Jose Mourinho believes Didier Drogba’s dynamic display in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Tottenham proved the Premier League leaders have the strength in depth to last the pace in the title race.
Mourinho’s side maintained their six-point lead at the top of the table thanks to a throwback performance from Ivory Coast striker Drogba, who scored his fifth goal of the season at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to make the absence of suspended leading scorer Diego Costa a mere footnote.
Drogba, 36, showed there is still plenty of life in his ageing legs by laying on Eden Hazard’s 19th minute opener, then netting with a clinical finish in the 23rd minute before substitute Loic Remy’s fine finish in the 73rd minute sealed Chelsea’s seventh successive home win.
Even Mourinho, who brought Drogba to west London from Marseille for his first spell with the club in 2004, was moved to single out the Blues legend for special praise after a performance which showed Chelsea should have enough firepower in reserve if the injury-prone Costa falters.
“Yes, it is remarkable. Didier is a team player, one of these with an old school mentality. Not selfish, not vain, a humble guy who plays for the team, fights for the team. Fantastic,” Mourinho said.
“When he is on the bench and comes on for the last few minutes to help the team defend, he does that with the same enthusiasm as when he starts a game against Tottenham.
“We played against him when he was at Galatasaray last season so I could feel the kind of potential he still has and I was expecting exactly this, with not even a doubt about a player who is not playing every game. I knew he would adapt very well mentally to his role.”
– Inspirational Drogba –
Thanks to Drogba’s inspirational efforts, Chelsea have equalled a club record, set previously in 2007 and again in 2009, by extending their unbeaten run to 23 matches in all competitions — 21 this term and two games at the end of last season.
They have also matched the club’s record unbeaten start to a league season of 14 games without defeat set in the second tier in 1925-26.
Mourinho puts his team’s scintillating form down to their refusal to look for excuses when they are hit by bad luck or injuries and suspensions.
“We need him (Costa) but we have the right mentality. If we don’t have a player we don’t cry about it,” Mourinho said.
“(Nemanja) Matic is suspended for the Newcastle game on Saturday? No problem. Did you remember Diego Costa today? I didn’t.
“We give confidence to the players and they respond in the best way.
“We were able to face a difficult moment against Tottenham, be stable, score the goals and then manage the game.”
After winning their previous three matches, this was a reality check for Tottenham and their boss Mauricio Pochettino acknowledged his side had paid the price for failing to turn their early pressure into goals.
Harry Kane twice went close, firing narrowly wide and then hitting the bar with a header, but Tottenham crumbled at the back to leave them without a win at Stamford Bridge in 28 matches since 1990.
“We started very well and made some chances, but they scored with their first chance and the game changed. That is the difference,” Pochettino said.
“I’m very disappointed with the result because 3-0 is harsh but we can take some positives. We were very brave at the start.
“If we scored when Kane hit the bar then the game changes, but we were playing a very good team.
“Our history here is difficult but we came here with the idea to take three points.
“That was our intention in the beginning, but in football it’s hard to manage the luck.”