Premiership teams should be forced to play FA Cup ties at the ground of lower division opponents regardless of whether they are drawn at home or not, Jose Mourinho said. "I have a personal opinion about cups," the Chelsea manager explained after his side's unconvincing - yet inevitable - victory over League Two club Scunthorpe United at Stamford Bridge.
"The Premiership team in the cup should always play in the stadium of the lower division team. You can imagine this game in Scunthorpe and maybe we lose. It would give them a bigger chance of winning."
Indeed so. But maybe they would have, as amazing as it sounds, lost on Saturday had the visitors - who struck the woodwork and missed four other chances - received a modicum of luck. Instead, they succumbed to a deflected goal, an own-goal and a strike with just four minutes to go as they poured forward. "They came here with a team to win," said Mourinho who, himself, fielded a lopsided, makeshift side which included two or maybe three first-team choices, two debutants plus players out of position and in Alexei Smertin, a midfielder uncomfortable in defence.
"They [Scunthorpe] didn't just come here to enjoy the stadium, the opponents... I can imagine their stadium is small," said the man who has not visited Glanford Park, with its average attendance of 3,840, "so it might be a problem to have a team such as Chelsea there." However, Mourinho, crucially, added: "Maybe if I had to play at Scunthorpe I would play with a better team because I would be afraid of losing." That statement in itself should provide food for thought for the powers-that-be.
The Chelsea manager wandered into the visitors' dressing-room afterwards to present the collection of free-transfer players and trainees with the four-page scouting report compiled by himself and his "chief spy", Andre Villas Boas. "They scored," said Mourinho, "so maybe he [Scunthorpe's manager, Brian Laws] can give me their report."
For such a devotee of statistics, as Mourinho is, it will not have gone unnoticed that Scunthorpe acquired 58 per cent of possession, forced seven corners to Chelsea's four and, according to Laws, "detected a weakness at Chelsea's defending of the back post".
Indeed, Laws' side achieved what no Premiership side had done in Chelsea's last five matches. They scored. In doing so they became only the fourth side to manage a goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge all season - and they did so inside eight tumultuous minutes. It came as Paul Hayes - the 21-year-old brother of the former Arsenal player, Martin - nimbly turned Smertin and drilled a low shot between Carlo Cudicini's legs. At first the 6,000 Scunthorpe fans, behind that goal, representing a 10th of the steel town's population, reacted in stunned disbelief. Then they erupted.
Chelsea drew level when Mateja Kezman's volley deflected in off the Scunthorpe captain, Andy Crosby, and went ahead just before the hour when the central defender, cruelly, turned the ball into his own net from Didier Drogba's low cross. Before then Scunthorpe had threatened with two headers by Andy Butler and a shot from Ian Baraclough. Chelsea, for once, were never in control. Scunthorpe's substitute Cleveland Taylor hit a low volley which provoked a fine save from Cudicini before thudding a header against a post. Butler came close again, volleying into the side-netting before Eidur Gudjohnsen blasted in a late third.
Afterwards Laws spoke of his pride and disappointment - and the nerves he rightly detected in Chelsea's play. Mourinho shrugged that off. Once more his team has progressed. But he will not forget Scunthorpe in a hurry. Even if he didn't go there.
Goals: Hayes (8) 0-1; Kezman (26) 1-1; Crosby og (58) 2-1; Gudjohnsen (86) 3-1
Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cudicini; Johnson, Watt, Smertin, Morais; Tiago; Geremi (Ferreira, 69), Cole; Gudjohnsen; Kezman (Robben, 81), Drogba (Jarosik, 68). Substitutes not used: Pidgeley (gk) Grant.
Scunthorpe United (4-4-2): Musselwhite; Byrne, Crosby, Butler, Ridley; Sparrow, Baraclough, Kell, Beagrie (Williams, 90); Hayes, Rankine (Taylor, 68). Substitutes not used: Evans (gk), Jackson, Parton.
Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).
Booked: Chelsea: Geremi.
Man of the match: Butler.
Attendance: 40,019.Reuse content