Chelsea 1 Wigan Athletic 0: Robben row lurks behind the mask of Mourinho

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The Independent Football

By the Chelsea manager's hypothesis his Wigan counterpart achieved his aim as most of the Sunday prints focused on their verbal spat rather than Wigan's fourth successive defeat. However, Mourinho, who has said he never goes into a press conference without having schemed how to manipulate it, might admit sometimes even a winning manager wants to create a smokescreen.

Thus Mourinho ratcheted up the row. Jewell's complaint was that Chelsea had not given the ball back after Wigan kicked the ball out of play so Lee McCulloch could receive treatment. Mourinho, using the emotive word "cheating", which has cost him a fine in the past, said this was on his direct orders as the Scot was faking injury.

So no one asked him why Arjen Robben had been hauled off before the hour. With Damien Duff having been withdrawn with an Achilles injury, and Shaun Wright-Phillips absent, Robben was the only authentic winger available to a Chelsea side struggling to break Wigan's resistance. Yet off he came. With Eidur Gudjohnsen coming on to play in the middle, Asier Del Horno, the left-back, was asked to push up on the flank in Robben's stead.

It was not exactly a vote of confidence in a player who, troubled by injury, has struggled to recapture last season's scintillating form and fell foul of Mourinho's control freakery when quoted suggesting he may leave Stamford Bridge. Even though Robben responded in the programme by claiming these tales had been invented he clearly remains out of favour. With Duff's form also fitful, and Wright-Phillips so far just a bit-player, Mourinho's 4-3-3 system would appear to be suffering from clipped wings.

But his Chelsea team are adaptable. John Terry made the point after the match that they had done a lot of work, pre-season, on different formations and this preparation has been given a further dimension by Joe Cole's growth into a serious player. Yesterday Cole began in midfield - nominally as Frank Lampard's partner ahead of the anchor, Michael Essien, but in reality playing between the lines as a support striker. Covering the whole width of the pitch he saw a lot of possession and, but for a fine save by Mike Pollitt, would have put Chelsea ahead after 14 minutes.

The only time the champions came closer in a tight first half followed a foul on Cole, Leighton Baines magnificently clearing Hernan Crespo's glancing header off the line from the resultant free-kick.

If Cole was Plan B, Plan C rang a few bells with anyone who remembered Dave Bassett's Wimbledon as Didier Drogba arrived to partner Crespo. With Wigan hanging on, Robert Huth, the hulking centre-half who appears for Mourinho only when aerial combat is required, was warming up to join them when John Terry finally broke the resistance. Eluding McCulloch, he met Lampard's corner with a thumping header. Given that McCulloch had rugby-tackled Terry to the ground at a first-half corner justice had been served.

Jewell was happy enough, his team having showed a return to the disciplined football which has served them well this season. They have shown they have the capability to survive and prosper in the Premiership and that should ensure greater success when he re-enters the transfer market.

As for Mourinho's outburst: given his comments after last season's defeats in Barcelona and Liverpool it was rank hypocrisy. Like his team, with its combination of Cole and Drogba, of dribbling and route one, the Chelsea manager is a curious mixture of style and gracelessness.

Goal: Terry (67) 1-0.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho, Terry, Del Horno; Lampard, Essien, J Cole; Robben (Gudjohnsen, 59), Crespo (Geremi, 69), Duff (Drogba, h-t). Substitutes not used: Cech (gk), Huth.

Wigan (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz, Jackson, Baines; Taylor (Teale, 79), Skoko, Kavanagh (Bullard, 73), McCulloch; Connolly, Roberts (Camara, 73). Substitutes not used: Walsh (gk), Francis.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

Booked: Chelsea Ricardo Carvalho; Wigan Roberts.

Man of the match: Terry.

Attendance: 42,060.

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