Jose Mourinho doesn’t get many stress-free afternoons. His hair might be back to black were life like this every week. Even Jon Obi Mikel troubled the scorers, netting his fourth goal in 300 games as Chelsea administered some Premier League shock treatment to a team chasing promotion from the Championship.
Steve McClaren will keep Derby’s foot to the floor, of course. He did not need this lesson in football fundamentals to comprehend the scale of the task should they maintain their upward trajectory towards nirvana.
Two goals in five minutes after the break, the first a glancing header by Mikel from Willian’s free-kick, the second a typically audacious effort from Oscar, dipping his shoulder and letting fly from the right side of the area, were poor reward for the possession Chelsea enjoyed.
Mourinho knows that story. He spent the first half in a stony vigil at pitchside watching his team butcher what opportunities they fashioned. Samuel Eto’o in deceleration mode is some sight. Put clean through by Mikel the former Cameroon Express stumbled towards goal like a pub player, finally being bumped off the ball by the late-arriving Andre Wisdom.
He was not the only offender. Chelsea should have been three to the good but the ball fell to Fernando Torres, a second-half substitute for Eto’o. Talk about like for like. Torres was through on goal then tackled by the goalkeeper. Hopeless.
That Derby’s goal was a coconut shy in the second half was not surprising. When Mourinho sought a change of gear he snapped his fingers and onto the pitch stepped substitutions to the value of £82m. You could buy half the Peak District for that.
Willian and Oscar were a class above in the Chelsea midfield and then some. David Luiz, too, breaking out of defence to detonate attack after attack. For Derby, 18-year-old prospect Will Hughes looked like a sixth former who had wandered onto the wrong pitch. His midfield sidekick Jeff Hendrick was, in contrast, exceptional.
“We played against one of the best teams not just in the Premier League but in Europe. Sometimes you can’t get near,” McClaren said. “Started well, finished well. We just had a five-minute spell for the two goals.
“Willian put in a great delivery for the first. You can’t do much about the second,” he added. “Today was about how far we have come and how far we can go. You don’t get this quality every week in the Championship. Apart from the result I could not be more delighted.
“We have 22 games left. The players have set the standard. The fans and the players expect that every week now. This is where we want to be, playing sides like this every week. Playing in front of a 32,000-packed arena takes me back to the days I was here with Jim Smith. The players said in the dressing room, they want more of this.”
Mourinho wished McClaren well and said he hoped to see him here again next year in the league. “I’m not an expert on the Championship but Steve is doing a very good job, already in a play-off position and in a good place to get promotion,” he said. “It was difficult. In the first half we didn’t play bad but 0-0. At half-time that is a big risk. They got the message that in the second half we needed extra intensity. We played seriously. Job done against a good Championship team. The players respected their opponents. We did not need a second game.”
The only blot on the landscape was the dive by Ramires in the second half. Having cut inside Michael Keane, the Brazilian threw himself to the deck with no hope of maintaining control of the ball. Andre Marriner reached straight for the yellow card. How long before red is the preferred sanction for the offence? Maybe then the cancer can be cut from the game.
Mourinho, who condemned Luis Suarez for the same offence a week ago, made no attempt to defend his player. “If the referee was there and he decided, that is good. We are all fighting against it. I will talk to Ramires. My worry is what is happening in other leagues and cultures. I know that English teams will suffer in the Champions League and Europa League. Of this I’m certain. Here we have top referees. We are trying to attack it and they are supporting it.”
McClaren erred on the side of diplomacy. “It was slippy. Maybe he just fell over,” the Derby manager said.
Derby (4-1-4-1) Grant 7, Forsyth, 7 Buxton, 7, Wisdon 6, Keane 6; Eustace 7 (Sammon, 71); Ward 6 (Bennett, 71), Hendrick 8, Hughes 5, Dawkins 7 (Bailey, 82); Martin 7
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Schwarzer 6, Cole 6, Luiz 8, Cahill 7, Azpilicueta 7; Essien 6 (Hazard, 54), Mikel 7; Oscar 8 (Baker, 87), Willian 8, Ramires 7; Eto’o 5 (Torres, 63)
Match rating: 7/10
Man of the match: Oscar
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