Chelsea 1 Stoke City 0: Oscar FA Cup performance hints the past doesn’t matter

Brazilian starred in the Blues' first post-Mata fixture

Stamford Bridge

If this was the first game of the “Two Amigos” era at Stamford Bridge it was not a bad start. This was post-Juan Mata Chelsea, unimaginable last year, but here, in an impressive deconstruction of Stoke City, making perfect sense.

The trio of Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard was meant to be the basis for a decade of Chelsea teams, and last year looked like it might well be. Mata seemed to be Rafael Benitez’s favourite, his subtle brush-strokes helping to save Chelsea’s season and win them the Europa League last May.

Few would have thought he might be sold in January, and to a rival. But Jose Mourinho has never been one for conventional wisdom and he decided that Oscar and Hazard would be the rocks on which he built his Chelsea team. The football he wants to play is punchy and explosive. Oscar and Hazard, as they showed again, are the perfect men for this. Mata, for all his delicacy and imagination, was not.

It was no surprise that Oscar and Hazard started on Sunday, even with the prospect of a Premier League game against West Ham United on Wednesday night before Manchester City away a week today. This was Oscar’s 24th start of the season and Hazard’s 26th – of outfield players only Ramires, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic have started more.

When Mourinho talks about his “boys”, these are the most important two, who represent him on the pitch twice a week. They provide imagination and technical excellence, while offering a relentless scurry and a burst of power Mata seemed to lack.

 

Oscar was the matchwinner on Sunday, making it very clear from the start that this was a game he was in charge of. His eye for a pass is almost as good as Mata’s and he made early openings for Hazard and André Schürrle. They were not taken, so he got it done himself.

Standing over a free-kick 25 yards out, slightly to the right of centre, Oscar shaped as if to bend the ball into his nearer top corner, to Asmir Begovic’s left. The Stoke goalkeeper stepped that way but Oscar whipped it into the far corner, not very far away from Begovic but with so much bend and pace he had no chance of reversing his momentum.

That was brilliant and  minutes later Oscar nearly added a similarly good second. Taking a brisk reverse pass from Hazard – each always knows where the other one is – he threw Marc Wilson off the scent with a stepover before driving a shot against the post.

Oscar was just as influential in the second half, setting up chances for Schürrle and Samuel Eto’o that should have been taken while nearly adding another of his own, an instinctive first-time clip which did not quite curl back in far enough.

Hazard was a menace throughout and, with better luck, could have set up two or three for his team-mates. In the first half incisive passes made chances for Eto’o, Oscar and Frank Lampard. In the second half he showed again his unique mix of acceleration, balance and control, burning past two tackles in the box before providing a cross which Ramires and Eto’o both somehow failed to convert.

One goal was enough to get Chelsea into the next round but the performance was better than that. This team is a work in progress but the plan is clear. Not everyone can be part of it, but those who are certainly deserve to be.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices