurs attack. That wasn’t it though. They made efforts to double their lead as well.
Hazard came close in the 49th minute, finding space on the left for a dancing run into the box, only to shoot wide towards the right. Cesc Fabregas came close to scoring after an acrobatic effort off the resulting corner, but could only find Lloris.
The man who made the difference was Costa.
Willian started the move at the centre of the pitch. He passed to Fabregas, who, intelligent as ever, found the marauding Costa lurking to his left. The former Atletico Madrid marksman made no mistake, fighting off Spurs defenders to find space and score after Lloris went the wrong way. It was the Spaniard’s first goal since mid- January.
The heavens acknowledged the significance of the goal, as the skies came crashing down on Wembley. The players were thoroughly drenched as the rain washed away any hopes of a Spurs fightback. The men from North London were tired and things only became easier for Chelsea as the game drew on.
Hazard had yet another opportunity in the 67th minute. Finding his way through a mass of white shirts, the wily Belgian managed a shot on target, only to miss the goal by inches. Spurs found some new zeal as they gained a free kick. Eric Dyer’s header was offside. Cesar Azpilicueta had gained a nasty looking cut on the head in a shuffle with Harry Kane, and was bandaged heavily by the Chelsea support staff.
Ten minutes remaining, Tottenham tried to pull one back. Harry Kane, whose threat had been neutralised in this half by an impressive performance by the 21 year old Zouma, tried valiantly to lash one past Petr Cech, but was found lacking.
Chelsea, confident on the ball, found their way to the end of the game. Blues flags flew high all around Wembley as the Premier League leaders completed their revenge for a shocking loss on New Year’s Day. Mourinho’s second coming had finally bought its first trophy as the Chelsea players and fans rejoiced.
If they keeps playing this way, more silverware surely awaits Chelsea come the end of the season.