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
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam