Chelsea 2-0 Porto: Mourinho earns reprieve

Photo credit: AFP.

Photo credit: AFP.

Jose Mourinho clawed himself back from the brink of the sack as Chelsea swept into the Champions League last 16 with a 2-0 win over Porto on Wednesday.

Mourinho was in severe danger of being axed as Blues boss heading into a tie that would decide Chelsea’s Champions League fate. But, needing a draw to reach the knockout stages and avoid the embarrassment of dropping into the Europa League, Mourinho’s side took full advantage of the stroke of luck that saw Ivan Marcano’s own goal gift them an early lead at Stamford Bridge. Brazil winger Willian netted the second goal after the break to kill off Mourinho’s former club and ensure they finished top of the Group G.

After Saturday’s loss against Bournemouth condemned the Premier League champions to their latest humiliation in a dismal season, Abramovich was reported to have told Mourinho only European progress would save him. And the sight of the Russian billionaire with a broad smile on his face following Willian’s strike suggested Mourinho has quelled the crisis talk and bought at least a little time to get Chelsea’s domestic form back on track.

Dynamo Kiev’s 1-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv meant Porto dropped to third place and were condemned to the Europa League.

SEE MORE: Giroud’s first Arsenal hat trick sees Gunners into knockout round.

Mourinho made a host of changes after the Bournemouth defeat, with Diego Costa returning upfront despite his recent touchline spat with the Blues boss at Tottenham. Captain John Terry was back from injury and Ramires started in midfield in place of the underachieving Cesc Fabregas.

If Mourinho was looking for reassurance that his alterations would pay dividends, he must have been alarmed by the careless way Chelsea squandered possession on the edge of their own penalty area, allowing Yacine Brahimi space to fire in a cross-shot that Thibaut Courtois had to punch away at his near post.

Desperately in need of an early goal that might sooth his players’ frayed nerves, Mourinho benefited from a moment of extreme good fortune in the 12th minute. After finding himself in Mourinho’s bad books of late, it was ironic that Costa played the key role. Eden Hazard’s pass sent him galloping clear and, faced with Iker Casillas sprinting off his line, Costa tried a low shot that the Porto goalkeeper blocked. That was where lady luck took over as the ball cannoned back off Marcano’s chest and across the line despite Bruno Martins Indi’s attempt to clear.

Even that moment of redemption couldn’t subdue the devil in Costa and the notoriously temperamental Spain striker earned a booking for needlessly flicking his boot towards Casillas.

Yet although Chelsea were still some way short of peak form, holding onto a lead has always been a Mourinho specialty. The Blues, superbly marshaled by Terry, were careful not to leave themselves vulnerable at the back.

Despite the cautious approach, Oscar almost doubled Chelsea’s lead when his strike deflected just wide, while Costa also threatened on the stroke of half-time.

News that Dynamo were leading left Porto with no option but to throw caution to wind. That commitment to attack left them exposed at the back and Willian should have taken advantage when he ran onto Costa’s pass and drilled straight at Casillas.

Willian had no need to rue the miss as he made amends in the 52nd minute. Costa’s header found Hazard 20 yards from goal and he slipped a precise pass towards Willian, who drilled a superb first-time strike that beat Casillas at his near post.

TUESDAY UCL: City top group | United crash out | Ronaldo set new mark.

It was a huge relief for Mourinho and even the usually restrained Abramovich was on his feet grinning and exchanging back slaps with his entourage.

Costa wasted a series of chances to put extra gloss on the scoreline, but for once Mourinho had no need to reproach the striker and instead ended a night of rare satisfaction being serenaded by his loyal fans.

25+ Channels With Sports & News
  • Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
  • Watch Premier League, Liga MX, MLS & World Cup
  • Includes ESPN, FOX, Univision, TUDN and more
Favorite Leagues At The Best Price
  • Starting price: $7.99/mo. for Live TV Package
  • Watch Argentine league, Brasileirāo and Copa Libertadores
  • Includes beIN SPORTS, GolTV, TyC Sports and more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
  • Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
  • Features LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, Copa del Rey & more
  • Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
Live TV, Soccer & Originals
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo.
  • Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & more
  • Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
  • Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
  • Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
  • Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
Get All 3 And Save 30%
  • $13.99/mo. for ESPN+, Disney+ & Hulu
  • Includes Bundesliga, LaLiga, NHL & the home to UFC
  • Features Marvel, Star Wars + shows & movies for your entire family

Leave a Reply

Translate »