It was a lot more anxious than it should have been for Jose Mourinho, watching his side defeat a Swansea City team who, all things considered, should have been disposed off long before Chelsea went into an anxious four minutes of injury-time pressure at the end.
“They kill me,” Mourinho said of his own players. “Every game. I’m tired”. He also lavished praise on his team but the problem is the same: Chelsea are incapable of killing off games because they do not have a goalscorer to complete the job. Today it was Samuel Eto’o who spent the afternoon affecting disbelief after a series of missed chances, but it might just have been Fernando Torres or the lesser-spotted Demba Ba.
Between them, the three strikers have scored just five league goals in a collective 17 starts – Mourinho picked none of them for the trip to Old Trafford in August. Eto’o scored none of the three chances that were created for him against Swansea and it is impossible not to consider where this Chelsea side might be with a striker who had even got into double-figures by now.
Instead, the goals must come from elsewhere, on this occasion from Eden Hazard who scored on 30 minutes in a period of pressure for the home side that should have yielded more. Mourinho complained that the Belgian winger should also have had a penalty after a challenge by Jordi Amat in the second half although there was little fuss from his players at the time.
The criticism from Mourinho was that Hazard was swept off his feet by a “scissor” action from Amat that took the player’s legs away from under him while also making contact with the ball. “Big scissors in the box,” he said. “Hazard touched the ball, the full-back doesn't. A big penalty. It's the kind of managers will cry about for two hours. I just say it was a big penalty.”
As for Eto’o, the tale of woe was extensive. The Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel, at fault for Hazard’s goal, did well to save when Juan Mata’s ball over the top put the Chelsea striker free. Then, in the first minute of the second half, Eto’o was six yards out when he met Mata’s cross but had his shot saved by Tremmel again. The striker dragged another wide five minutes later when Hazard found him in space.
Fortunately for Chelsea, they can rely upon a defence that, changed again in terms of personnel, showed no signs of buckling. Ashley Cole was back in the side in the league for the first time since 2 November. David Luiz replaced Gary Cahill and those two were resolute, especially as the team fell back in the closing stages.
“Time goes on, we don’t score a second goal, and the opponent believes and risks a bit more,” Mourinho said. “They put on a second striker, and you are in a bit of trouble. You don't score, you finish feeling you are going to concede. But the boys worked hard and had control of the game. A deserved victory. An important victory.”
For Michael Laudrup, the result only increases the significance of the Aston Villa game on Saturday. Swansea have ten points from their last ten games and, in 11th place, are still just four points off the relegation zone. “To take the positive things today into the next game, we'll need a positive result up there,” Laudrup said. “Otherwise you don't use that positivity from this game.”
It was a slow start from Cole who had not directed play forward enough for Mourinho’s liking in the early stages and the Chelsea manager had gone through his usual repertoire of dismissive hand gestures followed by behind-the-hand muttering to his bench.
The goal for Hazard, however, sprung from a perceptive interception from Cole and a quick ball up the line to the Belgian who cut inside on his right foot to shoot. His strike was firm but should never have been enough to beat Tremmel who was partially unsighted by a defender crossing his path.
Two minutes later, Petr Cech did well to save from Alvaro Vazquez, who played alone in attack for Laudrup’s side. “We didn't miss,” Mourinho said, reflecting later on the game, “the goalkeeper made fantastic saves.” He went on to offer up another excuse for Eto’o but he must see what everyone else does, that this is a team in need of a goalscorer.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Mata (Schurrle, 72), Oscar (Lampard, 67), Hazard (Willian, 82); Eto’o.
Substitutes not used: Schwarzer (gk), Torres, Cahill, Azpilicueta.
Swansea (4-2-3-1): Tremmel; Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor; Canas (De Guzman, 61), Britton; Pozuelo, Shelvey, Routledge (Bony, 76); Vazquez.
Substitutes not used: Zabret (gk), Flores, Hernandez, Tiendalli, Davies.
Referee: M Jones
Man of the match: Hazard (Chelsea)
Match rating: 5
Booked: Ramires (Chelsea)