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Chelsea Ease Past Derby County But Kurt Zouma Injury Causes Concern

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JOSE Mourinho is closing in on a sixth major trophy that would end the drought of his second Chelsea tenure. This was a regulation win though the manager was concerned at the time it took the stretcher-bearers to reach a stricken Kurt Zouma near the end of the first half.

After colliding with Petr Cech from a Derby County corner the French defender was left on the turf. As the stretcher was called for, the bearers dawdled so first Mourinho implored them to hurry, then Cesc Fàbregas and César Azpilicueta followed their manager’s lead, and after a long delay Zouma was finally taken away for treatment and Branislav Ivanovic came on to replace him.

Asked if this had frustrated him, Mourinho said: “Yeah. The players’ body language [indicated] there was some trouble but I had no idea what was going on because of the distance and they [the stretcher-bearers] were coming – walking. Then I was informed that this was the direction they have. They can’t run, I didn’t know if the information was right but I think they can’t run.

“If he is injured and the body language of the players is that he had to go off you don’t know the dimension. I didn’t know if it was a knee, I don’t know, I had no idea at the time – I think the people with the stretcher want to help but if they didn’t run I have to believe that is the instruction they have.”

Mourinho is confident the 20-year-old should recover quickly. “He is fine. We don’t think he needs hospital treatment. He was a bit dizzy and he had some blood in his mouth because of a cut,” said the manager. “He has gone for some exams with the docs. He’ll be available for Monday [away to Stoke City]. I thought the collision was a punch, but it was Petr’s head.”

Chelsea’s passage to the semi-finals next month was not completely smooth after Derby briefly threatened a comeback with Craig Bryson’s 71st-minute goal that made it 2-1. But the home support’s joy soon faded when the Chelsea substitute Loïc Rémy raced on to a pass and Jake Buxton fouled the forward. After consulting the assistant, Jonathan Moss showed the red card, the referee judging Buxton to be the last man.
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While Mourinho claimed “I didn’t see”, Steve McClaren was in no doubt there had been an injustice. “Absolutely [it was wrong]. I’ve seen it quite a few times and I doubt that would have been given in the middle of the park. We believe it’s wrong,” said Derby’s manager.

While McClaren said he was considering an appeal – Buxton faces a two-game ban as he has been sent off once before this season – within minutes of the defender’s departure André Schürrle made it 3-1 to keep Mourinho on course to claim the same cup that began a supremely successful first spell in charge at Chelsea.

Mourinho had indicated how seriously he was taking the tie in his selection. The Portuguese made five changes from the team that beat Hull City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but still fielded a powerful starting XI. Didier Drogba, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Schürrle and Fàbregas came into a team that also included the captain John Terry, Cech, Mikel John Obi, Eden Hazard, Filipe Luís and Nemanja Matic. “If we were not professional we would lose, I knew that,” said Mourinho.

The match began slowly: there was a corner for the visitors, a couple of speculative forays downfield for Derby, and a foul on Matic by Bryson near the centre circle.

The quicker brains and feet of Fàbregas and Schürrle appeared the greatest threat to Derby’s defence, the attacking-midfield duo attacking primarily through central areas and along the left.

It was from this flank that Chelsea opened the scoring. Fàbregas pinged the ball to Hazard, who cut in from the left across Derby’s area then reversed a smart shot that wrong-footed Lee Grant and beat the goalkeeper to his right.

Eleven minutes into the second half Luís doubled the lead with his first goal for Chelsea, a sweetly curving 25-yard free-kick.

Derby’s brief rally failed to disturb Chelsea, who deservedly eased through. Apart from the injury to Zouma, Drogba took a knock to an ankle, but Mourinho said: “He is a strong guy with a strong mentality. I think he’ll be OK.”

Chelsea will be strong contenders in all four main competitions – they face Watford at home in the FA third-round in January – but Mourinho scoffed at talk of a quadruple.

“No – we don’t speak about that. It’s important to win on Monday. We go match by match. We don’t choose competitions or matches. The next match is the most important thing. We go like this. The players tonight showed that attitude by playing a very professional game.” – The Guardian

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