Jose Mourinho: Chelsea had Manchester United’s stars “in our pockets.” Is he right?

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LONDON — Jose Mourinho is the best in the business at grinding out a win.

On Saturday his Chelsea side increased their lead at the top of the Premier League table to 10 points after they beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge following a resolute, composed and ultra-defensive display.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]

Yes, Chelsea were out-played for most of the game and sat back to invite pressure from United but Mourinho insisted in his post-game press conference that letting United play the lead role was the plan all along. Then Eden Hazard delivered the moment of magic which sealed the victory.

“I think the team was fantastic and I am the one who knows how fantastic it was,” Mourinho said. “The game was exactly what we want and when you manage to play the game we want to play, it is fantastic. The game was exactly what we were working for the game to be. The players were magnificent and on top of that Eden [Hazard] had that magic that the top ones have, especially in the big matches. Obviously it was fundamental for us.”

Mourinho also added that “we prepared for it to be like this. It was the game we wanted and expected,” and the went on to claim that Chelsea’s gameplan had work perfectly and wasn’t as difficult as they’d expected it to be.

“It was difficult, but less than you think,” Mourinho said. “Control their direct football to Marouane Fellaini and control the wingers from making crosses on the inside foot. When we know Wayne Rooney plays in midfield, we control his progression into the box. Control set-pieces and don’t give away direct free-kicks as they have three specialists. Wait for a mistake and score a goal. We were able to make their important players disappear. Nobody saw them. They were in our pockets.”

[ RELATED: Van Gaal hails United’s “best match of season” ]

United had 70 percent of possession, 15 shots to Chelsea’s seven and hit the woodwork through Radamel Falcao. Falcao, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney all went close after a mixture of slack shooting and brave blocks from Chelsea’s defense. Mourinho set up his side to thwart United’s attacking impetus and the likes of Fellaini and Mata were certainly nowhere near as influential as they’d been in previous games as the Red Devils’ six-game winning streak came to and end.

Mourinho — who worked under Louis van Gaal at Barcelona from 1997-2000 and considers the Dutchman a close friend — got one over the master, as the apprentice showed that he can shuffle his team and stifle opponents masterfully whenever he wants to. It might not win many plaudits or get people waxing lyrical about the Chelsea side of 2014-15 — even if in the early parts of the season Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and others were ripping it up and playing sensational soccer before the trials and tribulations of fighting for four trophies took its toll on the squad — but these tactics get results. Will any Chelsea fan celebrating their inevitable PL title success on the Kings Road in late May when Mourinho and Co. are waving the trophy off an open top bus really stand there and say “well, this doesn’t feel great. We should have played more attractive soccer.” Of course not.

With Kurt Zouma deployed in the holding role alongside Nemanja Matic, Chelsea completley shut off the area in front of their back four and Fellaini had to drift wider and wider as the game wore on to try and see the ball. Mata was subbed off due to his ineffective display and even though van Gaal believed it was United’s “best match of the season,” they failed to score and Chelsea looked solid and steady to grind out their fourth one-goal win in a row.

source: Getty Images
Chelsea’s players celebrated their win over United like they had won the PL.

It isn’t pretty, but it is championship form. Wins like Saturday, against a top team who are riding high and will no doubt continue their rebuild over the summer and challenge for the PL title next season, are exactly why the Blues will win the league.

Mourinho isn’t letting an air of complacency settle in at Stamford Bridge. That was evident when he was told that captain John Terry had said the league was all but Chelsea’s in a separate interview.

“No, and I am not happy if John said that,” Mourinho barked. “We need eight points to be champion. Football is not about if, it is not about almost. It is about mathematics and when mathematically it is done we celebrate. Until that moment, we need two victories and two draws to be champions.”

Mourinho insisted that despite a lengthy and incredibly jovial celebration from his players at the end of the game, he has not lost focus and will be “ready to work again next week and make the players feel there is still a long way to go.”

Same old Mourinho. Boring or not, his tactical masterclasses get results and away at Arsenal next week expect another stifling display from his side. If every manager could pull off his meticulous attention to defensive detail, then they would have no hesitation in doing so. The dark arts of defending first at all costs continue to get Mourinho and Chelsea results.

