Jose Mourinho, who only a few days ago insisted there is a "campaign" against Chelsea to deny them penalties, was back on the warpath after his side were beaten 5-3 at Tottenham to lose control of top spot in the Premier League.
Formerly outright leaders, Chelsea are now only level with rivals Manchester City in the title race, sharing exactly the same points and goal difference; and this latest setback has inspired a new bout of paranoia from Mourinho which has left him convinced there is an agenda against his side.
On Saturday, Chelsea were denied victory at Southampton when Cesc Fabregas was denied a penalty and accused instead of diving, as several of his teammates have been in recent weeks. Now the Special One believes a crushing defeat at White Hart Lane had more to do with referee Phil Dowd’s decision not to award a penalty for a Jan Vertonghen handball when Chelsea were leading 1-0, than with the away team’s poor defending which saw them concede goals to Harry Kane (2), Danny Rose, Andros Townsend (penalty) and Nacer Chadli. A clearly flustered Mourinho when quizzed on the result said: “First of all I don’t want to be punished. I want to be here for the next match. I prefer to say just that we lost, and that tomorrow is another day. But there are things in the game that are becoming predictable. We had important Christmas gifts in the last few matches, gifts that people in love with football don’t like.
“So how do I assess it? I can go in two directions. I can say we made some defensive mistakes, we had some individual problems in our defensive structure, and that we were unlucky in every rebound and deflected shot and so conceded five goals — which is something out of context. This is one direction where I can go. But I can go in another direction and say what we all know, which is, with the result 1-0, one clear action could make it 2-0. Normally, at 2-0, the result would be completely different and the history of the game would be different.”
Mourinho’s beef was a handball by Vertonghen, who cupped the ball with his left hand as he lay on the floor in the Chelsea penalty area; an action that many pundits saw as accidental. But when the Chelsea manager was challenged to justify his anger, it only served to add to his paranoia.
“Why do you want me to speak? You all know,” he said. “I don’t think we need clarification when there are no doubts. When you have doubts, when the situation is not clear, I think the discussion comes good. Everyone can have a different opinion. The same way against Southampton there was no discussion, today there was no discussion too. At the end of the day, we are speaking about two matches, six points. And we have one out of six when two crucial decisions would give us six points. In three days, we had two incredible decisions that punished us in a very hard way.”
In a television interview, Mourinho also appeared to claim referee Dowd was “too slow” to make a proper decision on another Chelsea penalty claim when Eden Hazard fell under challenge from Fazio; although he later back-tracked after admitting the decision was a correct one. But he was determined to end his post-match press conference with another dig at match officials as he explained how Chelsea would bounce back against Watford in the FA Cup on Sunday — and in the title race after that.
He added: “We are going to do what we have been doing up to now, knowing clearly that, in 20 league matches, the most offensive team, the team with more creative players in the attacking area, we had just two penalties in 20 matches.
“Also I think people in love with football in this country, they must be in love with Eden Hazard. But the way match to match he’s being punished by opponents and not protected by referees means maybe one day we won’t have Eden Hazard. It’s 1, 2, 3, 4, five 10 aggressive fouls against him. They kick and kick and kick.”
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