LONDON - Jose Mourinho believes that Didier Drogba's dynamic display in Chelsea's 3-0 win over Tottenham proved the English Premier League leaders have the strength in depth to last the pace in the title race.
Mourinho's men 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 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 those 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."
Thanks to Drogba's inspirational efforts, Chelsea have equalled a club record, set previously in 2007 and repeated 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."
After winning their previous three matches, this was a reality check for Tottenham. Harry Kane twice went close but Spurs crumbled at the back to leave them without a win at Stamford Bridge in 28 matches since 1990.