La Liga: Real Madrid shocked by Mallorca; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann send Barca top

AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

Eibar 0-3 Barcelona

Lionel Messi goal – check; Luis Suarez goal – check; Antoine Griezmann goal – check; clean sheet – check. If there exists a perfect recipe for a Barcelona victory this season, the Blaugrana put it to good use en route to a fourth straight La Liga victory and top spot in the league table on Saturday.

Griezmann opened the scoring in the 13th minute, followed by Messi in the 58th and Suarez in the 66th. Marc-Andre ter Stegen didn’t have to make a single save as Eibar managed just five shots in the game.

Mallorca 1-0 Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s unbeaten start to the season was snapped at eight games on Saturday, when Los Blancos went to Mallorca and suffered a hugely underwhelming 1-0 defeat. Zinedine Zidane’s side — already without the likes of Gareth Bale (calf), Luka Modric (bruise), Toni Kroos (adductor) and Marco Ascensio (knee), among others — finished the game with 10 men after Alvaro Odriozola earned his second yellow card in the 74th minute. The defeat sees Madrid fall off the top spot, now sitting second behind Barca.

Lago Junior scored the game’s only goal in the 7th minute and Mallorca held on for 83 more, allowing just four shots on target (12 in total). The early goal was Mallorca’s only shot on target over 90 minutes.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Valencia

Atleti coughed up a late lead and settled for a 1-1 draw with Valencia, but the worst news of the day comes in the form of an injury suffered by Joao Felix. The 19-year-old’s ankle buckled underneath him late in the second half. Atleti finished with 10 men after their $140-million superstar was forced off.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Leganes

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Alaves v. Celta Vigo — 6 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad v. Real Betis — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Villarreal — 10 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Sevilla v. Levante — 3 p.m. ET

Haringey Borough abandon FA Cup qualifier after racist abuse

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LONDON (AP) An FA Cup qualifier between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town was abandoned Saturday when the home team walked off the field after one of its players was racially abused.

[ MORE: Analyzing a day of VAR drama in the Premier League ]

Haringey, a London-based non-league club, walked off in the 64th minute after claims its Cameroonian goalkeeper Valery Pajetat had been targeted by racial abuse by visiting fans minutes earlier, when Yeovil took a 1-0 lead from a penalty.

Haringey manager Tom Loizou told BBC Radio 5 Live that defender Coby Rowe was also racially abused, and that “there was no way I could let him continue.”

The match at Coles Park Stadium was in the fourth qualifying round for the FA Cup, with the winner advancing to the first round of the tournament.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased for Pulisic,” praises subs in Chelsea win ]

“The abuse a few of my players got was disgusting,” Loizou said. “Yeovil’s players and manager were different class. Their team tried to calm their supporters down, they tried their best and they supported us. They said, ‘If you’re walking off, we’re walking off with you.’ I took the decision to take my team off and I don’t want Yeovil Town to get punished for it. If we get thrown out of the FA Cup and they go through, there is no hard feelings there.”

The incident comes four days after England’s European Championship qualifier in Bulgaria was stopped twice in the first half as home fans hurled racial abuse at England’s black players. However, England decided to play on and won 6-0.

In a statement on Twitter, the football anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out praised the “swift and decisive action” taken by the Haringey manager Tom Loizou and his players.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund beats leaders Gladbach; Bayern draws

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Another Saturday in the Bundesliga, another nutty set of results allowing a side the chance to claim the top of the league on Sunday.

David Wagner, Weston McKennie and Schalke are the ones licking their lips this time, knowing that a win at Hoffenheim will boost them into first.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased” for Pulisic ]

Wolfsburg remains unbeaten with a draw, and dropped points for Borussia Monchengladbach, RB Leipzig, and Bayern Munich means an absurd nine teams are within two points of the top of the table.

Nine!

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Gladbach’s stay atop the league could last just one match day, as Thorgan Hazard set up Marco Reus for a 58th minute goal and a place one point back of the top.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Hertha Berlin

Josh Sargent’s 7th minute goal didn’t stand up, thanks to Hertha’s electric Dodi Lukebakio scoring with 20 minutes to play. Watch the American striker’s goal, here.

