Players quick to learn from Mourinho's philosophy

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The Independent Football

This season marks the 50th anniversary of Chelsea's only league title, so most Chelsea supporters, forced to choose, would prefer to lift the Premiership rather than the Champions' League. Their Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, has a more continental outlook and in Jose Mourinho it is clear he has hired a European specialist.

This season marks the 50th anniversary of Chelsea's only league title, so most Chelsea supporters, forced to choose, would prefer to lift the Premiership rather than the Champions' League. Their Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, has a more continental outlook and in Jose Mourinho it is clear he has hired a European specialist.

Tuesday's comprehensive victory over Paris St-Germain at Parc des Princes was the 12th straight European match Mourinho had overseen without defeat. In the last two seasons, during which he led Porto to successive Uefa Cup and Champions' League triumphs, he lost four out of 26 matches, winning 15, with his only defeat in his last 17 ties in the group stage of last year's campaign. And there is no disgrace in losing to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It is early days, but it looks as if he is inculcating the same methods which proved so successful in Portugal at Stamford Bridge. The most impressive aspect of Chelsea's play on Tuesday was the way they kept possession, a key feature of Porto's play under Mourinho. Time and again they moved the ball forward only to pass it back again rather than, as has been the custom with English teams, risk a 50-50 ball. The opening goal may have been a result of goalkeeper error, but such was Chelsea's pressure that it had already appeared only a matter of time before PSG broke.

An encouraging aspect for Sven Goran Eriksson was that the four Englishmen - Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry - were as comfortable with this philosophy as the foreign players.

Mourinho has made two significant positional changes with his native players: Lampard has been moved to the left of a central midfield pair and Cole into the hole with a left-sided bias. With Terry operating on the left of central defence and Bridge at left-back, the quartet constantly passed amongst themselves.

This is presumably by design, though Mourinho can sometimes forget national distinctions. Answering questions from French journalists in their tongue, he twice lapsed mid-sentence into English. "Argh, I've done it again," he said the second time, both angry and amused. He added: "It is difficult talking in two languages, especially when neither of them are your own." Even Mourinho, it seems, is fallible.

Not that he leaves much to chance. Though Eidur Gudjohnsen required eight stitches in the head wound he suffered after just seven minutes, the immediate medical opinion was that he could have carried on once repairs were made. Mourinho took the instant decision that he could not afford to leave Chelsea down to 10 men at such a crucial stage of the game while the stitching was done. Gudjohnsen came off for good.

It helped that he had a replacement of the calibre of Mateja Kezman to come on, even if the Yugoslav has yet to prove his finishing is clinical enough to deliver the same results in Premiership and Champions' League as he achieved in the Netherlands' weak domestic league. Kezman's last Champions' League goal was in 2000 against Manchester United.

Chelsea's next European test will be a familiar one to Mourinho: Porto. The manager had preceded his press conference by asking for the other results and it will not have escaped his notice that Porto, though held to a goalless draw at the Estadio Dragao by CSKA Moscow, had 24 shots and nearly 60 per cent of the ball. Clearly, they are still very much Mourinho's team, despite losing several players and being on their second managerial replacement. Their meeting, at Stamford Bridge on 29 September, should be intriguing.

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