LONDON: John Terry set Chelsea up for a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s (Mar 1) League Cup final as Jose Mourinho claimed the first trophy of his second stint as manager.
Terry’s deflected strike put Chelsea ahead on the stroke of half-time at Wembley and Mourinho’s side sealed victory in the 56th minute when Spurs right-back Kyle Walker deflected Diego Costa’s effort into his own net.
It was Mourinho’s first title since he returned to Stamford Bridge in 2013 and his third League Cup after previous successes with the club in 2005 and 2007.
“My players were fantastic,” Mourinho told Sky Sports after cavorting with his players on the pitch following the trophy presentation. “Finals are not for playing; they are for winning. We did not have problems. They had a couple of chances, but nothing else. We knew we would be dangerous on the counter and we played like we should play a final.”
Spurs had been hoping to end a trophy drought stretching back to 2008, when they had beaten Chelsea 2-1 in the League Cup final, but with star man Harry Kane shackled, they were unable to pull off a repeat of the 5-3 defeat they had inflicted on their London rivals on New Year’s Day.
It brought an end to a sorry week for Spurs, who were knocked out of the Europa League by Fiorentina on Thursday and now have only Champions League qualification to play for.
While Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino selected Hugo Lloris instead of usual cup goalkeeper Michel Vorm, Mourinho left his first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on the bench, with Petr Cech starting.
But the biggest surprise on the Chelsea team-sheet was the presence of three centre-backs in Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma, the last of whom filled in for the suspended Nemanja Matic in an unfamiliar midfield destroyer role.
A pair of early set-pieces allowed Chelsea to force Spurs back, with Terry and Branislav Ivanovic heading off-target, but with Mourinho’s side sitting very deep, their opponents were invited to attack them.
TERRY MAKES BREAKTHROUGH
Christian Eriksen gave Chelsea an early fright by thudding a free-kick against the bar after Kane had been fouled by Cesc Fabregas, while Kane tested Cech following a purposeful run from halfway.
Eriksen also forced Cech to save at his near post and although Costa was busy riling Spurs’ defenders at the other end, luring Eric Dier into a rash foul that saw him booked, Lloris was largely untroubled.
That changed seconds before half-time when Willian’s right-wing free-kick was not dealt with and Terry’s shot from 12 yards flicked off Jan Vertonghen and into the Tottenham net. Cahill almost got in on the act moments later, but put his header straight at Lloris.
Chelsea’s John Terry (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal against Tottenham Hotspur during the English League Cup Final football match at Wembley Stadium. (AFP/IAN KINGTON)
As a light rain began to descend, Chelsea continued their assault on Spurs’ goal in the second half and after Lloris had parried an acrobatic overhead bicycle kick from Fabregas, the second goal arrived.
Fabregas’ pass found Costa on the left-hand side of the area and he shifted the ball onto his left foot before letting fly with a cross-cum-shot that nicked off Walker and flew past Lloris.
Pochettino sent on Mousa Dembele, Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado, but as the rain intensified, so Spurs’ fight seemed to drain away.
Chelsea continued to threaten, with Eden Hazard curling narrowly wide and Fabregas heading off-target, and when a sight of goal opened up for Kane at the other end, Terry threw himself in the way with a trademark block.