Curbishley's fire-fighting proves Chelsea are mortal. But how did he do it, and can others?

Charlton matched Jose Mourinho's side physically and, vitally, tactically. Sam Wallace analyses lessons learned
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"My players are human beings," Mourinho explained, "and human beings can make mistakes." The statistics will tell him that, before Robert Huth missed the crucial penalty, Chelsea had almost twice as many shots, double the corners, 52 per cent of the possession and conceded four fewer fouls. What history will record, however, is that after 36 games unbeaten at Stamford Bridge for Mourinho, Curbishley has made one of the most significant recent advances in football management: a strategy for beating the champions on their home ground.

1: Predict the Chelsea team correctly

Mourinho has a full-time scout to keep tabs on future opposition and the six-page dossier that Andre Villas Boas prepares for each Chelsea player, for each match, is delivered two days before every game. Curbishley relied on old-fashioned managerial deduction. "I guessed Chelsea's line-up right," the Charlton manager said, "although I have to admit I didn't expect to see Frank Lampard on the bench."

2: Play the same way as Chelsea

Mourinho prefers 4-5-1, with one player protecting the back four and, on Wednesday night, Curbishley matched him man-for-man. The three in the centre of his midfield - Matt Holland, Danny Murphy and Darren Ambrose - were excellent, especially the former Liverpool midfielder, but most credit should go the 21-year-old Darren Bent in attack.

For a player who had only five Premiership appearances before this season, Bent interpreted the role of the lone striker perfectly. He chased down Chelsea's back four and when he was given his one chance of the game, finished with a flourish. Michael Essien was moved to Claude Makelele's defensive role and the limitation that placed on his forward runs benefited Charlton.

3: Stop Mourinho from switching formations

It's a ploy that the Chelsea manager used to devastating effect against Bolton this month when he substituted his left-back Asier del Horno at half-time and changed to 3-5-2 in order to break down the opposition. He did the same after an hour on Wednesday night, bringing off Wayne Bridge for Lampard and pushing Eidur Gudjohnsen from midfield into attack.

Curbishley's reaction was brilliant. Four minutes later he brought on the fresh legs of Jerome Thomas, an attacking left-winger, to put pressure on Chelsea's right-flank - from where Paulo Ferreira had been moved inside to help out John Terry and Huth. As the fourth official punched in the number, Mourinho saw the danger and moved Geremi back to right-back to cover - Chelsea were back to a 4-4-2 formation.

4: React to Mourinho's substitutions

The Chelsea manager never makes a change without good reason and so often he does so as a way to seize the initiative. He brought on Lampard and Joe Cole with 30 minutes remaining and Curbishley matched him with two attacking players of his own in Jay Bothroyd and Thomas. Rather than adopt a defensive pose and play for penalties, Charlton showed they believed they had just as much chance of winning the game.

5: Don't try to intimidate them

So many have attempted to go to war with the Premiership champions and lost. "If [James] Beattie or anyone else thinks that by coming and battling and trying to bully us they can get anywhere, the message is clear: 'We're up for it!'" said Terry in his programme notes. "We can take anyone on in a physical battle and we'll win." Charlton were not as blatant as Everton on Sunday in their attempts to rough up Mourinho's side although they were solid when they needed to be. Hermann Hreidarsson and Talal El Karkouri were impressive in defence.

6: Don't let them intimidate you

Mourinho's staff in the Chelsea dug-out can be an intimidating mob at times when assistants Baltemar Brito and Silvinho Louro take their place alongside their boss, but Mervyn Day, Curbishley's coach, was equal to them. When he wasn't taking instructions from the Charlton manager on his mobile phone Day urged on his players and petitioned the referee as much as the home side.

As the two teams gathered in the centre circle for the penalty shoot-out, Mourinho made a point of shaking the hands of the match officials. In the meantime, Day wandered over to the Chelsea team to shake Terry's hand confidently as he gathered his team-mates together for the penalties.

7: Believe that even Chelsea can occasionally get it wrong

In the programme, Didier Drogba described how much he liked playing in goal during training and he was unequivocal about who took the best penalties at the club: Huth.