Chelsea Achieve Target
by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 11th 2013)
After a dire match that Chelsea won by the only goal scored by the previously goal-shy Demba Ba after Oscar headed on Willian’s corner after 11 minutes it was left to Chelsea manager José Mourinho to provide the entertainment lacking on the pitch.
“I don’t have targets,” Mourinho said. “We have one which was to don’t win again the Europa League and that target is done.”
He continued with his expectations. “Now we have to do well in the Champions League,” he said. “In the two cups we have to go as far as possible. In the Premier League when we have six teams for the title there is a big risk for two teams not to qualify for Champions League, so target is to to get there.”
With qualification already ensured José Mourinho knew that nothing less than victory would do if Chelsea was to avoid the big hitters in the last 16 of the Champion’s League. Misfiring Samuel Eto’o – once the highest paid footballer in the world couldn’t even find a place in Mourinho’s squad. Fernando Torres, also failing to convince, had to be be content with a place on the bench.
The least known of the trio of goal-shy strikers, Demba Ba, justified his selection by harassing Georgievski in the six-yard box before shooting past Ciprian Tătăruşanu’s right hand to settle Chelsea’s nerves. Initially the scorer credited it as an own goal by Daniel Georgievski, but as the half drew to a close and to the cheers of the Stamford Bridge faithful, the scoreboard was corrected, crediting Ba.
It seemed to satisfy both teams. “[It was] not fantastic performance, but it was enough,” Mourinho said. “We are winning 1-0. We don’t have to do silly things.”
Just three minutes after taking the lead the Romanian outfit – beaten 4-0 by Chelsea in Bucureşti – ought to have equalised. John Mikel Obi lost possession in midfield to Nicolae Stanciu who fed Gabriel Iancu, but the striker dragged his shot wide of Mark Schwarzer’s left-hand post.
Branislav Ivanović‘s volley from close range after being set up by Frank Lampard was saved by Tătăruşanu after 17 minutes. Two minutes later Obi was deservedly booked for tugging back Stanciu, but the free-kick like other opportunities was wasted without testing Schwarzer.
“I think he [Schwarzer] felt my trust because we played him in an important match,” Mourinho said. “I am very happy for him. Petr [Čech] is number one. Petr is very happy because relationship between them is very good.” Interestingly, Mourinho declined to answer my question on whether he was keeping track on Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois, who has excelled for Atlético de Madrid.
Scwarzer, still Australia’s keeper, made his Champions League début since his move from nearby Fulham in the summer but had nothing else to do in a first half devoid of threat from the Romanians – the only team from that country to have won Europe’s top prize.
Ivanović‘s point close range header after 27 minutes was instinctively palmed over. Eden Hazard and Willian exchanged a short corner before Hazard crossed for Ivanović to test Tătăruşanu, who passed the test. Pantelis Kapetanos failed to draw a save from Schwarzer as his 25 yard shot flew just wide. Nevertheless, Chelsea dominated the half and deservedly led.
Unhappy with the way the match was going someone decided that Mourinho deserved to be zapped with a green beam. Mourinho felt it. “I was aware [of being zapped with the green laser], but I cannot win the game worried about that,” Mourinho said. “I felt the green; I felt no pain. I cannot be worried about that.”
The second half offered little. After six minutes of the second half Ashley Cole and Georgievski contested a 50-50 ball that left both requiring treatment and Georgievski a yellow card. Two minutes later Oscar initiated a flowing move finding Willian, whose cross gave Ba an opportunity to double Chelsea’s lead, but the Senegalese striker hit it tamely over from close range. A minute later news filtered through from Germany that Julian Draxler had put Schalke 04 in charge against ten-man Basel.
Mourinho replaced Oscar with André Schürrle and the German international quickly provided some impetus. His quick feet carved out an opening on the left of the six-yard box. His shot ricocheted to Hazard, whose header just cleared the bar. Hazard went close again five minutes later. His 25-yard shot went just over the bar.
Iasmin Latovlevici summed up Steaua’s night by tugging Willian back persistently with 12 minutes remaining. Eventually he grabbed his hair preventing the Brasilian midfielder from launching an attack. Referee Gianluca Rocchi had no choice but to book him.
With three minutes of normal time left Ba finished an excellent move started by substitute Kevin de Bruyne and progressed superbly by Lampard by lashing it into the top of the net. Shame he was clearly off-side. Chelsea progressed to the knock-out stage topping their group, thereby avoiding other group winners like Barcelona who trounced Celtic 6-1.
“I think there are good teams in the second place,” Mourinho said. “In the top one you see the main candidates to win, but in the second you have difficult teams. You have champions.” The Champions League resumes in February.