Just when you think that the ‘Special One’ was losing his Midas touch, he comes up trumps amid adversity to defy his critics.
Following Chelsea’s disappointing 3-1 loss at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain a fortnight ago, many felt that even Jose Mourinho was susceptible to losing the plot sometimes. The 51-year old was scathing in his attack of his players after the defeat in Paris and there were talks that due to the criticism, he was in danger of facing a blacklash from the reportedly unhappy Chelsea stars.
As a result, not many were giving the Blues a chance against PSG in the second-leg to overturn a two goal deficit and even the usually arrogant Mourinho looked slightly skeptical about his side’s chances.
However, it would certainly have taken a fool to think that the Portuguese manager did not have a master plan up his sleeve and that Chelsea were about to surrender meekly to a so-called superior side.
It was believed that due the pressure of overturning the deficit, Chelsea would have to abandon their usually cautious approach from the start and force themselves into the unfamiliar territory of going ‘Gung-Ho’ right from kick-off.
Many managers would certainly have taken that route, but not Mourinho. He was smart enough to know that such a ploy would have left the backdoor open for the ridiculously talented PSG attack to exploit and realized that even a single away goal for the Parisians would have virtually ended the tie.
Mourinho instead had a plan setting up his team to stay typically solid at the back, pressure PSG when not in possession, remain patient during the build-up of their attacks and not panic in their pursuit of goals, keeping faith in the fact that his side would get eventually get opportunities to score as the game progressed.
Perhaps naively, his opposition number Laurent Blanc was expecting Chelsea to go all guns blazing as evidenced by the set of his team to sit deep and try an attack on the break. However, Mourinho had completely outwitted Blanc tactically and the Frenchman saw his side afforded very few opportunities by the Blues.
Yes, Mourinho certainly had a meticulous plan but it was upto to the players to execute it on the field and despite whatever was written by the media about unrest in the Chelsea camp leading upto their return leg, it was evident on the day that Mourinho’s players were willing to run themselves into the ground for their manager.
Every Chelsea player embodied courage and gave nothing less than a 110% on the day. While the PSG looked like a scattered group of stars playing for themselves, Chelsea were undoubtedly a unified team willing to fight for their lives for each other.
Even when the Blues suffered a serious setback by losing star man Eden Hazard early on, substitute André Schürrle typified Chelsea’s spirit by putting in an absolutely magnificent performance which proved that Mourinho’s ability to get the best out of his players when the chips are down, is second to none.
Despite doing so well throughout the game, it seemed that Chelsea would tragically fall short in their hopes of registering a memorable win. But, Mourinho still had another trick up his sleeve and made an inspired substitution by bringing on the much-maligned Fernando Torres and Demba Ba in a final attempt to salvage the tie.
Although, the move may have looked an obvious change, Mourinho seemed to have planned for such an event in training leading up to the game, with the two men looking surprisingly very effective when brought on.
Eventually, Chelsea got their just reward as Ba scored a dramatic late winner which sparked scenes of delirium inside Stamford Bridge, with Mourinho embarking on another one of his trademark celebrations by running the length of the entire pitch to embrace his players which provided another feather in the cap for the brilliant Portuguese manager in Europe’s elite competition.
In his illustrious career, last night’s victory should certainly be ranked among the best for Mourinho as the match was a testament to his tactical nous.
He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but on such nights, one cannot help but admit that the ‘Special One’ is a genius at what he does.