Our last performance of 2013 was arguably the most impressive of the season to date, as we came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, a win that keeps us within two points of leaders Arsenal – who won at Newcastle earlier in the day – and moves us four ahead of Brendan Rodgers’s side.
The afternoon got off to the worst possible start when Martin Skrtel pounced on a loose ball inside the Chelsea penalty area to fire the visitors in front inside three minutes, but our response to falling behind was impressive, and after chances for Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill had gone begging, the Belgian equalised in stunning fashion.
We took a deserved lead in the 32nd minute when Samuel Eto’o, starting for the second game in succession, reacted quickest to stab an Oscar cross past Simon Mignolet, and the visitors were fortunate to only go in 2-1 down at the break.
The second half was far more even as Liverpool looked to restore parity, and though Luis Suarez had a penalty appeal waved away, Eto’o and substitute Fernando Torres could have put the game to bed on the break.
On the balance of play it was a fair result, and one that preserves Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record. The Portuguese, reflecting on the game, praised his players for the manner of the victory, particularly in the middle of such a gruelling schedule.
On the performance
‘It was a big win, big opponent, big match and big respect to every player in this country because I love it, you love it, people around the world love it and the accumulation of matches is amazing,’ said Mourinho. ‘That’s why what happened to Ivanovic, Lampard, Allen and Sakho happened, because it’s really difficult, especially when it’s a big match and the players have to give what they have and what they don’t have.
‘This was a big game; from the first to the last minute there was doubt about the result, everybody giving 100 per cent. There was some good quality football and big emotion.
‘We deserved to win because they did nothing to score the first goal. After that our reaction in the first half was fantastic. In the second half we defended well, they hit the post with Sakho, we had some counter attack situations where we could have killed the game with Eto’o, Torres and Hazard, but we didn’t and it was hard until the last minute, but I think we deserved it.
‘We knew before the game if we didn’t win the distance to the leader was big because Arsenal had just won. Everything accumulated; fatigue, Ramires not playing, Mikel with flu, plus the injuries we had in the first half. All of this together makes me very happy with the level of their game.
‘The team did a very good job collectively, Liverpool are fantastic at building from the back, the way Brendan opens up the central defenders and puts Lucas in between them with the full backs in wide positions and the wingers inside, they are fantastic at that, but we did very well to press them high up.
‘They weren’t comfortable, the goalkeeper was kicking a lot of high balls and the fluency of their game which allows the last ball to come into Suarez didn’t happen a lot. It was more about my team defending very well with 10 players than saying specifically this one or that one. Everybody played a good game.’
Mourinho also expressed his delight at the performances of John Terry this season, who made his 600th appearance for the Blues.
‘What’s more important than the 600 matches is that he’s played every minute of the 19 Premier League matches this season, which is amazing for a player that last season a lot of people thought was going down.
‘He’s showing fantastic quality, I’m happy for him. The players I had in the past I have a special connection with them, but I don’t give them positions because I like them or because I have a relationship with them. At the moment, everything he’s getting isn’t because he’s my man or my friend, or because I respect him from my first period here. He’s getting these minutes because he’s playing fantastically well.’
Eden Hazard scored his eighth goal of the season, and second in as many games, with his manager delighted at the Belgian’s progression.
‘He’s working fantastic, today I decided to play him not wide on the left, because I know Johnson attacks a lot. Eden is one of the players who play every match so if I play him on the left the game would fly by and his energy would disappear, so I kept him playing inside and outside right to keep his energy to attack and create situations.
‘The kid is giving everything with a fantastic mentality. He’s changing because now he understands responsibilities, it’s not just about getting the ball and playing like you are 13 or 14 in the street, there are other ingredients to play at this level.
‘He has already eight goals in the first phase of the season, playing in the position he plays where he has defensive responsibilities, scoring only one penalty out of the eight goals, he’s been more objective and that’s important.’
Liverpool had two penalty claims denied in the second half, both involving Luis Suarez, but Mourinho felt the Uruguayan went to ground too easily.
‘I’m always happy when I see him play because I love his quality, commitment and ambition to win, he’s a fantastic player. But this country is a special country, I’m not English or British, but I feel I have a responsibility to defend some values in football because there are more foreign managers coming here.
‘One of the good things is that we don’t like simulation and these situations in the box, with Azpilicueta and Eto’o, it has to be stopped or give him a yellow card, because it’s not good.
‘It’s not a tackle, Azpilicueta is very strong, he didn’t play against Swansea because I wanted him to play today against Sterling. I brought him to the right side, he has this situation with Suarez, who is playing every game for 90 minutes, and you can feel the difference between players who are playing every minute and the ones who are being protected.
‘Suarez lost the duel with Azpilicueta, he has the ball and is leaving the box with the ball and then there is an acrobatic swimming pool jump to try and get a penalty, because he is so clever that he knows he is in the area where he has the Liverpool supporters behind.
‘Webb is 10 metres away and the only mistake he made was to not give him a yellow card. There should only have been one penalty in the game – Lucas on Hazard.’
Having lost both Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard to injury before the second half, the Chelsea manager provided an update on the pair.
‘Lampard’s is a muscular injury, so forget him for a bit of time, it’s too early to say how long. Ivanovic was his lateral ligament, we don’t think it’s a big thing but it’s a painful thing.
‘Normally he will be out too but that’s the consequence of such a hard period. It was difficult because in the second half I wanted to bring Schurrle into the game but I couldn’t because I’d made two changes before the second half.’
Mourinho’s counterpart, Brendan Rodgers, was understandably disappointed with the result, but feels his side are still in a good position with regards to the title race.
‘It’s open, and what I’m looking forward to is the second half of the season,’ he said. ‘We have to play all the top teams, apart from Man United, at home. On Christmas Day we were top of the league, now we’re fifth, and I think that’s the way it’s going to go.’