Silverware again. That feels good.
After a fortnight of mediocre play and controversy, Chelsea went to Wembley and came away with a trophy, grinding out a 2-0 victory against a hard-working but ultimately impotent Tottenham Hotspur side. It was a fitting conclusion to an all-business Capital One Cup run, and the only acceptable result after that draining semifinal win against Liverpool. And as revenge for New Years Day goes, it couldn't have been any sweeter.
The big question before the match, if you discount the arch-colour campaign that Capital One seemed so keen on, was how Jose Mourinho would set up his midfield with Nemanja Matic suspended and John Obi Mikel injured. And the answer, as it turned out, was to field Kurt Zouma as the lone holder in a 4-3-3, with Ramires and Cesc Fabregas ahead of him.
The outcry was as predictable as the outcome. After some early scares (Harry Kane's running seemed to flummox ... well, everyone, and at one point resulted in Spurs hitting the bar from a Christian Eriksen free kick), everyone got settled. Zouma took Eriksen out of the match, Ramires swept up, and Fabregas did his best to spring the counterattack.
At White Hart Lane, Tottenham used Eriksen and Nacer Chadli to completely destroy Chelsea's defence. Zouma took care of Eriksen, and in response to Chadli Mourinho held Branislav Ivanovic back from his usual attacking role. Ivanovic promptly turned into a defensive monster, and after that early spell, Spurs were left with lots of meaningless possession and wasted attacks.
What of Chelsea? Well, in truth they weren't doing a whole lot. There were some promising moments from set pieces, but up until the 44th minute the team seemed totally happy to limit Tottenham's attacking threat and wait for the moment to strike. Which is why everyone's happy to say that the runners-up had the better of the first half, which leaves me to point out that having the ball and not being able to do anything you want with it is only a moral victory if you're Arsenal.
Anyway, back to those set pieces. Ivanovic, up for a throw in, pulled a long pass from John Terry out of the sky with one of the sweetest touches you'll ever see and was then happy to go to ground after being pulled back. Willian took the free kick, Spurs made a complete hash of the clearance, and Terry was able to mop up, firing in off Eric Dier for the lead.
Chelsea had their noses ahead, and Tottenham had Hugo Lloris to thank for the fact that it wasn't doubled in injury time. After conceding from a zonally-marked free kick, they switched to man-to-man marking on a corner and were very nearly made to pay. Ivanovic beat Nabil Bentaleb in the air, and Gary Cahill was on hand to nod towards the bottom corner. Lloris, however, was wise to the danger, snuffing out the header with a fine save.
But Spurs were in trouble, whether the deficit was one goal or two, and the second half saw them thoroughly outclassed. In the first, they had possession without penetration; after the break they had neither, and another goal was only a matter of time. It might have been spectacular, too -- Fabregas had a brilliant overhead volley kept out by a diving save -- but few would have been dissatisfied with the scrappy nature of the second.
Fabregas set it up, his incisive pass sending Diego Costa clear down the left. Costa had been having a grand time of things, winding up more or less everyone he spoke to and drawing Spurs' defenders into some frankly stupid mistakes. Here, however, he wound them up in a more traditional way, cutting back to shoot and bouncing his effort off Kyle Walker and in.
It might have been 3-0 soon afterwards. Eden Hazard did Eden Hazard things, skipping into the penalty area and flashing a curler inches past the far post, and his scoop to Fabregas from a smart set play could easily have resulted in the third as well. But two was enough, and in the final ten minutes the team settled down to weather a gusty but haphazard Tottenham storm.
It took until the 87th minute for any real danger to Petr Cech's goal to arrive, and even then John Terry was on hand to slide in and block Kane's shot. Spurs were playing without any real purpose or plan other than 'charge forward blindly and hope for the best', and the only serious problem they caused was to the back of Cesar Azpilicueta's head, which took a clattering from Dier's flailing knee and forced him to play with a bandage for the final 15 minutes.
There's probably a metaphor to be found in Azpilicueta redoubling his efforts after his injury, but I'll leave that to those writers both more skillful than I and in a less celebratory mood. Right now, all that matters is that Wembley's arch ended up a little more blue, and our trophy cabinet a little more silver.