ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
LONDON • Jose Mourinho hailed "the best Chelsea of the season" after the Blues drew 0-0 with Tottenham in the English Premier League yesterday.
But it was by no means a problem-free day for the Chelsea manager at White Hart Lane, with striker Diego Costa failing to appear on the pitch for the warm-up after being dropped to the bench.
The Spaniard then sulked on the bench for an hour before eventually warming up on the touchline. When it became clear that he would remain an unused substitute, however, he took off his bib with his back facing Mourinho and threw it towards the Portuguese. It narrowly missed the manager.
If he wants to hurt me, it's not with a bib... There's no issue between me and Diego, it was just a decision.
Mourinho explained his decision to drop Costa by claiming the 27-year-old was lacking in confidence, having scored just three league goals this season. Yet, the move certainly jarred with his claim they had resolved their argument during the Champions League game against Maccabi Tel Aviv last Tuesday.
If there were "kisses and cuddles" as he said, it was followed by the cold shoulder here. When pressed on the incident post-match, Mourinho downplayed any problems.
"I was not expecting a player to be on the bench jumping and singing... a top player on the bench is not happy. If he wants to hurt me, it's not with a bib," he said.
"I don't like my subs to warm up. I just want them to be mentally ready to play when we need them. There's no issue between me and Diego, it was just a decision."
With no other fit or available striker in the squad, Eden Hazard was given the front role.
Chelsea finished with just one shot on target - Hazard's effort in the 68th minute. The Belgian met Branislav Ivanovic's deep cross with a powerful left-footed volley that Hugo Lloris did well to tip away for a corner.
Hazard's goal drought for Chelsea extended past the 32-hour mark yesterday, but the Blues were at least encouraged by the way they subdued a Spurs team who had scored at least three times in three of their last four matches at White Hart Lane. This was their first clean sheet away from Stamford Bridge in the league this season.
Spurs conjured four shots on target from nine attempts, with Son Heung Min and Mousa Dembele coming closest for the hosts.
"They did not do much to win the game. We deserved more, we tried to win it," said Tottenham manager Maurico Pochettino after his side extended their unbeaten run to 13 games - a club record in the Premier League era. "I think Chelsea will be happy with the point. It is more important to them than us."
The point took the champions up to 14th, although Norwich were hosting Arsenal later yesterday.
"I am more than happy with the performance. I am happy with the team collectively," said Mourinho. "It was the best Chelsea performance of the season, against a dangerous team."