Willian Strike Gives Mourinho Breathing Space

Published: 05th November 2015 08:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th November 2015 08:33 AM   |  A+A-

The vulnerabilities that have haunted Chelsea were still there, so too the paranoia that grips their manager, but the difference this time was that when Jose Mourinho required one moment of individual inspiration to rescue two years of hard work, he got it just when it mattered most.

It was Willian, the Brazilian playmaker who has been the club's best player all season, who conjured victory for Mourinho when once again it seemed that his side were crumbling in the face of very mediocre opposition. The midfielder's brilliant free-kick, whipped in with seven minutes left, saved Mourinho this time, whether his Chelsea players can save him long-term remains to be seen.

It was only their second win in nine games in all competitions but for Mourinho it does at least give him room to breathe. The slump has been halted, for now at least, Chelsea are up to second place in Group G with two games left to play and the pressure is eased on their manager - at least until they face Stoke City on Saturday evening.

Before Willian's intervention it looked like a familiar narrative was unfolding: Chelsea had taken the lead and then tossed it away with their new tendency to panic in defence. It should be said that Dynamo Kiev are a very ordinary team indeed but when Aleksandar Dragovic equalised on 78 minutes, having erred to score Chelsea's opener himself, it looked very grim indeed for the Chelsea manager.

There was no Eden Hazard and neither was Gary Cahill selected as Mourinho pulled the lever again and came up with a new variation on old theme. He took Cesc Fabregas back into the side in the playmaker's role and brought Baba Rahman in at left-back.

The manager has done just about everything he can to shake life into this team and the big omissions have lost much of their capacity to surprise but it does still say something about the state of affairs at Chelsea that the current Professional Footballers Association player of the year is not in sufficient form to be picked for a game his manager cannot afford to lose.

You knew it was a big occasion from the presence of Tami -Mo-urinho, the wife of the Chelsea manager, and their two children just behind the dugout.

Mourinho's wife is a very rare attendee but then events have taken a different turn of late and he must feel that he needs all the support he can get. She has not started arguing with the fourth official yet, although everyone else on the Chelsea bench seems to be taking their turn.

Chelsea already had the lead when the first half's most controversial incident took place and, denied a penalty he thought should have been given, Mourinho laughed his maniacal laugh. It was denied to Diego Costa, and denied because the striker intentionally took a tumble. There was a hand across him from Dragovic as he ran into the area but the fall that Costa took came a couple of beats later.

The Chelsea striker had been put through by Fabregas's ball after a fine challenge in the centre of the pitch by Nemanja Matic, restored to the team after being dropped for the Liverpool game.

Costa took the ball away from the defender Yevhen Khacheridi but did not have the acceleration to make the time and space for a shot. Then Dragovic intervened from the other side, he brushed the Chelsea striker and Costa decided his best option was to go for the penalty.

The outrage on the Chelsea bench at the decision by Czech referee Pavel Kralovec was predictable. The players noticed it too and John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta took it upon themselves to argue with the official a few minutes later when the half ended. But the referee had called it right.

Chelsea had been on top without ever creating the chances that would have allowed them to put Dynamo Kiev away. Their goal was put into his own net by Dragovic, diving at the near post, where he misjudged Willian's cross and headed it past his goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy.

Still, Chelsea departed for half-time with a familiar sense of a grievance, but having taken the lead they had failed once again to put away their opposition and found themselves on the back foot as Kiev at last tried to attack. It has been a feature of Mourinho's side of late, notably against Liverpool on Saturday, that they have been unable to finish opponents.

Three minutes into the new half and there was a moment that felt critical when Kurt Zouma chased Artem Kravets back towards goal and by virtue of his sheer speed and strength was able to get a foot to the ball and push it away. It was a fine, clean tackle, the kind in which there is no margin for error and once again the Czech official called it right. No penalty.

But Kiev were back in the game. There was a call for handball against Ramires when Derlis Gonzalez hit a shot that struck the Brazilian in the Chelsea area. The substitute Junior Moraes forced a good save out of Asmir Begovic. Chelsea had f-orgotten that they were supposed to be in charge.

Mourinho's side missed chances of their own. First a weak header from Willian from the cross of Costa, who was exerting himself more than he had against Liverpool. Then came a terrible miss from Zouma, who did not expect Willian's free-kick from the right to reach him and struck it wide with his ankle from four yards out.

You could see the doubt in Chelsea and the Dynamo goal was a prime combination of silly mistakes. There was a bad header back from Terry that conceded the corner. Then a misunderstanding between Matic and Begovic, which meant that the former's header took the ball away from his goalkeeper's attempted punch.

At the back post Dragovic had time for a touch and a volley that clipped substitute Denys Garmash on the way in. On the touchline, Mourinho scowled and mimed Begovic's uncertain punch.

Once again he required rescuing and it was his best player of the season so far, Willian, who did so with a tremendous free-kick from the left. With seven minutes to go he beat Shovkovskiy for sheer pace on the ball and Mourinho's relief was evident.


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