Still got the Blues

When asked to comment on Arsenal's 5-4 victory over Tottenham in 2004, Jose Mourinho scoffed.

"That is not a football score," he sneered. "That's a hockey score."

Ten years later, he has a hockey score of his own.

Chelsea beat Everton 6-3 at Goodison Park yesterday morning (Singapore time), but any joy the Chelsea manager takes from the result will be tainted by the scoreline.

He is not a man who approves of such things.

"We spent hours on defence in training," he said. "You can imagine how happy I am now."

Everton's Roberto Martinez was similarly affected by the scoreline. While he has rather more of a reputation for the sort of football that can make these numbers inevitable, the manner of the goals dismayed him.

The hosts were one down inside 35 seconds, and two down in three minutes. Diego Costa smashed home his third goal in three games from close range after a pass from Cesc Fabregas caught the Everton defence entirely unawares.

Branislav Ivanovic, enjoying a wonderful start to the season, was marginally offside for the second, but not to a degree that it would be worth complaining about the officiating.

Those complaints would be best served for what followed next.

As Eden Hazard raced onto another glorious ball, Tim Howard sprang out of the penalty area and caught it before quickly falling back down inside his box.

It was quite the most obvious red-card offence you could hope to see, which made it rather unfortunate that referee Jon Moss failed to see it.

Everton were shaken, but kept their heads and tried to play their way back into the game.

Martinez has drilled these players well and taught them to trust their abilities, hoping to release their talent rather than harness it as David Moyes did.

A reward came just before half-time when Seamus Coleman's cross was headed home by Kevin Mirallas.

NOT FUNNY

Martinez and Mourinho appeared to share a joke on the touchline in the second half, but neither of them was amused by the running battle between Coleman and Costa.

The Everton man appeared to be getting under Costa's skin, poking him and prodding him with obvious effect.

Costa's complaints were ignored and the home crowd revelled in his discomfort.

Then Hazard burst down the left, fired in a cross and it pinged off Coleman and into the net.

Costa immediately sprinted over to the Irishman and taunted him.

An unwise decision. Howard, not a man you would wish to cross, grabbed him by the lapels and bellowed at him, earning a yellow card for his troubles.

Mourinho would later accuse Everton of trying to get his players sent off. Martinez did not agree.

Again, Everton refused to yield. Steven Naismith hit his third in three games to make it 3-2.

Again, Chelsea quickly grabbed back their cushion, this time through Nemanja Matic. 4-2.

Everton took a breath and scored again, debutant Samuel Eto'o heading home against his former employers. 4-3.

Sixty seconds later, Ramires scored. 5-3.

On the sidelines, Mourinho danced in celebration while frowning in consternation, torn by the ridiculousness of the game.

Everton tried to riposte, but were undone when Mohamed Besic, making his debut for the club, over-elaborated and succeeded in backheeling the ball straight into the path of Costa. 6-3. Game, set and match, Mr Mourinho.

For all of his complaints, Mourinho will recognise the importance of this result.

Not only is it a emphatic victory away at a top-six side, something Arsenal couldn't do, but it's also a third win in three for the Blues.

Elsewhere, Manchester United lurch from one abject display to another, Liverpool were floored by Manchester City.

City themselves were stunned by Stoke. And through it all, Chelsea continue to cruise, not quite serenely this time, to the top of the table.

Mourinho has much to please him. Just not the defending.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sep 1, 2014.
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