LONDON — "We’re gonna win the league" sang the jubilant Chelsea supporters into the east London sky – but only after their team had held its nerve to see home its anxious 1-0 victory over West Ham on Wednesday night.
Just three days after winning the League Cup – their first trophy since the second coming of Jose Mourinho – the Blues again celebrated, this time another step in their march towards the Premier League title.
It was an off-color Chelsea performance but they stood firm to prevent West Ham’s second-half pressure from turning into an equalizer, thanks in no small part to some brilliant saves by Thibaut Courtois.
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Another match down, another game closer to finishing the end of the season in the position that they have occupied since virtually the first week of the campaign. Chelsea remains five points clear of holder Manchester City in second with a game in hand; it would be a disaster if it threw away the title from this position.
And it won’t happen under Mourinho, the serial winner. He has started a Chelsea dynasty once before and the Portuguese is determined to do it again this season.
When Mourinho arrived in west London in 2004, he won the League Cup before going on to secure the club’s first league title in 50 years in the same season with a record points total.
After winning six trophies under Mourinho, the same core of players continued to enjoy almost a decade of success, winning domestic cups, league titles and, of course, the Champions League in 2012.
John Terry, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba are still hanging around but the 2015 version of Mourinho’s Chelsea looks very different and is defined by the likes of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Courtois, who still have their best years ahead of them.
The Blues hero has the ingredients in the current squad to repeat, or even better, that record but he knows that one League Cup triumph is not enough to start comparing his Chelsea Mk II with the ‘originals.’
"I won six titles with the other team and one with these guys," Mourinho told reporters. "The other team won six titles with me and continued winning for a decade. That was the most important team in Chelsea’s history.
"Now we are trying to build. Let’s see what we can do."
Mourinho is quite right to shake off any comparisons but the potential in his current side is arguably even greater and he was keen to hail their commitment to the cause. "Even people like [Kurt] Zouma and Diego [Costa] fit perfectly in that profile of being a good warrior," he enthused.
While they were unable to produce their best football against West Ham, the organization and winning spirit was clear to see. It is a game in which they would have dropped points last year, just as they did with defeats by the likes of Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland towards the end of last season. They are constantly improving.
In Hazard, they have a player who might one day win the Ballon d’Or and it was his first-half goal – an unlikely close-range header from a move which he started himself – that ultimately secured Chelsea the points at Upton Park.
In the second half, the Belgian created two brilliant pieces of skill to set up chances for Ramires to essentially finish the game on the counterattack.
Mourinho now has a week to prepare for the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain following a 1-1 draw in the French capital in their first encounter.
The 52-year-old showed in Sunday’s victory over Tottenham why he remains the master of preparing a team to win a big one-off fixture.
As Chelsea edges towards a domestic double, the Blues will feel that they have a genuine chance of going one better than their semifinal appearance in Europe’s elite competition last term.
The League Cup victory was the springboard for greater achievements in 2005 and, a decade on, it is just the start again. There are many more trophies to come for this Chelsea side under Mourinho. If they can perform when it matters, they may one day be considered their manager’s greatest-ever team.
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