Jose Mourinho claims there is a “clear campaign” against Chelsea and labelled the booking handed out to Cesc Fabregas for a supposed dive against Southampton a “scandal”.
Sadio Mane and Eden Hazard scored in an entertaining, hard-fought 1-1 draw at St Mary’s yesterday, but afterwards the Blues manager’s focus was only on what he believes is a growing movement against his side.
Chelsea have found themselves at the heart of the simulation debate in recent weeks, with Diego Costa and Willian booked for supposedly taking a tumble in the win against Hull – after which Steve Bruce described a Gary Cahill dive as “like something out of Swan Lake”.
The west Londoners came under scrutiny again on Boxing Day when Branislav Ivanovic appeared to take a tumble against West Ham – the kind of incident Mourinho believes is being wrongly hammed-up and denied his side three points at St Mary’s.
Fabregas looked to have won a penalty early in the second half after being caught by Saints teenager Matt Targett, yet referee Anthony Taylor instead deemed it a dive and booked the infuriated Spanish midfielder.
“In other countries where I worked before, tomorrow in the sports papers it would be a front-page scandal because it is a scandal,” Mourinho said of the yellow card.
“I think it is a scandal because it is not a small penalty – it is a penalty like Big Ben. In this country – and I am happy with that, more than happy with that – we will just say that it was a big mistake with a big influence in the result.
“I am happy that it is this way, with respect for the referee. He made a big mistake like I make, like the players make sometimes.” Asked if recent incidents involving Cahill and Ivanovic had been an influence, Mourinho retorted: “They are not incidents, they are not incidents.
“Of course [it has influenced the referee]. That’s a campaign, that’s a clear campaign. People, pundits, commentators, coaches from other teams – they react with Chelsea in a way they don’t react to other teams. They put lots of pressure on the referee and the referee makes a mistake like this. We lose two points, Fabregas earns a yellow card.”
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman understood Mourinho’s anger but philosophically concluded “it’s part of football”.
Mourinho’s side arrived at St Mary’s on a run of five successive wins in all competitions, although the Barclays Premier League leaders were knocked off their stride early on as Mané put the hosts ahead.
Hazard ensured they would not be celebrating a memorable win, though, leading an impressive Chelsea recovery by following up a wonderful leveller with an inspired second-half display, only for resilient Saints to hold on.
Koeman will have been a relieved figure at the final whistle, especially after being reduced to ten men when Morgan Schneiderlin was sent off for a second yellow card with two minutes remaining.
Saints were rewarded for their energetic early display when Mane raced through to meet a wonderful Dusan Tadic pass, keeping calm under pressure from John Terry to beat Thibaut Courtois.
However, Mourinho was not to be undone by former Barcelona colleague Koeman, with Hazard impressively levelling in first-half stoppage time after turning inside and firing home a fine, low strike. The ever-impressive Belgian continued to threaten in a one-sided second half, yet Saints rode their luck to secure a point.
“Of course, one point against Chelsea is maybe three points against another opponent,” Koeman said. “I am proud of the players, the organisation in the team, the spirit in the team. We knew it would be very difficult but the boys did it fantastic.
“I was a little bit disappointed at half-time because we conceded before half-time, but we stayed organised in the team. We got a little bit of lucky but you need that against these good teams to get a result.”