Kurt Zouma masterstroke, Harry Kane wilts at Wembley: Five lessons from the League Cup final

Chelsea defeated Tottenham 2-0 in the League Cup final on Sunday. Here are five things we learnt from the Wembley showpiece.

Kurt Zouma, second left, was played out of position in a holding midfield role, but the Frenchman excelled in the League Cup final. Clive Mason / Getty Images
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Chelsea defeated Tottenham 2-0 in the League Cup final on Sunday. Here are five things we learnt from the Wembley showpiece:

Mourinho’s gamble pays off

With Nemanja Matic suspended, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho sprang a surprise by selecting French defender Kurt Zouma to replace the Serbian in central midfield.

Chelsea had been overpowered by Tottenham in their 5-3 defeat at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day. But Zouma, charged with keeping a close eye on Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen, ensured there would be no lack of muscle to Chelsea’s challenge this time.

The 20-year-old rose to the occasion admirably, making Mourinho’s switch look a stroke of genius as he tirelessly tackled and harried the Spurs into submission.

Peerless Terry leads by example

While his personality will always make him a polarising figure, few can deny John Terry remains by far England’s most dominant central defender.

The Chelsea captain delivered a defensive masterclass to keep Tottenham’s in-form striker Harry Kane under wraps and still had time to pop up with the opening goal when his deflected shot found the net in the final minute of the first half.

It was the kind of performance that must make England manager Roy Hodgson wish the 34-year-old would come out of international retirement.

Costa makes his mark

Diego Costa has become the snarling face of Chelsea following his move from Atletico Madrid last year and his recent three game ban for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can clearly hadn’t taken the edge off his aggressive style as he clashed with Kyle Walker and shoved a hand into Nabil Bentaleb’s face in the first half.

But, just as importantly, the Spain striker remained a menace in the penalty area, as he proved with Chelsea’s second goal when his astute movement off his marker created space for a powerful shot that deflected in off Walker for a 56th minute own goal.

Kane not able to shine

The precocious Tottenham striker arrived at Wembley hailed as the brightest young striker in English football after netting 24 times in a breakthrough campaign.

However, after a bright start which saw him test Petr Cech with a low strike, Kane, expected to earn his first senior England call-up later this month, experienced a rare off-day in his first major final with a subdued display that left Tottenham desperately short of cutting edge.

More glory to come for Chelsea?

Before they had even kicked off at Wembley, it had already been a good day for Chelsea as Manchester City, their main rivals for the Premier League title, slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool.

A victory for Manuel Pellegrini’s side at Anfield would have closed the gap on leaders Chelsea to just two points, but instead Mourinho and company were able to focus on winning their first silverware of the season knowing their advantage at the top of the table remained intact.

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