Hazard and Costa pile on misery for Chelsea and Mourinho
Stoke City knock Blues out of League Cup after Hazard penalty miss as Costa picks up yet another injury
Stoke City 1 Chelsea 1 [Stoke win 5-4 on penalties]
Chelsea's disastrous start to the season continued on Tuesday night as the Blues were dumped out of the Capital One Cup by ten-man Stoke. The result means Chelsea have won just one of their last seven matches in all competitions and increases the pressure on Jose Mourinho.
With the press already speculating that he could be sacked if Chelsea fail to beat Liverpool on Saturday, Mourinho launched into a robust defence of himself and his players following the shock defeat to Stoke. "A few months ago I won a few matches and I was champion," he told reporters. "People were saying there are things more important than results. Now, people say results are the most important thing. It's a contradiction."
Ironically it was Eden Hazard who missed the crucial penalty, the Belgian rumoured to be at loggerheads with Mourinho after being axed earlier in the month. It was a cruel end to a game in which Chelsea had resolutely clawed their way back into contention after Jon Walters' put the Potters one up on 52 minutes with a little help from the underside of the crossbar.
But as Stoke fans prepared to celebrate a famous victory the pendulum swung dramatically back towards the Londoners. First Loic Remy equalised from a corner for Chelsea in stoppage time, and then almost immediately afterwards Phil Bardsley was sent off for a second yellow card.
The tide appeared to have turned in their favour, but the Blues could not capitalise in extra time so the game went to penalties. The shootout was flawless to start with, the first nine penalties all finding their mark, but then Stoke keeper Jack Butland saved brilliantly from Hazard to send the hosts into the quarter-final of the competition.
"Full credit to the lads because they showed tremendous character and determination," exclaimed Stoke boss Mark Hughes. "It was there for everybody to see this evening, and I think to a certain degree it surprised Chelsea, especially when everything seemed to be conspiring against us at the end of normal time."
Stoke fans showed little mercy to the opposition manager, taunting Mourinho with chants of "you're getting sacked in the morning".
While that scenario is unlikely - although given Roman Abramovich's track record anything is possible - the pressure on the Portuguese's shoulders is becoming unbearable. And he showed signs of the strain during the post-match press conference when he was asked if his players were still playing for him.
"You think the players did not give everything to win the game? That is really sad," stormed Mourinho. "For me it would be a fantastic situation if the players are against me, I can say, you don't have results because the players are against me... my players tried everything."
And to cap another miserable night for Mourinho, Diego Costa lasted just 33 minutes before leaving the field with a rib injury and he is now a doubt for Saturday's clash. "He is in hospital, but I don't know what the situation is," said Mourinho, when asked about the Spanish striker."
As for how the injury occurred, a sardonic Mourinho replied: "I think he punched himself." At this rate, the Special One will be following Costa to hospital.