Augsburg 2-2 Bayern Munich

The champions’ stumbles continued, with first minute concession providing a test. Bayern’s red hot pair delivered a lead, with Robert Lewandowski answering in the 14th minute, and Serge Gnabry supplying a 49th minute lead.

Stoppage time was the downfall, though, as Alfred Finnbogason helped himself to the equalizer with all kinds of questions for the Bayern defense.

Elsewhere

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 Bayer Leverkusen — Friday
Union Berlin 2-0 Freiburg
Fortuna Dusseldorf 1-0 Mainz
RB Leipzig 1-1 Wolfsburg
Koln v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Hoffenheim v. Schalke — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Mönchengladbach 8 5 1 2 15 7 8 2-1-1 3-0-1 16
 VfL Wolfsburg 8 4 4 0 11 5 6 2-2-0 2-2-0 16
 Bayern Munich 8 4 3 1 22 10 12 2-1-1 2-2-0 15
 Borussia Dortmund 8 4 3 1 20 11 9 3-1-0 1-2-1 15
 RB Leipzig 8 4 3 1 16 8 8 1-2-1 3-1-0 15
 FC Schalke 04 7 4 2 1 14 7 7 2-1-1 2-1-0 14
 SC Freiburg 8 4 2 2 15 9 6 1-2-1 3-0-1 14
 Eintracht Frankfurt 8 4 2 2 14 10 4 3-2-0 1-0-2 14
 Bayer Leverkusen 8 4 2 2 12 11 1 2-2-0 2-0-2 14
 Hertha BSC Berlin 8 3 2 3 13 13 0 2-0-1 1-2-2 11
 Werder Bremen 8 2 3 3 13 17 -4 1-1-2 1-2-1 9
 1899 Hoffenheim 7 2 2 3 6 11 -5 1-0-2 1-2-1 8
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 8 2 1 5 10 14 -4 1-1-2 1-0-3 7
 1. FC Union Berlin 8 2 1 5 8 13 -5 2-0-3 0-1-2 7
 FC Augsburg 8 1 3 4 10 21 -11 1-2-1 0-1-3 6
 FSV Mainz 05 8 2 0 6 7 18 -11 1-0-2 1-0-4 6
 1. FC Köln 7 1 1 5 5 16 -11 0-0-3 1-1-2 4
 SC Paderborn 7 0 1 6 9 19 -10 0-0-4 0-1-2 1

Brilliant Barco assist helps Atlanta outlast New England

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The game in 200 words (or less): Highly-favored at home, the reigning champions needed their goalkeeper to keep them alive against a New England Revolution side that only made the postseason via MLS’ decision to let almost everyone make it. Yes, Atlanta United dodged a bullet as Brad Guzan made six saves and Ezequiel Barco’s slick pass set up Franco Escobar for a brilliant winner with about 20 minutes to play. New England fought to the very death, but couldn’t take advantage of the absence of Miles Robinson.

[ MORE: Lampard “pleased” for Pulisic ]

Soon-to-retire Michael Parkhurst appeared to dislocate his shoulder late in a challenge with Cristian Penilla, and needed a lot of help to get off the field. Hopefully that wasn’t the last we see of him.

Atlanta will host either Philadelphia or the New York Red Bulls on Thursday evening.

Three things we learned

1. Guzan overcomes blip to stand tall: The longtime USMNT backup made a major error and nearly allowed New England in front but was otherwise sensational over 90 minutes in Georgia.

2. Martinez off, and Martinez off: While Frank De Boer opted to keep Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez out of the Starting XI, it was his star striker who nearly made him pay for the decision. Josef Martinez was not on his game, and lashed a should-be winner from his office over the goal in the first half before being stopped on by Turner on a 1v1 as the match neared stoppage time.

3. Barco makes the difference: Who knows if the 20-year-old Argentine will ever fully deliver on his promise, but the plays he made to set up Escobar’s goal was sensational. After dancing around a pair of defenders, he cut a shot pass between two defenders for the on-running Escobar to blast past Matt Turner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Barco

Goalscorers: Escobar (70′)