John Mikel Obi’s love for the FA Cup was further reinforced on Sunday afternoon when he scored the opening goal against Derby, and he spoke afterwards of his wish to win the trophy yet again.
The midfielder reached the 300-game milestone for Chelsea in the third-round tie against Steve McClaren’s side, only the fourth overseas player to do so, and during that time he has been an FA Cup winner on four occasions.
Of his four goals for the club, three have come in this competition and in the context of the match against the Championship side, his second-half header to open the scoring in the 2-0 win came at a crucial time.
‘We played well in the first half but we didn’t get the goal to make the game a bit more easy for us,’ said Mikel.
‘We had chances in the first half and if we put them away then it would have been over but we didn’t and we just had to keep going, keep believing and keep playing well and that is what we did in the second half.
‘We put Derby under a lot of pressure after half-time and it was important to get the goal. It was a fantastic ball from Willian and I just needed to get my head to it. We then got the second and we could have scored more after that, so we are very pleased with the game.’
Mikel revealed that in the dressing room Jose Mourinho had emphasised the importance of scoring the opener, stressing how tough the game would become if the home side netted first, but also how they would open up if Chelsea found the target.
‘We knew how difficult it would be to beat Derby,’ said Mikel. ‘In the last nine games they had lost just once and we didn’t want a replay.
‘We started the game well, the first 10 to 15 minutes we moved the ball very well and we were on top of them, we pressed them high but then we gave them a little bit of space and they showed us they can play, but we came back to put more pressure on them.
‘We had possession and the defence were fantastic. We played as a team and that is what the manager wants us to do. In the middle of the park I have to win my challenges and make sure I impose myself against my opponents and if I am able to do that and help the team win then I am very happy.’
Mikel enjoyed the reaction of the Chelsea fans to his goal. As after his strike against Fulham earlier in the season, the song was ‘He scores when he wants,’ but he added:
‘You have to understand the manager wants me to do a job for the team and I have always done that, always tried to keep the shape and it is difficult for me to get in the box, but every time I can and I score I will be happy.
‘The FA Cup is always big,’ emphasised the 26-year-old.
‘If we can pick up this trophy it will be very good for us and the manager stressed how important this competition is, but we still want to keep doing well in the Premier League and the Champions League of course.
‘We have always had this winning mentality at Chelsea. This manager installed it into this team and now he is back and he has installed it into the new players.
‘There have been a lot of games in the last month and I think we did pretty well. We just want to keep building and now we are starting to know what the manager wants from us. It is starting to pay off and hopefully at the end of the season we will be smiling.’