Chelsea salute rookie Kurt Zouma's role in Cup final victory
Jose Mourinho clearly saw Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen as Tottenham Hotspur`s two chief League Cup final weapons and the way the pair were subdued played a key role in Chelsea`s 2-0 Wembley triumph.
London: Jose Mourinho clearly saw Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen as Tottenham Hotspur`s two chief League Cup final weapons and the way the pair were subdued played a key role in Chelsea`s 2-0 Wembley triumph.
Chelsea fans looked at each other in bewilderment when the teams were announced before kickoff on Sunday, barely able to believe Mourinho had opted to replace the suspended Nemanja Matic in midfield with rookie central defender Kurt Zouma.
The inexperienced Frenchman had only made the starting lineup 13 times previously but his manager did not want a repeat of the 5-3 Premier League defeat inflicted by Spurs on New Year`s Day and he deployed the 20-year-old out of position.
In truth, the quick, powerful Zouma was not one of Chelsea`s standout performers as they lifted the first domestic trophy of the campaign but what he did do was to quietly and efficiently stifle the threat of dangerous Danish playmaker Eriksen.
That cut off the lines of supply to lone striker Kane who was unable to show off the dazzling skills that have earned him 24 goals in all competitions this season, leading to him being touted as a contender for the Footballer of the Year award.
"Kurt played in a position he`s not used to and was fantastic," Chelsea centre half Gary Cahill told reporters.
Mourinho was so pleased he compared Zouma to former Chelsea and France great Marcel Desailly.
"It`s very difficult for a central defender to play there...you have to think quicker and make decisions quicker, but our new Marcel Desailly worked very hard during the week and the kid did a fantastic job," said the Portuguese.
"From the first minute we pressed them high. We didn`t give them the game they were expecting."
Zouma, signed from St Etienne for 12.5 million pounds ($19.26 million) 14 months ago, was informed about his new position on Friday.
"The manager told me I was going to be playing in midfield two days before the game," he explained.
"I was surprised. I have never played in midfield before."
Zouma played down the comparisons with Desailly, the defender who played for Chelsea between 1998-2004 and won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with France.
"I`m not like Marcel Desailly," he said. "I`m proud to hear that but have to keep working because I`m too young to say that.
"Marcel Desailly is a legend, and me? I`ve only played about 10 games so I have to keep improving."