by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 10th 2014)
Chelseaʼs manager Roberto di Matteo – currently managing Schalke had reason to be grateful to current Blues boss José Mourinho for giving him the chance to reach the knock-out phase of the Championʼs League tonight. Di Matteo won the competition for Chelsea in 2012. Schalke took care of their business by beating Maribor, but needed a Chelsea win against Sporting Clube de Portugal tonight to have a chance of progress in a match that was meaningless for José Mourinhoʼs team. Nevertheless, the Blues obliged with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge tonight. Cesc Fàbregas Soler converted a penalty after minutes. World Cup winner André Schürrle doubled Chelseaʼs lead 8 minutes later with the pick of the nightʼs goals. Five minutes into the second half Jonathan Silva halved the deficit. Jon Mikel Obiʼs tap in 6 minutes later sealed a comfortable win for the Blues.
Egyptian winger Mohamad Salah, getting a rare start cut it back to the Brasilian left-back Filipe Luís Kasmirski from the byline. Filipe Luís was clumsily tripped by Ricardo Esgaio, giving referee Svein Moen no choice but to give a penalty kick. Nemanja Matić found Schürrle on the edge of the area. Schürrle turned and shot into right-hand corner of Rui Patrícioʼs goal.
Algerian striker Islam Slimani had an opportunity to halve Chelseaʼs lead – a draw would have been enough for Sporting – but he couldnʼt direct Diego Capelʼs corner at goal. Chelsea responded with chances for Schürrle, created by César Azpilicueta on the right, but Rui Patrício saved easily. A few minutes later Matić shot over after Salahʼs cross gave him the chance. He should have done better.
Salah, considered by many a luxury or a misfit, had a decent game. His cross for Diego Costa was intercepted by Paulo Oliveira at the expense of a corner, which broke to Salah. His shot failed to trouble Rui Patrício.
Chhelsea were well worth their half time lead, but whatever Sportingʼs young coach Marco Silva said in the interval had the desired effect – temporarily at least. Five minutes into the second half Schürrleʼs attempt to clear André Carrilloʼs cross fell to Jonathan Silva . He chested Schürrleʼs header down and gave Petr Čech no chance. Salah almost responded rapidly but his effort was thwarted by Rui Patrício
Any thoughts of a come-back were soon dispelled, as Mourinhoʼs team restored their two-goal lead through the unlikely source of Obi. The Nigerian midfielder had never scored in the Championʼs League before. “It was just a tap-in,” he said rushing through mixed zone after the match. True, but they all count. The ever productive Fàbregasʼ cross was headed on by Gary Cahill for Obi to tap in at the far post for an easy, but welcome goal.
The news soon got worse for Silvaʼs team as Max Meyer scored for Schalke against Maribor. If the scores stayed the same Sporting would drop down to the Europa League and Schalke would get through to the last 16. The Colombian striker Fredy Montero was given less than half an hour to impress – he still hopes to force his way into José Pékerman Krimenʼs plans for los Cafeteros.
Carlos Mané replaced Diego Capel at the same time. A minute later Slimaniʼs header from Manéʼs cross was clawed away by Čech.
João Márioʼs awful foul on Obi deserved a booking that would have put him out of Sportingʼs next match – a fate that befell the highly rated William Carvalho for fouling Fàbregas. The midfielder was replaced by André Martins shortly after the foul on Obi. Afterwards the match was pock-marked by fouls and Moen wielded yellow four times in the last 15 minutes to Adrien Silva, Sportingʼs goal-scorer Jonathan Silva, Azpilicueta and Paulo Oliveira.
After 83 minutes Mourinho brought on the much-talked about 18 year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek to replace the impressive as ever Fàbregas. No academy product has broken into Chelseaʼs firs team since John Terry. Itʼs harder now for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, Loftus-Cheek was determined to make the most of his chance. With added time approaching its end Oliveiraʼs cynical foul on Loftus-Cheek received the yellow card it deserved. Chelsea moved imperiously on to the last 16 having laid to rest any thoughts that they would play a weakened team of youngsters. It was the perfect response to their first defeat of the season. Meanwhile, Sporting must adapt to the Europa League.