LONDON — Deep into stoppage time on Saturday, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho stood on the edge of his technical area gesticulating more in hope than anything else.
His Chelsea side had battled hard against an extremely talented Everton team, and with 92 minutes gone the score was locked at 0-0.
Then Frank Lampard swung in a dipping free kick that John Terry looked to have got a touch on, as U.S. international Tim Howard saw the ball ricochet off his leg and into the back of the net to break Everton’s hearts. Stamford Bridge erupted, Terry and Chelsea’s players wheeled away in jubilation and Mourinho punched the air with delight.
Moments like those win you the Premier League title.
More than that, consistently excellent defensive displays will get you over the line as Chelsea continued to grind out wins and stay top of the standings.
Saturday’s late 1-0 win was Chelsea’s fifth clean sheet in their last six games and stretched Mourinho’s unbeaten home record in the PL to 74 games. While failing to play up the confidence boost a last-minute strike will give his side in the title race, Mourinho lauded yet another top defensive display.
“The team showed big stability, it was another great defensive performance by the whole team,” Mourinho said. “It was the work of everybody, the team is strong defensively. The defensive organization is really strong.”
Chelsea skipper Terry returned to the team after missing three games through injury, and the crucial goal was later awarded to Terry, although it is likely to be examined by the dubious goals panel, as the fans favorite came up with the goods at both ends of the field.
Throughout the match Terry and his central defensive partner Gary Cahill look composed and solid. They both blocked superbly in the first half, as Chelsea’s league best defense looked impenetrable for most of the match as Cech only had one top save to make from Osman’s rasping long-range effort in the first half. Across the board Chelsea’s defense threw themselves into the action and really rolled up their sleeves, as they have done for much of the season.
Chelsea’s captain has been instrumental for a team that’s only conceded 21 goals all season but Mourinho waxed lyrical about his entire defense.
“It is not just about John Terry, because the back four all defended superbly,” Mourinho said. “When you have your captain, your voice, he brings complete stability. Terry has a good partnership with Cahill. It was good, we missed him after he has been out for three games.”
So, what does this late win mean for Chelsea’s title charge?
Mourinho is adamant his team will keep fighting to stay top, and believes every slip up will be punished by those the chasing pack. This is far from over.
“Today if we only have one point, if the teams behind us win, we lose that position,” Mourinho said. “The difference is very small, you win the game you keep the position. You lose the game you lose your position. This is the reality. We just want to try to keep the position. Not to give anything for free to our opponents, the position that is our position. We have to fight, we have to play. To me the better feeling was that the players did everything, the team wanted to win. We were the team that was really trying to win. A point for us is not good. I think we deserved to win.”
After yet another defiant defensive display and a late surge to score, Chelsea keep getting it done the same way. Grinding out wins is the stuff of Champions.