There was a surreptitious clenched fist by his side and a short trot down the touchline as the excitement of Samuel Eto'o's winning goal took him out of his seat but Jose Mourinho checked himself just in time.
In fact, as his players ran over to celebrate wildly with Mourinho's staff by the touchline, the coach separated himself from them and, distracted by something trivial on a monumentally important night, he stepped on to the pitch to retrieve a match-day programme that had been thrown on in anger by a Chelsea fan. He passed within a few yards of Carlo Ancelotti but did not look at him.
Not in Mourinho's dreams; not in those dark days at the end of September 2007 when he mulled over the coup that unseated him at Chelsea can he have envisaged a night quite as satisfying as this. The day that he came back to Stamford Bridge and rubbed owner Roman Abramovich's nose in it with one of those textbook Mourinho performances in which his team embodies his own fiendish cunning.
Mourinho disappeared down the tunnel on the final whistle but afterwards he made one thing clear: Inter were the better team and richly deserved to eliminate Chelsea and progress to the Champions League quarter-finals. Not even Ancelotti was prepared to quibble with him on that point.
Mourinho had come back to demonstrate to Abramovich a point that the Portuguese coach made time and again during his years at Chelsea – that the club's success was as much about his leadership as it was about the owner's wealth. There are times when it is hard to take Mourinho seriously – and he is a relentless self-publicist – but last night his point rang true.
From his executive box in the west stand, Abramovich will have seen Massimo Moratti, the Inter president, walk across the pitch to the tunnel and take the adoring applause of his fans after the game. Great coaches have a happy habit of making the wealthy owners of football clubs look good, it is just a case of selecting the right one.
Mourinho did not try anything as predictable as attempting to win this game by holding on to his side's 2-1 lead from San Siro. Instead Inter attacked Chelsea relentlessly and, when they had to, they defended heroically. As a playmaker, Wesley Sneijder was incomparable. Walter Samuel and Lucio dominated in defence and Thiago Motta was a constant irritation for Chelsea.
Too much so for Didier Drogba who, for the third successive year, ended Chelsea's Champions League campaign in trouble with the authorities. In 2008 it was a red card in the final in Moscow; last year it was the rant at the cameras after the semi-final elimination by Barcelona; and last night there was another red card for a stamp on Motta's ankle which the sharp-eyed German referee did not miss.
Drogba is the recently crowned African footballer of the year but Eto'o upstaged him, taking his one major chance of the game in the 78th minute. He ran on to Sneijder's pass, holding off Branislav Ivanovic and beating the rookie goalkeeper Ross Turnbull at his right post. You could hardly say that it was Inter's only chance of the match.
Afterwards Mourinho said he had based his approach to the game on one of the few times a side had come to Stamford Bridge during his time in charge there and held out for a draw. Unusually, he picked out the performance of Manchester City in February 2005 during his first year at the club when City came to Stamford Bridge and got a 0-0 draw. "They made David James look like Lev Yashin," said Mourinho.
Last night he adopted the same approach, attacking Chelsea from the off. He attacked down the left, targeting Yuri Zhirkov with the full-back Maicon. At times Inter lived extremely dangerously, especially on corners when Samuel and Motta wrestled with the likes of Drogba and Ivanovic right under the referee's nose.
Naturally, Chelsea felt hard done by but there was no injustice here – not like against Barcelona last season – they were simply outplayed. There were decisions that Inter could complain about too, like the offside against Diego Milito in the first half when replays showed he was onside. Nevertheless, at the end John Terry went to remonstrate with Wolfgang Stark, literally shoving away John Obi Mikel when he tried to shake the referee's hand.
There were crucial tackles from Maicon and Samuel in the first half, both of whom threw themselves in front of shots in the latter stages that looked goalbound. In Chelsea's best period, at the end of the first half, goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved on 42 minutes when Nicolas Anelka had taken Drogba's ball from the left on his chest and bore down on goal.
Mourinho's players did not just stifle Chelsea tactically but they picked away at their tempers too, especially that of Drogba. They are a much more refined, tougher, savvier team than the one that crashed out against Manchester United last season. They are far more cynical too and in Eto'o and Goran Pandev they have two players whom Mourinho deployed wide to great effect.
When Samuel collapsed in the area with his arms around Drogba in the 44th minute there was an angry exchange of words between the two benches. Even Ray Wilkins, who is scarcely the finger-jabbing type, was involved in a row with a counterpart on the opposite side.
There were some good moments from Chelsea, among them the way in which Florent Malouda started the second half which suggested that he might be capable of winning the game. But Inter responded with what Mourinho described as an "almost perfect performance", adding: "We knew that if you don't control the game by having the ball you have no chance."
Ancelotti brought on Joe Cole after the hour for Michael Ballack. Sadly, the Englishman just looks miles off the pace. There were chances for Milito and Pandev, and Motta put a back post header over the bar. When at last Eto'o ran on to Sneijder's pass and scored Chelsea could not say that they had not seen it coming.
As he promised, Mourinho did not celebrate the Inter goal but, given the scope of his team's performance, it must have been a struggle.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Turnbull; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov (Kalou, 73); Ballack (J Cole, 62), Mikel, Lampard; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Carvalho, Sturridge, Belletti, Bruma.
Inter Milan (4-3-3): Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti; Cambiasso, Sneijder (Mariga, 85), Motta (Materazzi, 90); Pandev (Stankovic, 75), Eto'o, Milito. Substitutes not used: Toldo (gk), Cordoba, Quaresma, Santon.
Referee: W Stark (Germany).
Man-for-man marking, by Steve Tongue
Ross Turnbull Must have been relieved not to have more to do in third Chelsea game. 7/10
Branislav Ivanovic Poor marking allowed Eto'o first-half chance and then the goal. 4
Alex Seemed to be controlling forwards well. Guilty of some poor distribution. 6
John Terry Solid with foot and head but caught out badly for goal. 6
Yuri Zhirkov Found Maicon a handful running at him and could not best him at other end. 6
Michael Ballack Is right of midfield his best position? Unable to influence game. 5
John Obi Mikel Did well breaking up attacks in first half but was overshadowed by Sneijder. 7
Frank Lampard A long time since he dominated a game. Unable to get on the end of anything. 5
Nicolas Anelka Not much joy out on the right and disappeared in second half. 5
Didier Drogba Forgettable night against the twin towers of Lucio and Samuel, culminating in red card. 6
Florent Malouda Found it all rather harder than playing West Ham at the weekend. Ended up at left-back. 6
Joe Cole Little chance. 6
Salomon Kalou Lively. 7
Julio Cesar Quiet first 40 minutes, then given some work which he did well. 7/10
Maicon Powerful in defence, with one terrific block, and caused problems going forward. 8
Lucio Enjoyed physical battle with Drogba and came out of it well. Booked. 7
Walter Samuel Helped Lucio deal with Drogba. One great challenge on Malouda to prevent a goal. 7
Javier Zanetti The captain kept Anelka quiet and organised his troops well. 6
Esteban Cambiasso Effective barrier in front of back four, allowing Chelsea few chances. 7
Wesley Sneijder A constant threat behind the front three with his passing and from set pieces. 8
Thiago Motta Tall midfielder covered up tidily and almost scored with header. Booked and misses next game. 6
Goran Pandev Did not justify surprise selection out on the left and soon made way. 4
Samuel Eto'o Wasted a good headed opportunity but then took his chance splendidly. Booked. 7
Diego Milito Fought hard but found Terry a difficult obstacle and missed a good chance when escaping. 6
Dejan Stankovic 6
Macdonald Mariga 6