Defiant maybe, but was latest act of rebellion really so wrong?

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho has resigned over a matter of principle with the Benfica president and returned with Porto to take on the might of Portuguese football's Lisbon monopoly. He has led his team out to win a European Cup final while defying a death threat and has built a career on defiance. But when the Chelsea coach was motioned to the tunnel by a Welsh policeman on Sunday, all resistance was futile.

Jose Mourinho has resigned over a matter of principle with the Benfica president and returned with Porto to take on the might of Portuguese football's Lisbon monopoly. He has led his team out to win a European Cup final while defying a death threat and has built a career on defiance. But when the Chelsea coach was motioned to the tunnel by a Welsh policeman on Sunday, all resistance was futile.

At the moment of Mourinho's first triumph at Chelsea, he was denied the opportunity to be on the touchline because of an argument with a tier of Liverpool supporters that, in the context of a pulsating Carling Cup final, should have counted for little. After the condemnation heaped on him for his conduct in Barcelona last week, it was not hard to see why there is still much about this country that puzzles Mourinho.

It is likely that his latest act of rebellion will earn him a touchline ban at the most critical part of the season for Chelsea. The Football Association looks dimly on any manager responding to the avalanche of abuse that rolls down from the stands on match day, and it looks set to banish him as his team begins their final assault on the Premiership title.

Last week the accusation levelled at Mourinho was that he failed to accept the kind of managerial cunning shown by Frank Rijkaard when he collared the referee Anders Frisk at half-time in the Nou Camp on Wednesday. It is rare for Mourinho to be beaten when it comes to the subversive tactics that can win football matches, but his fit of pique in Barcelona was the reaction of a man beaten on his own terms of engagement.

English football stands accused of doing the same after Sunday. For 78 minutes at the Millennium Stadium, Mourinho was subjected to the uniquely unpleasant abuse that a football crowd reserves for a famous reputation in a precarious situation. On 79 minutes, Mourinho, with his Chelsea side one goal better off, pressed a finger to his lips to remind those critics that the same reputation was more durable than they might first have thought.

Like Mourinho complaining about Rijkaard's craftiness in the tunnel, it hardly befits an English football crowd to cry foul on matters of politeness. The Chelsea coach protested on Sunday that this was perhaps a cultural misunderstanding, but a man who has based his entire football career on the principle of conflict would be entitled to suggest that, after 79 minutes of scabrous abuse, he would be allowed at least one response.

When he was exiled to the stands for the second leg of the Uefa Cup semi-final against Lazio, Mourinho spoke to his coach, Andre Villas Boas, in the stands. Villas Boas sent Mourinho's thoughts via text message to Baltemar Brito in the dug-out. They varied from precise tactical commands to tell players to change position or mark tighter, to one surreal order that, when the ball went out of play, the whole team should look up at Mourinho in the stands.

He has been criticised this week, with justification, for the manner in which he left the Nou Camp without speaking to the press and threatening to drag one of Europe's grandest names before Uefa on a petty grievance. Yesterday should have been his redemption.

He should have been there on the touchline when the whistle blew on the end of an absorbing match and the start of what should prove a remarkable run of success for Chelsea, but you suspect the last word in all this will belong to Mourinho. If he does find himself exiled to the stands, keep an eye on his players. And especially who they look to when the ball goes out of play.

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