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article imageJose Mourinho masterminds Chelsea victory at Manchester City

By Tyrrell Meertins     Feb 3, 2014 in Sports
Jose Mourinho isn’t afraid to say when he’s irked, nor does he have difficulties speaking his mind. An opportunity to move top of the Premier League arose, but the Blues stumbled in what was a frustrating night at Stamford Bridge.
"It's very difficult to play a football match where only one team wants to play. It's very difficult,” Mourinho said. "A football match is about two teams playing and this match was only one team playing and another team not playing.”
Mourinho’s comments were peculiar, considering Chelsea’s negative approach on their travels to Manchester United and Arsenal earlier in the season, and a daunting trip to the Ethiad Stadium wasn't enticing. The Portuguese manager’s 4-3-3 emphasized that he’d likely replicate previous performances, with Ramires joining Nemanja Matic and David Luiz in midfield, while the inclusion of Willian and Eden Hazard meant Oscar started the match on the bench.
The match, however, was fairly open — Mourinho’s approach provided a hint of pragmatism, opposed to the reactive display many expected.
Manchester City was forced to play Martin Demichelis in midfield alongside Yaya Toure, as Fernandinho was sidelined with a muscle strain. With Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri watching in the stands, David Silva was once again City’s main source of creativity. Alvaro Negredo — who didn’t look match fit — and Eden Dzeko dropped deep, and drifted into wide areas in hopes of pulling Chelsea’s backline out of position, but Mourinho’s men stuck to their task.
Silva drifted infield looking for space between the lines to receive the ball, but Chelsea’s narrow midfield trio maintained a compact shape. Luiz and Matic alternated between closing down Toure and Silva, and the City duo received minimal space to attack. 
”We defended very well and we very compact. The victory was only possible because Petr made a couple of fantastic saves, because the defensive players played so well, because the midfield players worked so hard, and it was only possible because the attacking players were giving a great contribution,” Mourinho said.
City consistently attempted to overload Cesar Azpilicueta, with Pablo Zabaleta pushing forward, while Silva and a City striker moved towards the right flank — but Matic and Gary Cahill admirably blocked and cleared every attempt that came their way. Likewise, the left flank was vacant — with Ramires and Silva tucked in centrally, Aleksandar Kolarov and Branislav Ivanovic continuously surged forward.
City’s best chances were created down the left-flank — Kolarov’s ball in the six-yard box was nearly directed on net by Toure. Later, Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic and Kolarov combined, before the Serbian left-back's cutback pass to Silva was placed inches wide of the net. Ivanovic, however, didn’t offer much down the right, but he often pegged Kolarov into his own half. Nevertheless, his powerful left-footed half-volley — following a nifty Chelsea move — gave the Blues a deserved lead.
The main talking point was the inclusion of Demichelis in midfield. Despite completing a match-high seven tackles, whilst maintaining a 90 percent pass completion rate, the Argentinian was constantly bypassed in midfield by the pace and trickery of Hazard and Willian. Chelsea posed a threat on the counter attack, as Hazard effortlessly evaded challenges, while Willian’s powerful running was unmatchable.
Willian received a ball from Matic on the break, thus creating a 4v1 situation, and the Brazilian played in his countryman Ramires, but the midfielder's shot was saved by Joe Hart. Subsequently, Hazard drifted past Zabaleta, and provided a venomous ball across the box – but Eto’o smashed the Belgian’s delivery off the crossbar. While the duo of Hazard and Willian were imperious in attack, Mourinho ensured that their work-rate without the ball was identical. Willian tirelessly pressed Demichelis and Toure in central positions, and Hazard limited Zabaleta’s threat from right back.
Pellegrini’s pushed forward relentlessly in the second half, but encountered the same issues. Toure pushed higher up the pitch, leaving the feeble Demichelis to protect the back four, and Jovetic’s introduction left Dzeko alone upfront, deprived of service.
Still, it was Chelsea initiating all the problems, as Hazard continuously slithered past challenges, and Matic slowly grew into the match. The Serbian midfielder's powerful forward runs tormented City's backline, and his dexterous passes ignited Chelsea attacks. Matic and Gary Cahill rattled the post in the second half, while Silva and Jovetic forced Petr Cech to make key saves in the latter stages of the match.
“We lost today against a good team who played well and I thought we deserved at least a draw but they had the luck to win it,” Manuel Pellegrini said. “They scored a beautiful goal, not an easy goal, he hit it from a long way out with the outside of his foot but before their goal we had clear chances to score, so I don’t there was a problem with the way we played.”
Although Mourinho was keen on downplaying Chelsea’s title challenge, the Portuguese manager praised his side’s terrific performance."I think we played fantastic, against a fantastic team. To play the way we did, I think is amazing for the boys in this process of building the team and prepare the team to be one of the favourites next season."
This was a tactical master class of the finest order that indicates that Mourinho’s evolution is headed in the right direction. Chelsea’s display was a valiant team effort, showcasing defensive solidity, high-octane counter attacks, and instills belief that Mourinho could do the impossible — win the Premier League title.
More about Jose mourinho, Manchester city, Chelsea, branislav ivanovic, eden hazard
 
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