CHELSEA 4 MACCABI TEL AVIV 0
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho last night denied claims from former England captain Steven Gerrard of a rift with skipper John Terry after the Blues kick-started their stuttering season with a Champions League cakewalk against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Mourinho was forced to respond to Gerrard’s suggestion after goals from Willian, Oscar, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas earned his side a first home victory of the campaign, making them the only English club to win their opening group game in the competition.
Gerrard, a pundit on BT Sport, aired his view when commenting on Terry’s omission from the team to face Maccabi, saying: “There’s certainly a bit of friction behind the scenes because, for me, you play John Terry week in, week out -- he’s your captain.”
But Mourinho said: “Steven is wrong. I like him very much, I have a good relationship with him. Sometimes we contact by text. I admire him a lot, I think he has the same feeling about me, but he’s wrong because we have no problems -- no problems at all.”
Mourinho struck a vindicated tone after a side featuring six changes earned a timely success just days before the visit of Arsenal in a spicy Premier League fixture on Saturday.
“For a Chelsea fan there is an easy way for them to think,” he said of the crowd’s vocal support for him. “We won four Premier Leagues -- three with him and one with his team -- so this guy is not bad.”
Chelsea should have banished their early-season malaise in the fifth minute when Eden Hazard was presented with a penalty, for goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic’s foul on Willian, only for the Belgian to blaze over the bar.
The Brazilian soon reduced Mourinho’s blood pressure, though, albeit unintentionally, when his floated free-kick from the left evaded the massed penalty box contingent and embarrassed a flat-footed Rajkovic.
Maccabi captain Eran Zahavi headed over on a rare foray for the Israeli treble winners, and they were punished when Oscar showed Hazard how to convert from the spot after former Chelsea defender Tal Ben Haim’s foul on Diego Costa.
Costa conjured the night’s highlight when he hooked a first-time volley across his body and into the far top corner from a paceless Fabregas cross, and the Spaniard completed the scoring, tapping into an empty net after Loic Remy’s shot was saved.