In 2014, Jose Mourinho claimed that his Chelsea side were a “little horse” in the title race having just beaten rivals Manchester City. That was the last season Frank Lampard played under Mourinho, or for Chelsea.
This past weekend, with Mourinho now in the opposing dug-out at Stamford Bridge as manager of Tottenham, and Lampard now in Mourinho’s former seat in charge of Chelsea, the Portuguese said something very similar in proclaiming his Spurs team a “pony” in the title-horserace.
Sunday’s 0-0 stalemate took Tottenham to the top of the table after a fairly even first half, followed by a second where Spurs sat back and Chelsea were unable to break them down.
It was a classic Mourinho move for a big game encounter, which he employed to great success in his two periods in charge at Chelsea, and that became known as “parking the bus” in the past.
The reactions from both managers, in arguing that their own point was reasonable because the other side is a title challenger, suggests it is hard to choose a moral victor this time, but it also hinted at a developing rivalry between the former colleagues.Embed from Getty Images
Lampard, far from exhibiting an inferiority complex against his former boss, has a surprisingly good record against one of the most successful managers in modern world football.
He leads the head-to-head against Mourinho 2-0, with three draws – even taking into account penalty shootouts he is ahead 3-1 – which is one of the brightest aspects of his young managerial career.
Manchester United 2-2 Derby (7-8 on penalties) – Carabao Cup 3rd Round
September 25, 2018
In the first meeting between the two, Lampard’s Derby side produced a minor shock to knock Mourinho’s United out of the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford.
In a game where both sides had plenty of chances Derby, fielding Chelsea loanees Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, played with a confidence that belied their inferior stature.
United took an early lead through Juan Mata but were unable to make the most of their opportunities, before a wonderful swerving free-kick from Harry Wilson brought Derby level on the hour.
A shell-shocked Manchester United had goalkeeper Sergio Romero sent off soon after when he handled outside the box.Embed from Getty Images
A late goal from Jack Marriott, converting the rebound from a Mount shot, looked to have won it for Derby before United’s when-all-else-fails option of Marouane Fellaini headed home an injury-time equaliser.
Derby’s heads did not drop however and, after a series of strong penalties from both sides in the shootout, Phil Jones had his kick saved by Scott Carson to send United out.
Mourinho would be sacked from Manchester United less than three months later.
Tottenham 0-2 Chelsea – Premier League
December 22, 2019
Over a year later, and with both men having moved on to new roles, Lampard’s Chelsea produced a fine display to overcome Tottenham at their new stadium in the first meeting between the managers in the Premier League.
In an up-and-down season for Chelsea, and coming off the back off four defeats in five games, Lampard out-manoeuvred Mourinho by employing a back three, and two Willian goals secured Lampard’s signature Chelsea managerial win at the time.
The Brazilian opened the scoring early when he made space for himself after a short corner and curled a lovely shot inside the far post.Embed from Getty Images
He doubled the lead from the penalty spot in first-half injury-time following Paulo Gazzaniga’s wild decision to attempt a flying kung-fu kick clearance that only connected with Marcos Alonso, when simply gathering the ball looked more straight forward.
The rest of the evening was unsavoury all round as Son Heung-Min was sent off for a slight kick-out at Antonio Rudiger, before three announcements were made regarding racist behaviour in the stands, and objects were thrown towards Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Lampard achieved his first away clean sheet in the Premier League, and Mourinho lost at home against one of his previous clubs for the first time.
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham – Premier League
February 22, 2020
In one of the last games in front of a crowd at Stamford Bridge, Lampard completed the double over Mourinho last season, becoming the first manager to do so in a single campaign.
The second victory was more routine than the first as a miserable Spurs were lacking a striker, with Son having recently joined Harry Kane on the list of long-term absentees.
The restored Olivier Giroud scored an early opener to signal his return to form for the second half of the season, slamming home a near-post rebound after Ross Barkley had hit the post.
And Alonso drilled a low shot into the corner just after half-time after a good move involving Barkley, Giroud and Mount.Embed from Getty Images
Stockley Park admitted the VAR had made a mistake in not recommending a red card for Giovani lo Celso’s terrible challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta, as Mourinho escaped going down to 10 men in a third successive game against Lampard.
Spurs scored a late consolation when Erik Lamela had a shot deflect in off Rudiger but never looked like threatening a comeback as Mourinho’s miserable record continued.
Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea (5-4 on penalties) – Carabao Cup 4th Round
September 29, 2020
The Tottenham manager finally had something to celebrate against his former player when the sides met again earlier this season, for the first time in front of empty stands.
A relatively under-strength Spurs side took advantage of Chelsea’s inability to kill the game off, after Timo Werner had opened the scoring with his first goal for his new team from the edge of the box.
Lamela equalised late on from a Sergio Reguilon cross to score the first goal Edouard Mendy would concede for Chelsea.
A game that neither side appeared to be desperate to win could not be concluded within 90 minutes – Eric Dier even had time to dash to the toilet with a furious Mourinho trailing behind him before the final whistle – and, with no extra time, the match went straight to penalties.Embed from Getty Images
Mason Mount clipped the outside of the post with the deciding kick and Spurs advanced to the next round.
So, for all the talk of “Mourinho Masterclasses” and Tottenham’s evident improvement this season, the two-time Champions League winner has still yet to tactically get the better of his inexperienced former midfielder.
Two draws, including a victory on penalties, this season suggest Mourinho is perhaps beginning to get a handle on Chelsea under Lampard after two poor showings last season, but it will surely be a point of pride for Chelsea’s record goal-scorer that he continues to be undefeated against “The Special One.”
Sub-Edited by Marcus Otty