José Mourinho was keen to downplay Chelsea FC's English title hopes despite his side taking the first three Premier League away points from Manchester City FC this season with Monday's 1-0 win, describing the Blues as the "little horse" in a three-way race.
Branislav Ivanović's first-half effort lifted Chelsea alongside City on 53 points, two behind leaders Arsenal FC, but the UK press were unanimous about the real mastermind behind City's fall. "José Mourinho's tactical mastery won this match," said the Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter. "One-nil to the Special One."
On paper, Mourinho's team selection appeared negative. Omitting playmaker Oscar from a midfield of David Luiz, Nemanja Matić and Ramires, there were shades of the defensive-minded formation that ground out a goalless draw at Arsenal six weeks ago. Before the match, though, Mourinho implied otherwise: "Parking the bus [in front of goal] has no relation with the players the manager chooses, but how the team plays. You can play with six, seven, eight defensive players and be an attacking team."
So it proved. The visitors were on top when Ivanović's sweet left-footed strike found the net on 32 minutes, and continued to press throughout as Samuel Eto'o, Matić and Gary Cahill hit the woodwork. All this against a City outfit who had won 11 out of 11 in the league at home this term; a City side who had scored at least once in each of their last 61 top-flight outings, stretching back to November 2010.
If the Chelsea players were euphoric at the final whistle, Mourinho was eager to cool the growing ardour around his team. "We lost points at home against West Brom, against West Ham, we lost at Stoke, we lost at Newcastle," he said. "We are a team in evolution but this is the kind of performance that helps the team to grow up a lot; tactically, mentally, I think it was fantastic. The next pre-season, me and my players will say openly that we are mature, solid from day one and are candidates for the league. This season is about evolution."
For Mourinho, City remain red-hot favourites, and Chelsea can only win the championship if Manuel Pellegrini's men lose it. Of Arsenal, he said: "They are working for many, many years for the evolution of their team. What we are doing this season is what Arsenal have been building to for years." The title race therefore comes down to this, he added: "Two horses and a little horse. A little horse who needs milk and to learn how to jump."
Pellegrini, left to rue Fernandinho's addition to a host of absentees, sees Monday as a stumble for his pedigree team. "For Chelsea it was a decisive game, not for us," he said. "We still have  points to play for." So, do Chelsea and Mourinho have a secret weapon; a pre-match rabble-rouser? "I didn't speak," explained the Portuguese. "It was Billy the masseur that spoke to the team. He was screaming so much in Scottish, I didn't understand him. But the players were clapping. It was Billy's team talk." One-nil to Billy the masseur.
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