Chelsea FC moved seven points clear at the top of the Premier League courtesy of yesterday’s 4-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspurs at Stamford Bridge.
Two goals and a sending off in the space of four second-half minutes changed the complexion of the game, as the Blues extended their lead over the chasing pack in style.
The first goal of the game came in the 54th minute when Samuel Eto’o slotted the ball past Lloris having after latching onto a misplaced backpass by Jan Vertonghen to give Chelsea the lead.
Four minutes later Eden Hazard doubled Chelsea’s advantage from the spot after Youness Kaboul was adjudged to have brought down Eto’o and was sent off in the process.
In the dying stages of the game, two moments of madness in the space of a minute condemned Tim Sherwood’s side to a heavy defeat, with Demba Ba finding the back of the net twice following more errors at the back.
A Sandro slip allowed Ba to score his first, before Kyle Walker’s weak header back to his keeper was intercepted by the striker to add his second and Chelsea’s fourth of the evening.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, talking to the press after the game, insisted that he is still not thinking about the title despite the seven point gap at the top of the table.
Mourinho conceded that Chelsea do have a top-four spot now “in their pocket” but insisted that their next target was only to make sure that they secure a top-three finish.
“Clearly it is very, very difficult to not get a top-four position. They (Spurs) were the biggest threats to the top four.
“If we lose seven points now with nine matches to go… a lot can happen, but 13 points with nine matches is almost impossible for us to lose that, so from now our objective in the Premier League is in our pocket.
“Our next objective is top three, as that gives us direct qualification [to the Champions League group stages] and if at a certain point our distance to fourth is big, I will say we will think a bit more – but objective now is top three. If Man City win three games in hand, which they can – they are top.”
Morinho added: “Yes, the first half was very difficult but at half-time, we were all very calm and I told the players we should not be surprised the game would be difficult.
“As we know, we shouldn’t be surprised or have less confidence or less esteem as in the first half we could not be as dominant, so we were calm.
“We made the change that changed the dynamic of the team, not because [Frank] Lampard was not playing well, but we played the second half with a clear number 10 [Oscar] and that stretched them a bit more and gave them room to play.”
Whilst Mourinho admitted that Eto’o’s opener did owe a lot to Jan Vertonghen’s wayward back-pass, he never felt in danger.
“Yes it was a defensive mistake, but Samuel is so clever how he reads the game, and after that at 1-0, I am not saying they gave up but I think they felt they were in trouble as in the first half, they had a lot of the ball and they were dominant in the game, but how many saves did Peter Cech have?
“I think they are a team that have great control of the ball possession, but they don’t hurt people – so second-half was comfortable for us.
“They are quite dominant as they are comfortable on the ball but as an opponent, you don’t feel in trouble as you don’t feel the danger. Even if you are not controlling the game, you feel calm, and in the second half when we scored even with 11 v 11, I felt it would be difficult for us to concede.”
Mourinho heaped praise on Eto’o, who only started the game thanks to an injury to Fernando Torres in the pre-match warm-up.
Mourinho was recently caught on camera suggesting that Eto’o was 35 rather than his stated age of 32 but Eto’o showed that he bears no hard feelings to Mourinho over the Chelsea’s boss’s jibes with a goal celebration – walking like a hunched old man to lean on a corner flag, feeling his back – brought a smile to his team-mates and Mourinho.
“I told him before the game, ‘you are going to score for sure’ because he was supposed to be on the bench.
“Fernando was supposed to start the game. A couple of minutes before the game, he was not able to play and I thought ‘this is your destiny’.
“Samuel is so clever in the way he reads the game. After 1-0, the game had no mystery.
“I didn’t suggest the celebration but I knew about it,” laughed Mourinho afterwards.
“We thought it was good because the best way to defuse the situation is to make fun of it.”