Chelsea 2 PSG 0 comment: Ability, desire and luck - how Jose Mourinho reached the Champions League semi-finals

 

stamford bridge

The oft-quoted claim that London is France's sixth-biggest city, with more than a quarter-million cross-Channel migrants, is somewhat disputed, but it certainly sounded like it tonight. There was a distinctly Gallic accent in SW6 as le quartier sud-est, where the away fans are placed at Stamford Bridge, rang with optimistic chants.

For half-an-hour the travelling (and resident) support had reason to be cheerful as Paris St-Germain controlled the tie with an ease that must have worried Jose Mourinho, especially with Eden Hazard, Chelsea's lock-picker, off injured. Then Hazard's replacement Andre Schurrle, scored, Chelsea began to believe, and we had the contest that had been anticipated.

And so we should have had. A two-nil home win, for a club so formidable at home as Chelsea, and as experienced in Europe, was by no means an impossible job especially with Zlatan Ibrahimovic injured. Ahead of this tie Mourinho addressed the Swede's absence and, in that way of his, managed to turn the debate into one which depicted his club as the disadvantaged one.

Having reeled off a list of Chelsea players who were injured, ineligible or suspended he said ‘We are not crying’. He added: ‘The fact that a multi-millionaire club that buys players and players doesn’t play one important player in Ibrahimovic I don’t think is a problem.”

 

Leaving aside the significant fact that it is the 40-goal striker who elevates PSG from a good side to an excellent one this is a bit rich coming from a man who spent nearly £250m of Roman Abramovich’s money on players in just over three seasons in his first stint at Stamford Bridge.

Even then Mourinho failed to win the Champions League with Chelsea, though the spine of his team were still in situ when they finally did so under Robbie Di Matteo.

While that indicates money does not guarantee success, the fact Chelsea were last night chasing a sixth Champions League semi-final in ten seasons under Abramovich proves it certainly increases the chances. The problem for the Russian and his manager now is that other clubs, both nouveau riche and ancien regime, either have more money, or are more prepared to spend it. PSG are one of the former having spent £225m (net) of Qatari cash in the last two seasons to jump from Ligue 1 challengers to Champions League contenders.

Demba Ba scoops the ball into the roof of the net (Getty) Demba Ba scoops the ball into the roof of the net (Getty) PSG and Chelsea actually spent similar amounts this season, but while the French club only recouped a fifth of their £120m outlay Mourinho had to balance his books more closely selling players such as Juan Mata to reduce his £115m investment to a loss of ‘only’ £50m. The French club will also have a far higher wage bill, even before Francois Hollande imposed a 75 per cent wealth tax, as elite players will have needed incentive to play in Lique 1. Chelsea will not be the only club waiting with keen interest for Uefa's Financial Fair Play inspectors' examination of PSG's accounts.

Whether the money comes from a Russian oligarch or an Arab potentate it is often spent on the same product: a Brazilian footballer. Brazilians are regularly the best-represented nationality in the later stages of the Champions League and even with Ramires suspended there were eight on the pitch compared with a trio of Anglos and a brace of Frenchmen.

For a long it was a trio of this octet that were the dominant players: Thiago Motta (an Italian international, but Brazillian born-and-bred), Alex and Thiago Silva. Motta, in particular, seemed to have so much tie to play, no mean feat in a match with as high a tempo as this. The footballers who grace this stage are now so fit, and so quick in thought and deed, a player requires exceptional close control to be able to compete.

But at this rarified level technique is nothing without desire. As this match fizzed towards the closing stages, and Mourinho threw on forward after forward, the tie came down to heart as much as art.

Small details matter and maybe Mourinho was right when he said of Demba Ba, “The fact I played him [as substitute] before Nando [Torres] made him feel that he doesn't have the No3 striker on his back. His enthusiasm was fantastic.”

Without that boost would Ba, when the ball broke off the legs of Alex, have forced himself ahead of Maxwell to scramble the ball into the roof of the net? No one will ever know, it is another chapter for the Mourinho legend nevertheless.

But it was close, so close. How close was underlined by events in Dortmund where Jurgen Klopp's team could not quite make it a night of comebacks. They hit the post, they were denied by outstanding goalkeeping, but they did not get a fortuitous deflection of the type that provided Ba his chance. Ability, desire... and luck: Football's Holy Trinity.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?