Thursday 21 September 2017

Mourinho irate as Torres red spoils Blues' rally

TOTTENHAM 1 CHELSEA 1

John Terry celebrates scoring Chelsea’s equaliser against Tottenham at White Hart Lane yesterday
John Terry celebrates scoring Chelsea’s equaliser against Tottenham at White Hart Lane yesterday

Dion Fanning at White Hart Lane

"The attention shouldn't be drawn to the managers," Andre Villas-Boas said at the end of an engrossing draw at White Hart Lane, "it should be drawn to the game."

The Premier League thrives partly because of the characters and ludicrous sub-plots created parallel to the actual football, but the attempt to portray the cooling of a friendship between two men as football's equivalent of the split between Lennon and McCartney always seemed like a bit of a reach.

AVB's comments about Mourinho last week couldn't be compared to 'How Do You Sleep?' no matter how much we wanted them to herald the start of another poisonous rivalry.

Before the game, photographers were poised to capture the moment the two met. It was just the latest handshake controversy but a distancing of a friendship due to coaching differences couldn't really compare with previous handshake-related blood feuds founded on racial abuse or allegedly sleeping with a team-mate's ex-girlfriend.

The game provided the plots and sub-plots, establishing that both teams will compete in this open title race. Both managers were happy in the end but Mourinho claimed that if Fernando Torres hadn't been unjustly sent off after he challenged Jan Vertonghen in the air and Vertonghen collapsed as if dangerously wounded, Chelsea would have won.

Tottenham had been superb in the first half. They played with pace, skill and nous. Andros Townsend dominated Ashley Cole on the right, Christian Eriksen glided in midfield and Vertonghen controlled things at the back.

Chelsea were rattled. On the bench, Mourinho and his assistants complained about the treatment of Eden Hazard but it was the least of their problems, especially after a flowing Spurs move had ended with Gylfi Sigurdsson giving AVB's side the lead.

Yet as they complained they found their purpose. On the field, Chelsea began to break up the play, taking the momentum out of Tottenham's attacks and threatening from a couple of set-pieces in the first half. If Paulinho's shot just before half-time had gone in rather than hitting the post then Juan Mata might not have been able to save Chelsea.

Mourinho had started with Mata on the bench but his second half performance was so convincing that Chelsea's manager announced that Mata would start against Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday night.

"This is the way players have to say 'I want to play'," Mourinho said. "Blah, blah, blah is not good. Conversations with the media is not good. The agents blah, blah, blah behind is not good. Good is this."

Before Mata arrived, Chelsea struggled to work out if they were a counter-attacking side or the new, remodelled offensive team and Spurs exploited their hesitancy.

The opening goal showcased Eriksen's talent as he glided away from Frank Lampard and played the ball across the box to Roberto Soldado. His touch was heavy and he went to retrieve the ball but Sigurdsson picked it up, evaded John Terry's lunge and lifted the ball over Petr Cech.

Mata's arrival changed things and Chelsea began to control the game and look like a Mourinho side. "It is always a Jose Mourinho team. In the first half, it was also a Jose Mourinho team. I never run away from my team. But in the second half, we played very, very well. We played with everything."

Spurs might be alarmed at how their players dropped off. Eriksen struggled, Townsend was withdrawn for tactical reasons and only Vertonghen remained, primarily covering for the errors of Michael Dawson, but also engaged in his tussle with Torres.

Torres was moodily brilliant all day. Running through the Spurs defence one minute, then booked after a foul on Vertonghen, but he might have been dismissed if the referee had seen him clawing at the defender's nose. Vertonghen was then booked for a heavy tackle on Ramires. Mata made it count with Terry heading in his free-kick.

Chelsea were rampant; then Torres and Vertonghen tangled and the striker got his second yellow. On the sideline, Mourinho called it "a f***ing disgrace". Afterwards he questioned Vertonghen, claimed he should have been suspended after his foul on Nicklas Helenius in midweek – "He's a special guy. He left the Aston Villa striker naked and it was not a red card" – and wondered if he understood the values of the country Mourinho loves. Vertonghen had denied Chelsea victory but he had also denied the people of England the values they love. "This is England," he said.

The game had established that both sides will be competitive and both sides could feel satisfied. Mourinho wanted to establish something else; he wanted to take a stand against diving.

"Maybe I'm old fashioned and I'm one of the last that cares. I'm not English but I love this football country. One of the things that people really like is the relationship between opponents. Maybe I'm old fashioned but I will die like this."

Mourinho will die telling the story he wants to hear.

Sunday Independent

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