Chelsea's 2-0 win over Spurs gave Jose Mourinho his first trophy in his second spell as Chelsea manager. After a surprisingly open start to the match in which Spurs looked threatening, John Terry put Chelsea ahead just before halftime after Spurs failed to deal with a Willian free kick. From there Chelsea looked far more comfortable playing in front. They defended deeper and played on the break and ultimately got a second through Diego Costa's deflected effort off Kyle Walker. With a two goal cushion the result wasn't in doubt.
Zouma fills holding role well in Matic's absence
With Nemanja Matic missing through suspension, Mourinho opted to use 20 year-old center back Kurt Zouma out of position in Matic's spot at the base of midfield. The absence of Matic, arguably Chelsea's best player this season, was an obvious concern for Chelsea heading into the match. He's played in 37 games in all competitions this season and Chelsea have lost just one of those (a 5-3 lost to today's opponent Spurs at White Hart Lane). Zouma filled in admirably however and provided ample cover in front of a Chelsea back four that was excellent on the day. The young Frenchman kept Christian Eriksen from creating too many decent scoring chances and read the game surprisingly well in an unfamiliar role. On the occasions when his decision making and positioning were wrong, his pace and athleticism allowed him to recover and contest for important challenges. Matic is unique in that he brings an ability to circulate passes in attack that few destroyer holding midfielders can match. It would be a stretch to claim he's equal parts playmaking trequartista and Makele-style destroyer but he is quite tidy in possession. Zouma didn't offer the same options when Chelsea were in possession- he completed just 22 passes- but Mourinho certainly wouldn't have asked much more of him in possession. He performed his role maintaining deep positions and offering support for Cahill and Terry when Spurs were able to quickly transition into attack. He's a less clumsy, more convincing replacement than John Obi Mikel when Matic is unavailable.
Chelsea manage game excellently after quiet start
I was surprised at how open the first 45 minutes were. With Matic missing I expected Ramires to maintain a cautious, deeper position closer to Zouma when Chelsea were in possession to limit the space Tottenham had to counter. Instead, Chelsea operated in more of a 4-3-3 with Fabregas and Ramires both moving into advanced positions. With Zouma the only Chelsea player taking up a deep central midfield position, Spurs had plenty of space to transition into in the center of the pitch. Open contests aren't something Mourinho-coached Chelsea sides typically get themselves involved in, especially in cup competition. Tottenham were unable to take advantage of the space they were afforded but probably looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening half.
Terry's opener changed the complexion of the game. With the one goal cushion, Fabregas and Ramires were more conservative with their positioning going forward. The midfield triangle of Fabregas, Ramires and Zouma stayed very compact. This gave Tottenham less space on the break and forced them to show the quality to break down a compact Chelsea defense that is comfortable defending deep with numbers behind the ball. Aside from maybe the final five minutes, Chelsea looked entirely in control defensively. Chelsea patiently soaked up pressure and looked to take their chances on the break as Spurs chased an equalizer. Getting the first goal was massive for Chelsea. They're very good at defending deep and countering and with Spurs having to chase from behind, Mourinho's side knew they'd have chances when they won the ball back and transitioned quickly. Diego Costa's deflected strike off Kyle Walker may have had a hint of good fortune about it but there was no surprise it came from two swift forward passes from Willian and Fabregas. At 2-0 ahead there was little doubt about the final result.
Experience gap proves important
There was a marked contrast in age and big game experience between the two sides. Cech, Terry, Ramires, Ivanovic and Cahill have all played in cup finals with Chelsea; Fabregas has played in two European Championship finals, a World Cup final and a Champions League final as well as numerous domestic cup finals at both Arsenal and Barcelona; Diego Costa helped lead Atletico Madrid to a Champions League final last season (although a hamstring injury meant he only lasted 9 minutes in the final itself). Spurs by contrast had no players with similar big game experience. The average age of their outfield starting 10 players was just 23. Jan Vertonghen was their senior-most outfield player at 27. The gap in experience showed. Chelsea never looked rattled when Spurs enjoyed spells of early possession, they maintained their concentration and kept an organized defensive shape with the lead and knew when and how to go about searching for opportunities to ad to their lead. Spurs never lost their discipline (though Eric Dier was perhaps fortunate not to receive a second yellow before halftime) but they didn't have that experienced player that could inspire a fight back.