Ba keeps Mourinho's artisans in touch with Rodgers' artists
Swansea City 0 Chelsea 1
Jose Mourinho has been cast as the villain on plenty of occasions during his successful career. So the Chelsea manager will have no problem trying to ruin Liverpool's Premier League dream.
After Liverpool had secured another thrilling victory that sent them clear of Manchester City and underlined their status as this season's great entertainers, Chelsea produced a classic Mourinho response to keep themselves in the title race. There was controversy, effort, determination and a never-say-die attitude.
What Chelsea lack in style under Mourinho, they make up for in substance. Just a week ago, it would have been easy to forget Demba Ba existed but he has been Chelsea's unlikely hero twice in the space of six days to keep their season alive.
Having rescued Chelsea's Champions League hopes with a late goal against Paris St-Germain, Ba was on target again at the Liberty Stadium to secure a narrow win over 10-man Swansea.
It was not a performance or result that screamed 'title winners', but it kept Chelsea only two points behind Liverpool with a trip to Anfield to come on April 27.
Captain John Terry said: "It feels like a bigger win because of the Liverpool result. We knew about it and it's probably the one we wanted – even though Liverpool are flying.
"The manager said before the game, regardless of the Liverpool result, if we don't win our games then we will make it easy for them. We've won our game and the pressure is still on the teams above and below us."
Glen Johnson may have labelled Liverpool the people's champions, but Mourinho has never been one to worry too much about the thoughts of those outside his immediate circle. The siege mentality has set in at Chelsea. After cancelling his pre-match press conference, Mourinho also decided not to speak after the win.
Asked if Chelsea were bothered by the fact Liverpool believe neutrals are on their side, assistant first-team coach Steve Holland said: "If that's the way Brendan Rodgers wants people to see it, that's fine. What the reality is I'm really not so sure.
"The only important thing is you do everything you can to try to win the championship for your club, your supporters. What everybody else thinks is up to them.
"We've probably got to win all of our games, but we've been facing that task now for a good couple of weeks on the back of our defeat at Crystal Palace."
Ba's start was his first in the league since October 6 and the winning goal was only his fourth in the top flight this season.
It took 68 minutes for him to make the breakthrough and the goal owed more to terrible defending from Swansea than attacking brilliance.
Cesar Azpilicueta's long throw from well inside his own half was not cut out, Nemanja Matic punted the ball forwards and Ba was given too much space by Ashley Williams before firing under the body of goalkeeper Michael Vorm.
"I always believe, even though it's hard when you don't play because your confidence and fitness go down," Ba said. "I just said I would give everything. I never stopped believing. I know the manager always wanted to keep three strikers. I knew I would get the opportunity."
Apart from not worrying about the prospect of spoiling Liverpool's party, Mourinho will not care that Swansea were upset by his perceived influence in the 16th-minute dismissal of Chico Flores.
Two minutes after being booked for a cynical challenge on Willian, Flores upended Andre Schurrle on the left edge of the Swansea penalty area. Referee Phil Dowd took an age before finally showing the defender a second yellow card.
The decision appeared to be the correct one, but Swansea were furious with the protests of Mourinhho to fourth official Robert Madley and the complaints of Terry and Azpilicueta to Dowd.
Dowd clearly took advice in his earpiece from Madley before issuing the second yellow card.
Mohamed Salah had missed a great chance to put Chelsea ahead before the sending off, but the visitors struggled to create chances despite their advantage. Even a half-time switch to a four-man attack, with Samuel Eto'o joining Ba, Salah and Willian, failed to inspire a goal flurry.
Eto'o missed two good chances, but Ba's strike proved to be enough and Mourinho can start to plot how he can trip up Liverpool. No doubt he will use every trick in the book. (© Daily Telegraph, London)